EAST LANSING, Mich. – Michigan State University will induct six members into its Athletics Hall of Fame on Thursday, Sept. 20, as part of the “Celebrate 2012” weekend. The Class of 2012 includes: Carl Banks (football), Emily Bastel (women’s golf), Clinton Jones (football/track), Shawn Respert (basketball), Diane Spoelstra (women’s basketball/softball/volleyball) and George Szypula (men’s gymnastics coach).
The “Celebrate 2012” weekend includes the third-annual Varsity Letter Jacket Presentation and Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Thursday, Sept. 20; announcement of the Varsity S Club award winners on Friday, Sept. 21; and culminates Saturday, Sept. 22 with a special recognition of the Hall of Famers during the Michigan State-Eastern Michigan football game in Spartan Stadium (kickoff TBA).
“We’re excited about inducting another quality class into the MSU Athletics Hall of Fame,” Michigan State Athletics Director Mark Hollis said. “We really look forward to the unique opportunity to celebrate the achievement of student-athletes being awarded their first varsity letter jacket in conjunction with honoring our best of the best with the Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
“Emily Bastel is arguably the greatest women’s golfer in MSU history. Emily was remarkably consistent throughout her collegiate career, and it speaks volumes that she was selected MSU’s Female Athlete of the Year twice.
“Carl Banks is simply one of the best linebackers in Spartan football history. He was a dominant player in college, earning All-Big Ten recognition three times and All-America honors twice. I was enrolled in some communication arts classes with Carl, and he was equally as impressive in the classroom as he was on the field. Carl also went on to become a tremendous player in the NFL, winning two Super Bowl titles with the New York Giants.
“Clinton Jones was an explosive playmaker on MSU’s back-to-back National Championship football teams in the mid-1960s. He had that rare combination of size, speed and power.
“Shawn Respert is the greatest scorer in MSU basketball history and his name appears prominently throughout the Big Ten record book. He’s the only player in program history to lead the team in scoring for four straight seasons. Not only was Shawn a consistent scorer, but he shot an impressive 46 percent from 3-point range.
“Diane Spoelstra was truly a ‘pioneer’ for women’s athletics at Michigan State,” Hollis continued. “She not only competed in three different sports during her career, but she earned starting roles for all three teams. Diane made major contributions to the softball team during its run to the 1976 AIAW National Championship.
“I can’t begin to tell you how much I admire George Szypula, who dedicated 41 years of his life to coaching men’s gymnastics at Michigan State. He recorded more than 250 career victories while leading MSU to a NCAA Championship and a Big Ten title. George also coached scores of Big Ten and NCAA individual champions, but more importantly, he had a positive impact on so many young lives.”
The MSU Athletics Hall of Fame, located in the Clara Bell Smith Student-Athlete Academic Center, opened on Oct. 1, 1999, and displays key moments in Spartan Athletics history as well as plaques of all 108 inductees. The charter class of 30 former Spartan student-athletes, coaches and administrators was inducted in 1992.
Here are bio sketches for the MSU Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 2012:
A four-year letterman and three-time first-team All-Big Ten selection, outside linebacker Carl Banks played his first three years (1980-82) for Frank “Muddy” Waters and his senior season (1983) for George Perles.
As a true freshman in 1980, he appeared in all 11 games and contributed 25 tackles, including two for losses (10 years), and an interception.
In 1981, Banks led the team in tackles (career-best 97 stops) and tackles for loss (10 for 42 yards) en route to becoming just the fifth sophomore in Michigan State football history to earn first-team All-Big Ten honors (as selected by the league’s head coaches). He ranked 13th in conference games with 79 stops, including a career-high 17 tackles in Week 2 at Ohio State. Nine of his career-best 10 tackles for loss came in Big Ten play.
As a junior in 1982, Banks was elected co-captain and finished second on the team in tackles with 71, including four for losses (26 yards). A first-team All-Big Ten selection by both the league’s coaches and media, he earned third-team All-America honors from the Football News. Banks produced a season-high 16 tackles in Week 7 against Purdue.
