Frank L. Thompson
There have been several "glory eras" of basketball at The University of Akron and Frank Thompson played a large part in formulating one of them. Thompson burst on the UA scene in 1962 after earning All-City and All-District honors at Akron East High School. By the time he finished his four-season career, Thompson had played in 101 games and had contributed 841 points and had grabbed 996 rebounds, sixth highest on the Zip's all-time list, as UA won 90 of 109 games. Thompson made an immediate impact, appearing in 18 games in which he averaged 5.2 rebounds, fourth best on a team that won 22 of 25 games - the most wins in 62 seasons of the sport on campus. The following season, Thompson, who would be the recipient of UA's Best Defensive Player Award his last three campaigns, was a starter who played in all 31 games as UA compiled a 24-7 mark. During that record-setting 24-win campaign in which UA captured its first Ohio Conference (OC) crown since 1948-49, won the school's first NCAA Mideast Regional title and eventually finished national runner-up in the NCAA College Division Tournament, Thompson hauled down a career-high 348 rebounds, fourth highest on the current all-time season list, and a career-high 299 points. After a year's layoff, Thompson returned to average 10.1 rebounds and 8.8 points as the 1965-66 Zip squad repeated as OC and NCAA Mideast champs before finishing third in the NCAA College Division while winning 24 of 28 games. As a senior Thompson contributed 11.3 rebounds and 9.4 points a game to another excellent season of 20-5. A 1988 inductee into UA's Hall of Fame, Thompson is Compliance Manager at Goodyear, is married to Cheyenne and is father to teenage daughters, Tai and Kellie
Mark E. Schubert
This former Akronite has become one of the foremost swimming coaches in the world, which he proved recently at the Olympics in Sydney, Australia. Mark Schubert guided the U.S. men's team to seven gold, six silver and four bronze medals, setting two world, five Olympic and four American records. It was the sixth straight Olympics in which he had been a head or assistant swimming coach. Schubert, in his 30th year as a coach, has now placed 27 swimmers, including Lenny Krayzelburg and Lindsay Benko in Sydney, as well as Janet Evans, Mary T. Meager, and Shirley Babashoff, on U.S. Olympic teams that have won 21 gold and seven silver medals and captured five world championships. All told, his swimmers have broken 26 world and 108 American records and have won 190 national titles. Since 1992, Schubert has been head men's and women's swimming coach at the University of Southern California, where he has amassed a combined record of 107-22 (.829 winning percentage), including directing the Trojan women to the 1997 NCAA National Championship. Previously, he had guided the University of Texas women to NCAA titles in 1990 and '91. A 1967 graduate of Akron Firestone High School and a member of its 1966 state championship swimming team, Schubert, after a broken leg ended his swimming career, got into coaching while earning his degree at the University of Kentucky in 1971. He coached swimming at Cuyahoga Falls High School for one season before moving to the Mission Viejo (CA) Swim Club where he directed his swimmers to 44 team titles in 13 years. Included among Schubert's honors are a number of coach of the year awards: NCAA in '90 and '97, PAC-10 in '96 and '97, American Swimming Coaches Association in '97 and '99, U.S. Olympic Committee in '99 and AAU in '75, '76 and '81. In 1997 he was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame. He and his wife, Joke (Yoka), reside in Seal Beach, CA, with their daughters, Tatum and Leigh.
