Athletic Hall of Fame: Champions highlight UL induction class
Kevin Foote, The Advertiser, November 2, 2014
The 2014 UL Hall of Fame induction class honored at halftime Saturday included, from left, golfer Matt Trevino, baseball player Steven Feehan, basketball shooter Michael Allen and softball star Jill Robertson. (Photo: Paul Kieu/The Advertiser)
While the UL Ragin’ Cajuns were in the process of defeating South Alabama at Cajun Field on Saturday, the halftime Hall of Fame ceremony was about honoring past greatness in the Ragin’ Cajun athletic program.
There may have been induction classes with more individual achievement, but it would be difficult to find many four-player classes with more team success than NCAA Tournament winner Michael Allen in basketball, Women’s College World Series softball performer Jill Robertson, College World Series baseball standout Steven Feehan and NCAA golf regional performer Matt Trevino.
UL Athletic Director Scott Farmer wasn’t around these parts when these four special athletes performed, but he certainly found out about them during this weekend’s activities, which ended with Saturday’s Hall of Fame recognition at halftime.
"Every one of those guys spoke from the heart," Farmer said. "You could tell that it really meant something to them. It was really good … something that our department can really be proud of with the caliber of people that these four are.""
When you’re a Division I talent from the state of Kentucky, typically the Wildcats, or the Louisville Cardinals, will scoop you up.
For Michael Allen, it was watching the UL Ragin’ Cajuns take on Kentucky in its own tournament in Allen’s hometown of Lexington, as well as the relentless recruiting of then-UL assistant coach Butch Pierre, that attracted the sharp-shooting guard to Lafayette.
And what a decision it turned out to be.
"No, I never regretted it," Allen said. "It was a great experience for me."
A big fan of UK hoops and especially coach Rick Pitino, Allen watched as coach Marty Fletcher’s Cajuns defeated the Wildcats 116-113 in overtime back on Dec. 23, 1989.
He then heard Pitino rave about the outstanding shooters the Cajuns possessed. And once he started being recruited by Pierre and learned how talented his teammates would be, Allen decided to head south.
"When I heard about guys like Byron (Starks) and Tony Moore – guys who could be playing at those (bigger) schools, I was very excited," Allen said. "I just felt like it was a good fit for me."
The soft-spoken combo guard indeed was a good fit for the Cajuns’ program. He helped lead UL basketball program to its last NCAA Tournament win in 1992 with the 87-83 upset of No. 4 Oklahoma.
Allen went on to be the department’s first Sun Belt Player of the Year and still ranks eighth in school history in points scored with 1,673 points over three seasons.
"When you get in a Hall of Fame, that puts you in elite status," said Allen, who is now coaching at Tates Creek High in Lexington. "The thing that really resonates with me is that this is a Hall of Fame for all sports at UL, not just a basketball Hall of Fame. That’s a special accomplishment."
Many top-notch college athletes leave the area once their college careers are over and only remember those days here and there over the years.
For former UL baseball standout Steven Feehan, the reminders are everywhere.
Still living on Lafayette, Feehan is now a huge fan of the program he played for. And oh yeah, he happened to right in the middle of the most memorable play on the most accomplished team at the biggest venue in the athletic department’s history.
"It (2000 College World Series team) definitely comes up all the time," said Feehan, who said he attends breakfast club meetings with former UL stars such as Scott Dohmann, Phil Devey and Tommy Clark, who all still live in the area and follow the program. "It was so much fun last year (as UL baseball ascended to a No. 1 national ranking) following the team and hearing all the comparisons to the 2000 team."
Feehan played centerfielder for the Cajuns from 1997 to 2000. He still leads the program in games played (236), games started (219), at-bats (809), runs scored (201) and hits (250), while ranking in the top five in doubles (51), walks (105) and stolen bases (57).
As part of his All-College World Series recognition, Feehan was part of the infamous squeeze bunt that led to the dramatic game-winning run in a 5-4 win over Clemson that allowed the Cajuns to finish third in that CWS appearance in Omaha.
"When you play for four years and have records, it’s something you think about," Feehan said. "I knew I had a good career, but was it good enough?"
After being nominated once and not getting enough votes, Feehan, who is now a local firefigher, "thought that was the end of it."
Then he got the call almost two months ago and was honored during Saturday’s homecoming ceremony.
"I was very anxious," Feehan said. "It was a little nerve-wracking, but it’s a great feeling."
For some college athletes, one day reaching the Hall of Fame at their alma mater one day is about having enough ability.
For Jill Robertson, it was a whole lot more about health.
The ability was there and everyone soon found out exactly how much heart and determination was behind her skills.
Those not real familiar with Robertson’s journey as she was honored during halftime Saturday’s homecoming victory over South Alabama may never understand.
Before Robertson finished her career in a blaze of glory in 2005 by hitting .366 with 57 runs, 11 doubles and earning NFCA All-Region honors, she had more to overcome than most athletes ever dream of enduring
"An ACL (knee injury) and three shoulder reconstructions," Robertson said, now with a laugh as she remembers the pain of the past. "There was a never a question for me. I just knew that I was going to rehab over the summer and come back. I guess I was just brought up that way."
Not only did Robertson have a father, George, who was an integral part of her introduction and growth as a softball player, she was also motivated by a pair of older brothers in Blake and Justin who was college athletes as well.
"I had two older brothers and I always wanted to outdo my brothers," she said.
Whether it was on the field or in the classroom, Robertson outdid a lot of competition throughout her playing and professional career. She majored in mechanical engineering at UL and later got a Masters in biomedical engineering at Houston in 2008
"This is a huge honor," Robertson said, "but I don’t feel like this is just my honor. This is an honor for all of my teammates who helped me over the years. I played with some tremendous athletes."
In fact, as UL’s softball team returned to the WCWS this past year, Robertson said she was on group texts with the likes of Alana Addison and Summar Lapeyrouse enjoying the Cajuns’ latest trip to Oklahoma City.
For some college athletes, the reaction to the call says it all.
That was the case for former UL golfer Matt Trevino (1995-98) when he got the word that he’d been elected into the UL Hall of Fame.
"When I got the phone call, I was speechless, didn’t know what to say," Trevino said. "I had two teammates that I happened to be having lunch with that afternoon, one was from Australia (Nathan Evennett, the other was Robbie Abruseley), and I told them about the phone call I just got, they were very congratulatory.
"The closer I got to it, the more honored I felt, had time to reflect, and last night was really big thing. I thought the speech was going to be pretty easy, and not even two minutes into it I had to take a pause, I started getting choked up. As it’s gone on, I’ve had more and more time to reflect and appreciate it. You’re not expecting anything like that. It’s such an honor."
Trevino was a three-time All-Sun Belt selection and also the 1996 Louisiana State Amateur champion.