Prior to the 1983 season opener against Colorado, MSU outside linebackers coach Norm Parker said, “Carl Banks should never be blocked. If anybody handles him, they’re playing in the wrong league. They should be playing on Sundays.”
As a senior in 1983, he was elected as the team’s only captain and anchored a defensive unit that finished third in the Big Ten in total defense, allowing 322.0 yards per conference game. Banks ranked second on the team in tackles with 86, including nine for losses (44 yards), and garnered first-team All-Big Ten honors from the league’s coaches and media. He earned first-team All-America honors from The Associated Press, United Press International and The Sporting News and was selected College Linebacker of the Year by the Touchdown Club of Columbus. The 1983 team MVP reached double figures in tackles five times, including a season-high 16 stops in MSU’s 28-23 victory at Notre Dame. He had two tackles for loss (12 yards) against the Irish, including a 10-yard sack. In his final game in Spartan Stadium, Banks produced 13 tackles against Iowa, including three behind the line of scrimmage (9 yards).
The Flint, Mich., native closed out his career ranked among MSU’s all-time leaders in tackles (third with 279) and tackles for loss (tied for third with 25 for 122 yards). Today, his 25 tackles for loss still rank among the school’s all-time Top 20 (tied for 19th). Banks, who recorded double-digit tackles 13 times in his career, started his last 32 games in a Spartan uniform (DNP vs. Purdue in 1983).
“I was very surprised (to receive the congratulatory phone call),” Banks said. “I’m flattered by my selection.
“Throughout my career, the teams valued the importance of representing the Green and White. Even during the down years, we aspired to become a great team. Year after year, we fought to get things back on track. Thankfully, George Perles took over the program in 1983, and he really started to restore the Spartan tradition. Despite our (won-lost) record, I played with great teammates and for great coaches. Overall, I simply had a great experience at Michigan State.
“As a linebacker at MSU, ‘Mickey’ (George) Webster was the standard-bearer. My goal was to be thought of in his light. Throughout its football history, Michigan State has produced some special linebackers. Honestly, I’d stack Michigan State’s linebacker tradition up against Penn State’s (tradition) any day.”
The Beecher High School product was selected No. 3 overall by the New York Giants in the 1984 National Football League Draft. He spent 12 years in the NFL, including nine seasons in New York (1984-92), one year in Washington (1993) and two seasons in Cleveland (1994-95). Banks, who won two Super Bowls (XXI and XXV) and recorded over 500 tackles including 36 sacks in New York, was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team (1980s). Last December, his name was added to the New York Giants’ Ring of Honor. Banks, who started 151 of 173 career games, recorded more than 800 tackles as a pro, including 39.5 sacks.
Women’s Golf (1998-2002)
Upper Sandusky, Ohio
During her four years in East Lansing, Emily Bastel led the Spartans to new heights and helped spark a remarkable run that has placed Michigan State among the top women’s golf programs in the nation.
One of only three Spartans to earn All-Big Ten honors four times, Bastel was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 1999, claimed Big Ten medalist honors in 2000, and was the first Spartan to be named Big Ten Golfer of the Year in 2002.
Bastel became the first women’s golfer at MSU to win the George Alderton Female Athlete of the Year Award in 2000 after winning the Big Ten Championships, and she won the award for a second time in 2002. She is still only one of five Spartans to win the Alderton Award twice.
As a junior in 2000-01, Bastel set a then-school single-season record with a 75.23 stroke average and tied for 13th at the NCAA Championships. The Spartans tied for 12th overall at nationals, which remains the highest finish in school history.
Bastel saved her best for last as a senior in 2001-02, breaking her own school record with a 74.81 scoring average to earn Big Ten Golfer of the Year and second-team All-America honors. She won two tournaments (USF Waterlefe Invitational, Indiana Invitational) and set a then-school record with a 54-hole score of 214 at USF, and placed in the top five in seven events.
Bastel’s outstanding individual performances helped lead Michigan State to four appearances in the NCAA Regionals, three trips to the NCAA Championships, and the 2001 Big Ten Championship.
The Upper Sandusky, Ohio, native left Michigan State with the best scoring average in school history, and is still fourth all-time at MSU with a 75.75 average. She also was selected to the 2002 U.S. Curtis Cup, becoming just the second Spartan golfer to earn the prestigious honor.
“I was so excited to take the phone call (regarding her selection into the MSU Athletics Hall of Fame),” Bastel said. “The news definitely put a smile on my face, and I was overcome with a flood of memories from my experiences as a student-athlete. I’m so honored to be a member of this 2012 Class.
“I’m still in the world of collegiate golf, so it’s very gratifying to hear people refer to Michigan State as having ‘a great program.’ During my collegiate career, Michigan State won a Big Ten Championship and played in three straight NCAA Championships. So I played a small part in helping put Michigan State women’s golf back on the national map, and that’s something my teammates and I take pride in.
“During my career, I kept finding ways to improve my game. I had a great support system. Coach Slobodnik believed in me every step of the way and my parents were tremendously supportive. They encouraged me and gave me the mind-set that I could accomplish all of my dreams. I knew they were in my corner and that made all of the difference in the world.”
Bastel went on to a successful professional career, playing three seasons on the LPGA Tour (2005-06, 2008). She also was the leading money winner on the Future’s Tour in 2007.
Bastel was recently named the head women’s golf coach at Florida.
“During Emily's time at Michigan State, from start to finish, she proved to be the best golfer in the history of our program,” MSU women’s head golf coach Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll said. “Her list of accomplishments is impressive: All-American, two-time MSU Athlete of the Year, 2002 Curtis Cup member, represented the USA in the World University Games in Malaysia, Big Ten Player of the Year, Big Ten individual and team Champion. From the day Emily stepped on campus, her maturity and vast golf knowledge was clear, and she wasted no time proving that she was a dominant player in our conference and in the nation.
“Emily was a model student-athlete, excelling in everything and anything she put her mind to. Her success in the game of golf has continued through her life, first on the Futures Tour, then on the LPGA Tour and now as the head coach of the University of Florida.”
A three-year letterman from 1964-66 for legendary head coach Duffy Daugherty, Clinton Jones accounted for 2,549 career all-purpose yards and 23 touchdowns. Jones led the team in rushing and all-purpose yards in his final two seasons while helping the Spartans to a combined record of 19-1-1, including back-to-back Big Ten and National Championships in 1965 and ’66.
He made his presence known as a sophomore in 1964, finishing second on the team in rushing with 350 yards and four TDs.
As a junior in 1965, Jones earned first-team All-Big Ten and first-team All-America honors from the Football Writers Association after rushing for 787 yards and 10 TDs. In addition, he was named recipient of the Joe Fogg Memorial Trophy, presented by the Cleveland Touchdown Club to the nation’s most outstanding college player. Jones also finished second on the team in receptions with 26 for 308 yards (11.8 avg.) and two scores. He ranked 13th nationally in scoring with 74 total points (12 TDs and one two-point conversion). In conference games, Jones led the Big Ten in scoring with 68 points (11 TDs and one two-point conversion) and finished second in rushing with 538 yards.
He recorded three 100-yard rushing games in 1965, including a season-best 132 yards on 16 carries in MSU’s 32-7 victory over Ohio State. On the second play from scrimmage against the Buckeyes, Jones scored on a spectacular 80-yard run and later caught a 12-yard TD pass. Three weeks later, he tied the then-Big Ten single-game record with four rushing TDs in a 35-0 win at Iowa. Jones rushed 20 times for 117 yards, including a 3-yard TD run, in MSU’s 12-3 victory at Notre Dame in the regular-season finale. In a 14-12 loss to fifth-ranked UCLA in the 1966 Rose Bowl, he picked up 113 yards on 20 attempts.