Mary E. Howard
This Akron native built one of the strongest girls volleyball programs in Northeast Ohio while at Akron Hoban High School. In Mary Howard's 24-year tenure at Hoban, she established a record that her predecessors will be hard pressed to match or surpass. In 1976 Howard took control of a one-year old volleyball program and it didn't take her long to build Hoban into a state powerhouse. From the beginning it was Howard's philosophy to consistently raise the bar for her teams by playing the toughest programs she could schedule. That tactic, Mary believes, produces a superior player in the long run. Obviously, it worked because by 1979 she had directed the Knights into the Ohio AA final four and the following season captured the first of Hoban's four state championships. Every season, from 1979 through '92, Howard's spikers won 20 games or more. During those 14 campaigns Hoban captured nine regional titles, finished state runner-up in 1987 and '88 and grabbed the Ohio Division II Championships three consecutive years from 1990 through '92. In addition, Howard's squads compiled 448 wins against 149 losses for a .750 winning percentage, and garnered 21 sectional and 13 district titles over her career. She was accorded Coach of the Year honors in 1988 by the Akron Beacon Journal and by the Akron Touchdown Club in '88, '90, '91 and '92. Also in 1991 the Akron Dapper Dan Club honored Howard as well as did the Ohio High School Volleyball Coaches Association, who voted her Coach of the Year and, after Hoban inducted her into its hall of fame in 1994, it did likewise in 1997. Currently, Howard is in the process of rebuilding the volleyball program at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary.
Carla L. Chapman
It is easy to claim that Carla Chapman is one of the most successful women's basketball players to come out of Summit County. In a 1999 Akron Beacon Journal poll, area sports fans were in agreement as they voted Carla one of its Sports Figures of the Century. Chapman's claim to fame began her junior year at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary High School when she led her team to the 1980 Ohio Class AAA title. The following season, while averaging 25 points and 20 rebounds and earning a fourth team spot on Parade Magazine's All-America list, Chapman again led the Fighting Irish cagers to the state championship. Carla went on to become a dominant player at Ohio State under Coach Tara Van Derveer, helping the Lady Buckeyes capture four Big 10 Championships and berths in the NCAA Basketball Tournament from 1982 through '85. With Chapman in the lineup, OSU compiled seasons of 20-7, 23-5, 22-7 and 28-3, respectively. That '85 team reached the NCAA East Regional final before being eliminated. During her career Chapman netted 1,247 points and hauled down 633 rebounds in 99 games. She paced the 1983 squad in rebounding with 7.2 a game and in scoring in 1984 with a 15.3 average that earned her first team All-Big-10 honors. In 1994, Carla, who is a social service specialist for the Akron Public Schools as well as head girls basketball coach at Akron Garfield High School, was inducted into the St. Vincent-St. Mary Sports Hall of Fame.
Eric A. Cunningham
Wrestling, Football 2000
An Ohio A-AA High School heavyweight wrestling champion and outstanding football player at Akron South High School and at Penn State, Eric Cunningham is remembered as a man who went out of his way to help others throughout his all too brief life. That help extended to many young athletes, including his brother, Alvin, who excelled at Akron Firestone High School in the 1970s. His position coach at South, Chuck Milligan, said that Eric "was the best player I've ever coached and the best person, too." In football he earned All-City and All-District honors, despite playing on a team with a losing record, and caught the eye of Penn State's Joe Paterno who awarded him a full scholarship. Cunningham was a starting offensive guard for the Nittany Lions from 1976 through '78. During his career, the 6-3, 260 pound gridder helped Penn State down Arizona State, 42-30, in the 1977 Fiesta Bowl, was accorded honorable mention All-America honors in 1978, played in the 1978 Sugar Bowl where the number one ranked Nittany Lions lost to number two ranked Alabama, 14-7, and played for the East squad in its, 56-17, win in the annual East-West Shrine Classic. The New York Jets drafted Cunningham in the fourth round in 1979. After playing two seasons with the Jets, he was released. He later worked as a regional field manager for Amoco Oil and as a recreational director in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. On January 22, 1995, Cunningham's life was cut short after a bout with pneumonia at age 37.
