By: Ryan Gasser, sports information director
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Four individuals will be immortalized in Capital University Athletics history on Sept. 30. Capital University is proud to welcome James Mayer '96, Pam Briggs, Nici Workman '04, and Tom McCurdy '79 into its Athletics Hall of Fame as members of the Class of 2017.
Capital University will honor all four new inductees as a part of this year's Homecoming festivities during the Crusaders' home football game and with an induction celebration dinner. Capital's Homecoming will be celebrated from Sept. 29 to Oct. 1 with the majority of events being held on Saturday, Sept. 30.
"We are excited to celebrate the induction of this great group of athletes and coaches who reflect the very best of Capital Athletics," said director of athletics and recreation, Roger Ingles. "They are the best of their time and represent the dedication, commitment and excellence of Capital and Division III athletics."
Congratulations to our four Hall of Fame inductees!
TOM MCCURDY '79 (football)
Defensive players, especially those on the line, do not typically feel a lot of love when they take the field. This was especially the case for four-year letterwinner and All-American Tom McCurdy '79.
In his freshman year, the Crusaders struggled and put up a 1-8 record, but what a turnaround Cap had once McCurdy became a regular on the defensive line. After giving up 211 points as a team in 1975, the 1976 campaign featured a defense that gave up just 58 points in nine games, good for an average of 6.4 points against per contest, and pitched five shutouts.
McCurdy began his career as a linebacker and was voted as Cap's most outstanding freshman performer on a team that was filled with first-year talent. He moved to the defensive line as a middle guard, which helped take his ability to a new level. Number 98 became immensely feared by opposing offensive lines and often targeted because of the disruption McCurdy caused on a regular basis. In his first year at his new position he was named an All-OAC selection for the first of three times in his career.
In 1976 and 1977, McCurdy led the Crusaders in total tackles, making 61 and 65, respectively. Then head coach Gene Slaughter predicted that with a solid senior season in 1978, McCurdy would become an All-American, and he predicted correctly. Through the first seven games of his senior season, he had 62 tackles with two games remaining and went on to surpass that high mark, as well. Of those 62 tackles, 14 were behind the line of scrimmage. He went on to become a three-time All-OAC selection and later earned All-America status.
Twice, Capital Football was nationally ranked with McCurdy on the field and in the four years that he played, CU went from being a 1-8 team to posting a 6-3 record in his senior season.
McCurdy graduated from Capital in 1979 with a bachelor's degree in accounting. He went on to garner his OWE/OWA certification from Kent State University in 1998. He taught and coached for 36 years at several different high school including his alma mater Fairfield Union, Hilliard Darby, Lancaster, Delphos St. John's, and Columbus St. Francis DeSales. At Fairfield Union, McCurdy served as head football coach for 25 years and was also the school's head baseball and wrestling coach at various times throughout his teaching career. He was later inducted into the Fairfield Union Athletic Hall of Fame.
He is married to Jackie McCurdy and together they have three children, Katie, Kelly and Kasey. He and his wife currently lives in his hometown of Lancaster, Ohio, where he is a tax associate for H&R Block.
JAMES MAYER '96 (baseball)
James (Jim) Mayer is one of the most decorated Capital baseball players over the last 50 years after being crowned OAC Player of the Year and a three-time All-American over the course of his career.
From 1993 to 1996, Mayer impacted the Capital baseball program in a very obvious way.
As a freshman, Mayer possessed a .319 batting average, recorded 21 runs batted in, and collected his first collegiate home run. He began making a name for himself not just for his contact hitting and power, but also for his speed and ability to steal bases. In 1993, he stole 16-of-18 bases that he attempted.
The 1994 campaign served as the first of Mayer's three All-American seasons and was the season in which he started revising the Capital record books. As a sophomore, Mayer set the Capital record for single-season batting average (.508), which still stands today. He broke the previous best by more than 45 points, set in 1986 by Ed Susi, and the next best hitter on the team that season logged a .333 batting average.
Between his freshman and sophomore season he increased his RBI count by 14 (35), more than doubled the number of total bases (96) and nearly doubled the number of stolen bases (31). He collected 22 extra-base hits, which included a school-record 16 doubles, four triples and two home runs. It marked the first of three times he was named First Team All-OAC and earned All-America honors beginning with a third team placement that year.
As magical as his sophomore season was, Mayer hit new heights as a junior in 1995. Records continued to fall as Mayer set new program bests in total bases (124), RBIs (47), runs scored (51), at bats (171), hits (71), and matched his record for doubles set the previous season. He also logged the second-most home runs (8) and stolen bases (41) in a single season. His .444 batting average was also the third-best in a single season. Behind these numbers, Mayer was named First Team All-OAC, OAC Player of the Year and went on to become a First Team All-American. Mayer and the Crusaders also advanced to the OAC postseason for the first time in school history behind one of the program's best seasons and a 25-win campaign.
Mayer returned for his senior campaign and once again hit north of .400 and included a career-high and then record 48 RBIs. He also went on to hit 12 doubles, three triples and six home runs to fuel a .413 batting average. Those numbers yielded his third and final All-America honor, this time being tabbed on the second team. Capital also put together its second straight 20-win season.
After Mayer graduated from Capital, he played professionally for one season in the Frontier League before returning to Capital Law School. He graduated from Capital a second time and in 2007 went on to open his own private law practice in his hometown of Mansfield, Ohio.
PAM BRIGGS (volleyball)
When conversations are had regarding the evolution of Capital Volleyball and women's sports at Capital University, Pam Briggs will most certainly be one of the headliners guiding the conversation.
Coach Briggs came to Capital in 1990 as an assistant coach and saw two coaching changes before becoming the head coach herself in 1993. A product of Kent State University, the experience and leadership gathered along her prominent Division I playing career paid immediate dividends when in her first season the Crusaders went from a seven-win team to 19 wins. Her first victory came against Earlham College in straight sets on Sept. 4, 1993. That was just the beginning.
Three times over the course of her career, Briggs led the Crusaders to resetting the single-season team wins mark, which now stands at 32 after the 2005 squad achieved that feat. She did so first in 1995 when in just her third season, the Purple and White garnered 28 wins to just six losses and finished the conference season 8-1, the best OAC record for any Capital team and something only two other teams have done in the program's history – all three under the direction of Briggs. The next year, Capital repeated that effort and won the program's first OAC Regular Season Championship.
Amid some transition and a new facility for Capital Athletics, Briggs christened The Capital Center with its first taste of victory on Sept. 7, 2001 when the Crusaders defeated Wilmington College and Bluffton College in straight sets on the same day. The 2001 season also set a lengthy streak into motion, marking the first of eight consecutive years with 20 more wins in a season.
Briggs amassed 436 career victories and more than 100 OAC wins over 23 years as the head volleyball coach at Capital University, easily attaining the title of winningest coach in program history. Twice she guided her teams into the NCAA Division III Volleyball Tournament (2005, 2006) and earned the program's first win at the national tournament in 2006 when the Crusaders beat Coe College in the opening round. Over her career, she was named the OAC Coach of the Year in 1995 and 2002, and in 2005 was both the OAC and AVCA Great Lakes Region Coach of the Year.
As impressive as her teams' accolades are, the awards the players accumulated under her direction are equaled impressive, attesting to the quality of the student-athletes that made up the program. On the court, Briggs' teams produced five American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) All-Americans, five Ohio Athletic Conference Players of the Year selections, eight Great Lakes All-Region picks, and two OAC Freshman of the Year honorees. In addition, 35 of Briggs' players earned All-OAC awards, including 12 first team honors.
Her players were exemplary students, as well. Fifty-three players have been named to the Academic All-OAC Team, which has fueled a number of individuals recognized on a national level. Capital Volleyball has had eight players named ESPN The Magazine/CoSIDA Academic All-District, and five times the program had a player represented on the Academic All-America Team. Of those five, two (Carrie Ferguson, Nici Workman) were named Academic All-American of the Year.
Briggs is also credited for starting the women's golf program at Capital and fielded the first team in 2000. She held that position through the 2011 season and coached student-athletes that collected six all-conference awards and five academic all-conference honors.
Briggs is a 1987 graduate of Kent State where she was an outside hitter for the Golden Flashes volleyball program. She earned her master's degree in education from the University of Dayton in 1987 before returning to her hometown of Reynoldsburg, Ohio to begin her coaching career at her alma mater, Reynoldsburg High School. She is married to Robert (Bob) Briggs and together live in Columbus.
NICI WORKMAN '04 (volleyball)
Nici Workman arrived on the scene as the construction of The Capital Center was being completed, and helped begin the reconstruction of the Capital Volleyball program. Prior to her arrival, Capital was hovering around .500 overall records in each of the last three seasons. That all changed once she hit the floor, and the program's success went through the ceiling.
A four-year letterwinner, Workman became a regular starter as an outside hitter almost immediately. In 2000, she posted 460 kills and hit 23.9 percent with 275 digs, which was just the start to a promising career. As a sophomore she broke in Capital's new state-of-the-art athletic facility behind a team-high 513 kills, which at the time was second-most all-time in a single season, and hit at a 26.9 percent clip. She was named First Team All-OAC for the first of three times in her career, and was tabbed Academic All-OAC honorable mention following the season.
Workman outdid herself during her junior year, tallying a new program record 585 kills and possessed an outstanding .303 attack percentage, in addition to 66 service aces. As if that was not enough, she went on to rank second of the team with 467 digs and third in total blocks (73). Those numbers garnered her recognition on the 2002 AVCA All-Great Lakes Region team and later was named OAC Player of the Year. On a national scale was honored as a 2002 Second Team Academic All-American by ESPN The Magazine and CoSIDA. It would not be the only time she found herself on all of those lists over the course of her career. That year, the Crusaders set what was then a school record in wins (30) and marked the first time the program hit the 30-win plateau.
Her senior season marked the program's second OAC Regular Season Championship in its history after going 8-1 in conference play in 2003. Along the way, Workman put forth another stellar year with 468 kills, 54 service aces, 432 digs, and 100 total blocks to fuel the Crusaders and put her in select company on a national level. In addition to her all-conference, all-region, and Academic All-American honors that she collected, Workman was also crowned an athletic All-American for the first time and hit the pinnacle of honors after being named ESPN The Magazine/CoSIDA Academic All-American of the Year.
Workman graduated as the OAC's career kills leader with 2,026, which is also a Capital program record. She holds the school record for career service aces (201), which ranks 10th in the OAC.
She graduated summa cum laude from Capital in 2004 with a degree in economics and then went on to graduated cum laude from the University of Cincinnati College of Law en route to becoming a top-rated attorney in Columbus. Workman also serves as the president of the Capital University Alumni Varsity C and is the president-elect of the Capital University Alumni Advisory Board. She and her husband, Donald, are parents to two young girls and reside in nearby Blacklick, Ohio.
Workman is a native of Chillicothe, Ohio and product of Union-Scioto High School.
Capital will also recognize two other prominent awards and its winners over Homecoming Weekend and at the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.
CRUSADER DISTINGUISHED SERVICE AWARD FOR ATHLETICS
The Alumni Varsity C Association Crusader Distinguished Service Award for Athletics is designed to provide public recognition and honor to those men and women who have used their time, talents, expertise in support of, and service to, the Capital University athletics programs, and who do not qualify for Athletic Hall of Fame consideration.
This year's winner of the Crusader Distinguished Service Award for Athletics is Fred Dafler '50. Dafler, a 1950 graduate of Capital University with a degree in biology, has been a devout supporter of Capital University and its athletic programs since stepping foot on campus. He was a member of the track & field team for one season, but also was involved as a staff writer with The Chimes, was the business manager of the 1949 Capitalian, and was a three-year member of Masquers.
Following graduation, Dafler taught at Lanier High School before enlisting in the United States Army, in which he served from 1951-53. Upon his return, he was a high school math and science teacher, principal and superintendent at Franklin Monroe Local School District in Pitsburg, Ohio from 1953 to 1969.
Dafler then involved himself with the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA), serving as assistant commissioner from 1959-67 and then association commissioner from 1969-1995. Throughout those years, he was also an official for track & field (56 years), football (22 years) basketball (13 years), and was a college football official for 10 seasons. Following his retirement, Dafler came back to Capital where for 17 years he served as a coordinator of the University archives on a part-time basis.
He is married to Joanne Nadine (Mills) Dafler ('51) of 65 years and have two children, Michelle Suzanne Durrett ('02) and Claudia Diane Plumley.
BEREA BOOTS AWARD
The Berea Boots Award is annually given to a senior student-athlete which at the end of his or her junior year has excelled at more than one sport at Capital.
The 2017 Berea Boots award winner is Derek Knabe '18 of cross country and track & field. Knabe is a native of Cincinnati, Ohio and product of Oak Hills High School. He is also a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) in addition to being a three-year letterwinner in both sports. He is currently ranked ninth in program history in the 5,000-meter run in cross country and third in the 3,000-meter steeplechase on the outdoor circuit. On the indoor circuit, he is in the Capital top 10 in the 800 meters, 1,000 meters, one mile, and 3,000 meters.
The Purple and White will be hosting rival Otterbein University in multiple sports over the Homecoming Weekend, including football (1:30 p.m.) and men's soccer (7 p.m.). A full description of events over Homecoming Weekend can be found here.
If you would like to join us in honoring our Hall of Fame inductees, click here to RSVP for the induction dinner on Saturday, Sept. 30.