Ferris State University has announced tickets are now on sale for this fall's Bulldog Athletics Hall of Fame induction ceremony, which will take place on Wednesday, Aug. 30, on the FSU campus.
Seven former standout student-athletes representing six different sports programs comprise the Ferris State University Bulldog Athletics Hall of Fame Class, which was originally voted in back in 2020 before COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the event.
The 2023 class, which will represent the school's 13th class of inductees, includes: Jeff Blashill (Hockey, 1994-98), Lucy (DeMartin) Prior (Women's Basketball, 2000-04), Dannie Hayes (Men's Basketball, 1991-95), Tianna Kirkland (Women's Basketball/Track & Field, 1997-01), Brad Morris (Wrestling, 1985-89), Jason Vander Laan (Football, 2012-15) and the late Gideon Smith (Football, 1910-11), who is likely to be represented by his grandson John Belcher.
The Bulldog Athletics Hall of Fame Selection Committee also selected longtime supporter and former administrator Carma Burcham as a recipient of the Athletics Special Service Award.
The Hall of Fame banquet will take place at the David L. Eisler Center ballroom on the Ferris State campus beginning with a reception at 5 p.m. (ET) followed by a welcome and dinner starting at 6 p.m. (ET). The program and induction ceremony will follow at approximately 7 p.m. (ET).
Tickets for the event are $75 per person and can be purchased online while availability remains at FerrisStateBulldogs.com/Tickets. For additional information, please contact Coordinator of Revenue Generation & Advancement Cedric Frierson via email at CedricFrierson@ferris.edu.
"We look forward to what should be an exceptional event honoring these standout former student-athletes," said FSU Athletics Director Steve Brockelbank. "This class of individuals is an outstanding group that deserves this recognition and the opportunity to be showcased in front of family, friends, former teammates and supporters. We hope to have a big turnout on this special night for this Hall of Fame ceremony."
Together, the class includes four individuals who earned All-America honors at FSU, including Prior, Kirkland, Vander Laan and Morris along with one of the top men's basketball scorers in school history in Hayes, a former head coach of the Detroit Red Wings and current Tampa Bay Lightning assistant coach in Blashill, a two-time Harlon Hill Trophy winner as the nation's top football standout in Vander Laan along with Smith, who was an early college football pioneer as one of the school's first African-American players and is currently on the ballot for the College Football Hall of Fame.
A 13-member Selection Committee comprised of faculty, staff, alumni and community members selected the 2020 inductees back in 2020 from a large group of initial nominees. The seven individuals will become the newest members of a current Bulldog Athletics Hall of Fame member group that presently includes 108 previous inductees along with one team. Vander Laan, who also played in the National Football League (NFL) and regarded as one of the top players in Division II football history, was chosen in the selection process after the mandatory 10-year waiting period was waived, becoming the first recipient ever chosen by FSU for early induction.
This year's Hall of Fame event will take place the night prior to the Bulldogs' 2023 football home opener against Mercyhurst, which takes place on Thursday, Aug. 31, at Top Taggart Field. The Hall of Fame inductees will also be recognized during the contest.
The Bulldog Athletics Hall of Fame, which inducted its Charter Class in 2000, was established to honor those student-athletes and coaches who have distinguished themselves in their sport or honorary members who made truly exceptional contributions to athletics.
Those who are inducted must first meet the following nomination criteria - Nominees must be departed from Ferris State University for at least 10 years; Nominees must have earned at least one varsity letter and must have distinguished themselves by exemplary performance in the field of athletics; Secondary consideration is given for the performance of meritorious service in behalf of Ferris State Athletics after leaving FSU, or a singular contribution to FSU's Athletics program, and Nominees must have demonstrated good citizenship and conducted exemplary professional/occupational careers which reflect credit on the individual and Ferris State University.