Robert W. Heffelman
Today young golfers idolize and attempt the impossible, mimic Tiger Woods. In Bob Heffelman's younger days he admired Lanny Wadkins for his brash style and the unbelievable chances he took. However, for the most part, Heffelman was self-taught and learned the most from playing golf with long-time friends David Barnes, a 1995 inductee, and Terry O'Rourke. "It was learning to play golf or find new friends," explained Heffelman. He competed at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary High School before joining up with Barnes and O'Rourke as freshman on the 1974 University of Akron golf team. Averaging 79.8 strokes per round, Heffelman helped the Zip linksmen capture 24 of 37 matches to earn a berth in the NCAA College Division Championships in Tampa, FL. Bob would go on to play a key role in UA playing in the NCAA II Championships in 1975, '76 and '77, which made it the first team in UA sports history to participate in four consecutive NCAA Championships. Heffelman played his best golf in 1975, firing a 69, the low round of the year, in the 497-504 upset of Kent State and went on to earn the MVP award with a team best 75.3 average. Later, he was paid the highest of compliments when he and Barnes were selected UA Golfers of the Decade-1971-80. In amateur competition Heffelman has also enjoyed success including, playing in the U.S. Amateur in 1987 and '93, was Akron District Golfer of the Year Champion in 1979, '85 and '92 and has been a five-time club champion at Good Park. A manufacturer’s representative at B.T. Ramsay, Bob and his wife, Sandy, have a boy and a girl and reside in Cuyahoga Falls.
Dani Vance Crookston
If ever there was an athlete that dominated the game, Dani Vance was most certainly that individual during The University of Akron softball seasons of 1981 through '84. Dani terrorized the high school ranks while pitching for Manchester, where in 1993 she was inducted into the Panther's Sports Hall of Fame, and continued her winning ways at UA for Head Coach Joey Arrietta. During Vance's career she appeared in more games (62), won more games (45) and struck out more batters (297) than any other pitcher in Zip softball history. Dani's earned run average (ERA) was 0.33 in 1983 and 0.26 in '84, which gave her a career ERA of 0.617 - still the standard to beat today. Also included in her pitching statistics are four no hitters and a 17-strikeout performance against Muskingum in 1983, which is another all-time record she still holds. However, Vance's finest hour came in the 1984 NCAA II Tournament when she out-pitched Sacred Heart's Deby Tidy, 2-1, in a 15-inning semifinal marathon. As a freshman Dani was voted UA's Caroline Pardee Female Athlete of the Year. She would go on to capture the honor in 1983 and '84, the only female athlete at UA to ever do so. Vance would cap off her career by being selected second team on both the National Softball Coaches Association's All-America squad and on the CoSIDA Academic All-America team and then became the first UA female athlete to have her number (8) retired. In 1994 Dani was inducted into UA's Sports Hall of Fame. She and her husband, Steve, have two daughters and reside in Wadsworth.
Youngstown native Milan Zban is best remembered as a notable sportswriter for many of the newspapers in the area, which included the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Youngstown Vindicator and the Akron Beacon Journal. For some 40 years Zban roamed Northeast Ohio plying his journalism trade while covering the area high school and college sports programs. However, not many are aware that prior to banging out stories on his typewriter, Zban had an outstanding athletic career in military, collegiate and minor league baseball circles. Just two days out of Youngstown East High School in 1950, he left for Sanford , FL, as a signee of the New York Giants. That promising minor league career and excellent spring training effort abruptly came to a halt, however, when Zban tore up an ankle sliding into second base. Well, if his professional baseball career seemed to be over, there still were several colleges interested in his athletic prowess. The fall of 1950 found him at Marshall University in Huntington, WV, where he would be a two-sport star. Zban , a strapping 6-3, 223 pounds, would earn four letters in baseball, playing at first base, and he lettered three seasons at both offensive and defensive tackle in football. His highest collegiate honor came his senior season in baseball when he batted .348 with seven home runs and 29 runs batted in. The Giants, who had followed him throughout his college career, came calling again and signed him to minor league Class A contract. In 1956 Zban was assigned to Johnstown, PA. Later he played for Michigan City, IN of the Midwest League. Milan proudly recalls that he got his first home run as a pro off Tracy Stallard, the pitcher who in 1961 would surrender Roger Maris' record-breaking 61st homerun. "I guess that's my only claim to fame," said Zban, who resides in Hartville with his wife, Pat.