Each spring, Jones also distinguished himself as a hurdler on the track. As a sophomore in 1965, he placed third in the highs and fourth in the lows at the Big Ten indoor championships and took third in the conference outdoor meet. Jones earned All-America honors in 1965 as a member of the 440-yard relay. As a junior in 1966, he captured second in the Big Ten indoor highs and lows and ran a leg on MSU’s shuttle hurdle team that set the national mark of 57.4 at the Drake Relays.
As a senior co-captain in 1966, the 6-foot, 210-pound Jones again earned first-team All-Big Ten honors en route to being named a consensus first-team All-American. He led the Spartans in rushing for the second year in a row, gaining 784 yards and scoring six rushing TDs. Jones led the Big Ten in rushing in league games, picking up 593 yards. He posted two 100-yard games in 1966, including a 129-yard effort on 19 carries in MSU’s 28-10 win over N.C. State in the season opener. In Week 8, Jones ran 21 times for a then-Big Ten single-game record 268 yards and three TDs in MSU’s 56-7 victory over Iowa. He scored on runs of 79, 70 and 2 yards against the Hawkeyes and was selected United Press International’s Midwest Back of the Week.
Daugherty repeatedly told reporters, “I wouldn’t trade Jones for any halfback in the country. He’s the greatest back at eluding and breaking tackles I have ever seen. He has remarkable balance, speed and power. Jones is also big, so he can run either around tacklers or over them, and that’s the same thing that made Jim Brown so great.”
The Cleveland, Ohio, native closed out his career as MSU’s second all-time leading rusher with 1,921 yards, trailing only Lynn Chandnois (2,103 career rushing yards). Today, Jones still ranks among the school’s all-time Top 20 in carries (16th with 396), rushing yards (16th) and rushing TDs (tied for 16th with 20). He also had 33 career receptions for 408 yards (12.4 avg.) and three scores.
“Upon hearing the news of my selection, tears of joy ran down my face,” Jones said. “I was speechless.
“We had a family atmosphere at Michigan State. Duffy Daugherty had recruited a lot of talent, especially from the South, so it was a culture shock for many of the guys. Duffy provided some direction, but for the most point, he left us alone; and for whatever reason, we came together as a team and really jelled. There was civil unrest and the country was in turmoil, but on the MSU campus, we took the off-the-field adversity and turned it into opportunity. Despite our uniqueness and different life experiences, we focused on each other and developed a special bond. It was more than about football.
“I wasn’t highly recruited coming out of (Cathedral Latin) high school. In fact, I didn’t become a first-string player until my senior year, and I spent only two-and-a-half games in the lineup before my season ended with a sprained ankle and broken hand. I was so disappointed, but I put all of my energy and effort into my studies and hurdles. At that point, I also became determined to make it as a football player in college or die trying.
“I didn’t want to let anyone at Michigan State down, so I left everything on the field,” Jones continued. “I really think my boxing (Golden Gloves) and track backgrounds helped me develop as a football player. With the help of my coaches and teammates, everything came together at MSU and I became a complete back.
“Jim Brown and Ernie Davis were my heroes growing up, so I dreamed the impossible. Michigan State provided me with the opportunity of a lifetime and I fulfilled my dreams. At MSU, I was surrounded by people that supported me and I developed friendships that have lasted a lifetime. I’m proud and honored to be joining Gene (Washington), ‘Bubba’ Smith and ‘Mickey’ (George Webster) in the MSU Athletics Hall of Fame.”
Following his senior season, Jones participated in the Hula Bowl, East-West Shrine Game and College All-Star Game. He rushed for 79 yards and a TD in the Hula Bowl.
Jones was selected No. 2 overall by the Minnesota Vikings in the 1967 National Football League Draft (behind teammate Charles “Bubba” Smith, who went No. 1 to the Baltimore Colts). He spent seven seasons in the NFL, including six years in Minnesota (1967-72) and one season in San Diego (1973). His nine rushing TDs in 1970 ranked second in the league. As a pro, Jones accounted for 5,035 career all-purpose yards and 21 TDs, including 2,178 rushing yards and 20 scores.
Michigan State’s all-time leading scorer, Shawn Respert was a two-time All-American and the 1995 Big Ten Player of the Year. As one of the most decorated players in Spartan history, Respert is one of nine players to have his Michigan State jersey retired.
Respert finished his career with 2,531 points, nearly 300 more than any other player in Michigan State history (2nd, Steve Smith – 2,263 points). His scoring totals rank second in Big Ten history, while the 1,545 points he scored in conference games are the most in league history. Respert is also Michigan State’s career leader in field goals (866), field goals attempted (1,791), and 3-point field goals (331). The 331 made 3-pointers ranked No. 1 in the Big Ten and No. 8 in the NCAA at the time. Currently, he ranks third in Big Ten history.
Of the 119 games in his career, Respert scored in double figures 109 times, including the final 71 games of his career. In fact, he scored 20 or more points in 73 career contests. He was the first Spartan since Mike Robinson (1972-74) to average 20 or more points per game three years in a row.
Over his four playing seasons, Respert helped guide the Spartans to three NCAA Tournaments (1992, 1994, 1995) and three 20-win seasons.
After red-shirting in 1990-91, Respert had an immediate impact as a freshman in 1991-92, averaging 15.8 points, ranking second in MSU freshman history for points (474), scoring average, field goals (173) and field goal attempts (344), behind only Magic Johnson. His 15.8 scoring average led the Spartans and ranked eighth in the Big Ten, while he also ranked third in the conference in 3-point field goals per game (2.0 pg) and 3-point field-goal percentage (.455).
He earned third-team All-Big Ten honors from both the league’s coaches and media and was named second-team Freshman All-American by Basketball Times and Basketball Weekly. During the season, he earned a spot on the Maui Invitational and Oldsmobile Spartan Classic All-Tournament Teams. He scored in double figures in 24 of 30 games, including nine games with 20 or more.
As a sophomore in 1992-93, Respert bumped his scoring average up to 20.1 ppg, leading the Spartans and ranking fourth in the Big Ten. He ranked second in the Big Ten in 3-point field goals per game (2.14) and third in 3-point field-goal percentage (.429). He was MSU’s leading scorer in 20 of 28 games, including scoring 20 or more points in 16 outings.
Respert was named MSU’s Most Valuable Player as voted on by the media, and was a second-team All-Big Ten honoree as voted by the media and coaches. Basketball Times named him first-team All-Mideast and Basketball Weekly tabbed him second-team All-Midwest. He was also named to the Oldsmobile Spartan Classic All-Tournament Team.
He earned his first All-America honor as a junior in 1993-94, when UPI selected him as a third-team honoree. The Associated Press voted him Honorable Mention All-America. He led the Spartans and ranked second in the Big Ten with a 24.3 ppg scoring average, ranking 16th in the nation. The 778 points were the most ever by a Spartan junior and rank third on the school’s single-season chart. He connected on 92-of-205 3-pointers, establishing new MSU single-season records at the time. He led the Big Ten in 3-point field goals made (2.85), including a remarkable 3.22 per game in league contests, and finished second in 3-point field-goal percentage (.449).
A first-team All-Big Ten honoree, Respert was named MSU MVP by the media and his teammates. He was named to the San Juan Shootout and Oldsmobile Spartan Classic All-Tournament Teams and was a first-team all-region selection by Basketball Weekly and Basketball Times. He was MSU’s leading scorer in 29 of 32 games and scored 20 or more points in 20 contests. The 43 points he scored against Minnesota on February 23, 1994, are still a Breslin Center record.
Respert’s final season was his most decorated. He paced MSU and the Big Ten with his 25.6 scoring average and was a Consensus First-Team All-American. The Sporting News and NABC’s pick for National Player of the Year, he was the runner-up for the Wooden and Naismith Awards. He was selected first-team All-American by The Associated Press, The Sporting News, USBWA, UPI, NABC, Basketball Weekly and Basketball Times. In addition to earning first-team All-Big Ten honors, