In 2004, the Baylor men’s tennis team claimed the first national championship in a team sport in the school’s history. A year later, the Lady Bear basketball team captured a national title banner of its own.
Now two of the catalysts of those teams are being honored as new members of the Baylor Athletic Hall of Fame.
Tennis standout Benjamin Becker and basketball’s Steffanie Blackmon head up an eight-member Hall of Fame class that will be inducted in October. Additionally, former BU baseball player Jim Daniel will become the 24th member of the school’s Wall of Honor.
The rest of the Hall of Fame class includes football’s Ron Francis and Bill Hicks, men’s track and field’s Jeff Jackson and Bill Payne, women’s track and field’s Jennifer Jordan Washington and women’s golfer Melanie Hagewood Willhite.
Becker won the NCAA singles title in 2004 while leading the Bears to the team national title that season as well. He was a three-time All-American and four-time All-Big 12 honoree, and ranks as the program’s all-time leader in singles (141) and doubles (104) victories.
Becker has earned more than $4 million as a professional player, and ascended as high as No. 35 in the world in 2014.
Blackmon played for Kim Mulkey’s Lady Bears from 2002-05, averaging 15.4 points and 7.9 rebounds as a senior. In the 2005 NCAA final against Michigan State, she scored 22 points and nabbed seven rebounds as Baylor rolled to an 84-62 win.
Blackmon finished her career as Baylor’s all-time shotblocker – she was later surpassed by Brittney Griner – and still ranks in the program top 10 in points (1,955) and rebounds (936). The Seattle Storm drafted Blackmon in the third round of the 2005 WNBA Draft, and she played overseas in Korea, Italy and Israel before retiring from her playing career to work in the Dallas Independent School District. Blackmon was inducted into the Texas Black Sports Hall of Fame in 2014.
Francis won Southwest Conference Defensive Player of the Year honors for Baylor football in 1985. That season he made 64 tackles and six interceptions for a Bear pass defense that ranked third nationally.
Francis also saw time at running back, and led Baylor in rushing with 584 yards in 1984. He ranks in the program’s top 10 in career interceptions (14) and pass breakups (29). A second-round NFL draft pick in 1987, Francis played four years with the Dallas Cowboys.
Hicks was an all-conference center for the Baylor football team in 1961, and made Baylor’s all-decade team for the 1960s. He played on Baylor’s 1960 Gator Bowl team that lost to Florida and 1961 Gotham Bowl squad which defeated Utah.
Hicks had a 13-year run as the Bears’ defensive line coach (1969-81) under Bill Beall and Grant Teaff, and was part of the 1974 and 1980 SWC championship teams. He capped off his career as the head coach at Howard Payne from 1982 to ’84.
Jackson won five All-America honors for the Baylor track team from 1993-96. He won three SWC titles in the 110-meter hurdles and was the NCAA runner-up in both the 110s and the 55-meter hurdles in 1996.
He competed professionally for several years after Baylor, and competed in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. Jackson currently works as the head girls track and field coach at Garland High School.
A world-class pole vaulter with two marks over 19 feet, Payne (1987-91) was a six-time All-American who still holds the school indoor and outdoor records. He set the indoor record of 18-4¾ at a 1990 meet in Norman, Okla., and broke his own outdoor mark with a winning vault of 19-2¾ at the SWC Championships in Houston.
Payne works as an operations manager for Federal Express, but also has coached the pole vault, and saw his daughter Demi win the 2015 NCAA title at Stephen F. Austin.
For Baylor women’s track, Washington — then Jennifer Jordan — ranks as the program’s No. 2 athlete in All-America honors (9) and conference titles (5). At one point, she held school records in five events – the indoor 400, outdoor 400, indoor and outdoor 4x400 relays and the 600-yard run.
Washington ran the anchor leg on Baylor’s NCAA-winning 4x400 relay team in 1998.
Willhite was the first BU women’s golfer to earn first-team All-Big 12 honors in 2003, as she set the school record for scoring average with 74.83. She also won the 2001 LPGA Dinah Shore Trophy, which recognizes a golfer who excels both academically and on the course.
She played on the Futures Tour for more than four years, then later worked as a civil engineer and held a position with Nike Golf.
The Wall of Honor is reserved for former Baylor athletes who have brought esteem and acclaim to the school through their lives and careers.
Daniel came to Baylor on a baseball, basketball and academic scholarship, and graduated in 1962 with a degree in finance. He later finished graduate school at SMU’s School of Banking.
A lifelong Oklahoma City resident, Daniel has been involved in the banking industry for nearly 60 years, serving as CEO of Friendly and Bank One from August 1964 to October 1997. He has funded a pair of endowed scholarships to Baylor.
Daniel, as well as the Hall of Fame members, will be recognized during Baylor’s homecoming weekend Oct. 20-21, and will be introduced at Baylor’s homecoming game against West Virginia on Oct. 21.
Tickets to the Oct. 20 banquet are $50 per person and may be purchased by contacting the “B” Association at 254-710-3045 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.