The Syracuse game last Saturday was a momentous occasion, and not just because of our men’s basketball rivalry with them or the stakes of the game. It was also a chance to honor a group of athletes who have contributed so much to the University simply by playing sports. I’m talking, of course, about the latest inductees to the Georgetown Athletic Hall of Fame.
Yes, it was Austin Freeman and Chris Wright who received the loudest ovations and emotional farewells before the game, but while 20,000 fans rushed for the bathroom or beer lines at halftime, on the court, Georgetown honored seven former student-athletes for their achievements. On an afternoon of goodbyes, the group, headlined by basketball star Alonzo Mourning (COL ’92), reminded the Hoya faithful (at least those who remained in their seats) that players are rarely gone for good.
Georgetown has a rich athletic history, one that extends far past 1984 to a time when even Georgetown football was a powerhouse—back when the players wore leather helmets. But the Athletic Hall of Fame itself wasn’t established until 1953. This year’s inductees mark only the 19th class to enter the hall, a rarefied group.
With seven members, it also happens to be the largest class ever. Accompanying Mourning were talented, but less visible athletes like lacrosse goaltender James Kenny (MSB ’90), track and field national champion Michael Stahr (COL ’88), and former tennis player Kathryn Federici (COL ’87), to name a few.
OK, so as far as household names go, Georgetown’s hall of fame isn’t quite Canton or Cooperstown. You would be hard-pressed to find more than a few recognizable names on the Hall of Fame plaques. In fact, you would probably have difficulty finding the plaques themselves—the Hall of Fame is hidden in the southwest corner of the Leavey Center, between the patio to Hariri and the Marriot Conference Center.
It’s a shame that the greatest Hoyas remain so obscure, because the Hall of Fame represents a very important part of Georgetown athletics. Anyone who chanted Freeman’s and Wright’s names before tip-off on Saturday knows the impact an individual player can have in four years on the Hilltop. The student-athletes who wear the Georgetown name across their chests, even those who do so away from the bright lights of the basketball court, represent the University. The reason people say “we lost to Syracuse” instead of the “the basketball team lost” is because even the average student can still be fully invested in the fate of the Hoyas.
So when an athlete excels in this role as our champion, they deserve to leave some kind of legacy. Save for transcendent stars like Mourning or Patrick Ewing (COL ’85), this is rarely the case. They go pro—as the incessant NCAA commercials during March Madness will remind you—in something other than sports, many leaving competitive sports behind for good on their own Senior Days.
But this weekend, those inducted into the Hall of Fame got one more chance to relive their glory days. They were cheered by a record crowd at the Verizon Center, feted by former NFL Commissioner—and Hoya basketball player—Paul Tagliabue (COL ’62) at their induction ceremony, and, most of all, they officially joined the ranks of the best of student-athletes who have come through Georgetown.
Most of the next generation of Hoyas will never know their names, but the Georgetown Athletic Hall of Fame shows them that the hard work they put in on the Hilltop is never fully forgotten. Twenty years from now, when Freeman or Wright make this triumphant return to Georgetown to be honored, current Hoyas will be able to fully appreciate that.