Following are thumbnail sketches of the 2023 Bulldog Athletics Hall of Fame inductees:
Jeff Blashill (Hockey, 1994-98) - The former head coach of the NHL's Detroit Red Wings and the current assistant coach for the Tampa Bay Lightning, Blashill began his coaching career by spending three seasons (1999-02) as an assistant under head coach Bob Daniels at Ferris State, his alma mater, before moving on to the professional ranks in a distinguished coaching career. He also spent six seasons (2002-08) with Miami University, helping the CCHA's RedHawks qualify for the NCAA Tournament four times while recruiting three Hobey Baker Finalists, four CCHA All-Rookie Team members, 11 first or second team All-CCHA players and six All-Americans. Blashill has also been a regular member of Team USA's coaching staff in international competition. The former goaltender spent four seasons between the pipes for Ferris State, earning the Bulldogs' Rookie of the Year award in 1994-95 and a spot on the CCHA's All-Academic Team for 1996-97. He also garnered the Ferris State University President's Award for three straight years for having the team's highest-grade point average. Blashill ranked among the top 15 netminders in school history with 27 career victories and his 78 games played between the pipes also ranked among the top 10 all-time in a FSU uniform. He's also listed on the all-time charts with 1,666 career saves at Ferris State. His other coaching highlights include winning a championship in his first season as the head coach of junior hockey's Indiana Ice in the United States Hockey League along with leading NCAA Division I Western Michigan to the CCHA Championship Game and the NCAA Tournament in his only campaign in Kalamazoo. Following his tenure at Western Michigan, he served as a Red Wings' assistant before spending three seasons as the head coach for the Grand Rapids Griffins when he led them to the 2013 Calder Cup Championship and later was named the AHL's Most Outstanding Coach in 2013-14.
Lucy (DeMartin) Prior (Women's Basketball, 2000-04) – The former Bulldog standout ranks as the school's all-time leading scorer in women's basketball with 1,721 career points. Her play as a senior helped the Bulldogs to the NCAA Tournament along with a runner-up finish in the GLIAC. The Mason product was a two-time honorable mention All-American on the hardwood for the Bulldogs and averaged in double-figures each of her final three seasons in a FSU uniform. She was a four-year letterwinner and has her jersey retired in Wink Arena. Prior posted a school single-season record 567 points as a senior and received first-team 2003-04 Verizon Academic All-America College Division laurels along with Daktronics Division II Honorable Mention All-America recognition. She was also a Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) All-Great Lakes Region First Team selection, among 40 national finalists for the NCAA Division II Kodak/WBCA All-America Team and chosen as a 2003-04 Division II Women's Basketball Bulletin Honorable Mention All-American. As a senior, she ranked as FSU's leading scorer (18.3 ppg) and finished her career as the school's leader with 402 made free throws while being listed among Ferris' all-time top 10 performers in field goals (605), steals (198), assists (356), rebounds (415), blocked shots (35), three-point field goals (109), three-point field goal percentage (.344) and free throw percentage (.778). A two-time All-GLIAC and Daktronics NCAA Division II All-Great Lakes Region First-Team selection, her team-leading 20.2 points per game scoring average as a junior ranked first among the school's all-time leaders and placed second in the GLIAC's overall statistical rankings. The team co-captain guided FSU to its second-ever NCAA Division II National Tournament appearance as a senior. The Bulldogs, who concluded the year with a 21-10 overall record, compiled a second-place 14-4 GLIAC North Division mark and finished second in the league's 2003-04 postseason tournament.
Dannie Hayes (Men's Basketball, 1991-95) – Hayes is regarded as one of the top performers on the floor in Ferris State men's basketball history. He remains one of FSU's all-time leading scorers with 1,846 career points. The two-time first-team All-GLIAC honoree averaged 21.5 points per game as a senior and twice led the team in rebounding during his memorable career. Ferris State claimed a league title and posted two runner-up finishes during his career under head coach Tom Ludwig. The Bulldogs won at least 12 games in all four of his seasons in the FSU lineup. He also finished his career among the top 10 in school history with 129 career made three-pointers and 125 steals while his 551 career rebounds ranked among the top 20 all-time performers in Bulldog history. Hayes' 636 career made field goals represented one of the top 10 efforts on the school's all-time list as did his 445 made free throws in a Ferris State uniform. Hayes was the 1992 GLIAC Freshman of the Year and was also a first-team all-region choice as a senior. Twice he was chosen as the Bulldogs' Most Valuable Player Award recipient. A four-year letterwinner, he was a first team NABC All-Great Lakes District pick in 1995 after earning second-team recognition the previous year and claiming preseason All-America accolades. He also made a school-record 20 consecutive free throws in a game and went on to play a distinguished nine-year professional career overseas in Poland, Israel and in the French Euro League. Hayes averaged over 21 points per game in each of his final two seasons at Ferris State.
Tianna Kirkland (Women's Basketball/Track, 1997-01) - A two-sport standout, Kirkland enjoyed a stellar four-year playing career at FSU from 1997-2001. The team's leading scorer and rebounder in her final two seasons, Kirkland guided the Bulldogs to a combined record of 74-37 and their first-ever NCAA Division II Tournament appearance in 2000. Kirkland put together her finest collegiate season as a senior co-captain in 2000-01, leading Ferris State to a 16-11 record while posting career-high averages of 15.2 points and 9.7 rebounds. She was named a Women's Basketball Bulletin third-team All-American, as well as the GLIAC Player of the Year and has her jersey retired in Wink Arena. Kirkland was also selected to the All-Great Lakes Region and GLIAC All-Defense first teams in her final season. The standout performer tallied team-high averages in points (11.9 ppg) and rebounds (9.1 rpg) while leading the Bulldogs to a 22-7 record as a junior in 1999-2000 when Ferris State earned its first NCAA postseason berth in 33 years and claimed a share of its first GLIAC North Division regular-season championship (16-3). Kirkland was named to the All-GLIAC second team as a junior, as well as the conference's all-tournament and all-academic squads. Kirkland, who also earned her team's Most Valuable Player (2000-01) and Most Improved Player (1999) awards, closed her career ranked among the school's top 10 leading scorers (926 points), rebounders (705) and shooters in field goal percentage (.540, 350-of-648). She also left FSU ranked in the top 10 for blocks (40) and free throws made (226). Kirkland also lettered in track and field at Ferris State, earning NCAA Division II All-America honors in the indoor and outdoor shot put and the discus in her final season. A two-time co-captain, Kirkland left FSU as the school record holder in all three events. She also held the second-best all-time mark in both the indoor weight throw and the outdoor hammer throw at the conclusion of her career. Following her playing career, she was a longtime assistant women's basketball coach on the NCAA Division I level, including stints at Central Michigan, Butler, Eastern Michigan, Michigan and Illinois.
Brad Morris (Wrestling, 1985-89) - A three-time All-American wrestler for the Bulldogs. Morris was a two-time national runner-up (1987 & 89) and placed fourth in 1988 in the 167-pound weight class. He also was a two-time Academic All-America Honorable Mention selection for the Bulldogs. The mat standout earned a bachelor's degree from FSU in marketing/business education and later received a master's degree from Saginaw Valley State. Morris went on to a standout prep football coaching career, coaching two Michigan Division 1 state championship teams. He was chosen as FSU's Bulldog of the Year recipient for the 1986-87 campaign as the school's top male student-athlete. In four years, Morris never lost a GLIAC match and was a four-time GLIAC Champion. Morris earned GLIAC Freshman of The Year Award in 1986 and in 1989, as a senior, was voted GLIAC Most Valuable Wrestler and was ranked as high as #1 in Division 2 and #8 in Division 1. Morris was victorious in a head-to-head match with Division 1's national runner-up in a 2-1 match and tied Division 1's #4 ranked wrestler 2-2. Morris' two national runner-up finishes are tied for the program's top individual finishes in school history. He owns the school record for most matches in a season with 53 during the 1988-89 campaign. He's was first with 12 tournament wins and ranks as the most dominant wrestler in the 167-pound class in Bulldog history. In his senior campaign, Morris helped lead the team to head to head victories over Michigan State University, Eastern Michigan University, M.A.C. Champions Central Michigan University and the program's highest finish ever with a national runner-up showing. In his four seasons at Ferris State, the Bulldogs had three consecutive top 10 national finishes and twice placed among the top four teams in the nation under head coach Jim Miller. Morris is the only individual in FSU wrestling history to twice garner national runner-up honors. Overall, he's second in school history with 125 wins and his 41 wins his final season are tied for the second-most in school history. Morris is among a select group of individuals at Ferris State to earn All-America honors three times on the mat. FSU's second-place effort at the 1989 national championships, in his senior season, is tied for the second-highest team finish in Bulldog Athletics history.
Gideon Smith (Football, 1910-11) - One of the first African American players at the school, Smith was a star football player at Ferris Institute during the 1910 and 1911 seasons, earning a varsity sweater after the 1910 season. Regarded as one of the team's top linemen, Smith learned to play football at Ferris Institute where he was noted as a "star player" under head coach W.C. "Top" Taggart. Smith continued his college football career as a star player at the Michigan Agricultural College (Michigan State University) and was a member of Michigan State's inaugural Athletics Hall of Fame induction class in 1994 after becoming the school's first African American athlete. In 1913, Smith was named to the All-Western Second Team and later was an All-Western First Team pick in 1915. After graduating from M.A.C, Smith played one professional football game as one of the first black athletes after his collegiate career. It was a single contest, but the game (and Smith's role in it) is etched in the annals of American professional football. The game was the Canton Bulldogs, led by the legendary Jim Thorpe, versus Knute Rockne and the Massillon Tigers for the Ohio League Championship. It would come down to a controversial fumble which was recovered by none other than Gideon Smith, sealing the victory for the Canton Bulldogs. Smith later had a long and distinguished career as coach and Athletic Director at Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (Hampton University) where his teams won five CIAA football championships and 10 track and field championships. As the football coach at Hampton, where he held that position from 1921 to 1940. Smith would compile a 97-46-12 record, including six one-loss seasons and two undefeated seasons in 1926 and 1933. Smith was the winningest coach in the first 90 years of the Institute. In the last years of his professional life, he became the athletic director at Hampton. In 1961, Ferris State College awarded Smith a distinguished alumni award. In 2014, Smith was named the American Football Coaches Association's recipient of the Trailblazer Award, an accolade created to honor early leaders in the football profession who coached at historically black colleges. Since 2017, Smith has appeared on the College Football Hall of Fame ballot.
Jason Vander Laan (Football, 2012-15) – A four-year starter and two-time team captain. Vander Laan had a historic collegiate gridiron career at Ferris State and reached the National Football League. He ranks as the school's all-time rushing and scoring leader and broke the school record for most career TD's (81). At the conclusion of his collegiate career, he ranked number one all-time in career rushing by a quarterback at any level of college football and number two for career rushing TD's at any level of college football. He was the first QB in NCAA History to compile 1,000 plus rushing and passing yards for four-straight years. Vander Laan was a two-time Harlon Hill Trophy winner as the NCAA Division II Player of Year and was also the 2014 and 2015 Division II National Scholar-Athlete of the Year as the country's top male student-athlete for all sports. He was honored as a 2015 Campbell Trophy "Academic Heisman" finalist, for all levels, and chosen as a consensus All-American each of his final two years. He was also a two-time GLIAC Player of the Year and two-time All-GLIAC First Team choice. Later, he was recognized as one of the NCAA's Today's Top 10 Award winners for his success on the field, in the classroom and in the community. Vander Laan was signed by the New York Jets as an undrafted free agent in 2016 and has also had NFL stops with the Indianapolis Colts, Carolina Panthers and the New England Patriots in addition to the New Orleans Saints.
Athletics Special Service Award
A longtime supporter of Bulldog Athletics and dedicated employee of Ferris State University, Burcham served as the school's coordinator of records and NCAA eligibility for more than 30 years where she impacted thousands of student-athletes prior to her retirement. While at Ferris State, she held numerous roles and positions including serving as the assistant registrar for athletic eligibility. She also served on the Bulldog Athletics Hall of Fame committee and was active in numerous booster clubs over the years. Burcham, who was one of the first recipients of FSU's Pete Peterson Bulldog Pride Award for her athletics contributions and support, also devoted her time to helping recognize the academic accomplishments of Ferris State student-athletes throughout her administrative career. Her husband, Dan, went on to serve as FSU's Vice President of Student Affairs during a distinguished career as a professor and administrator on the Big Rapids campus. Burcham is the fifth overall recipient of the Bulldog Athletics Hall of Fame Special Service Award and the first since 2011.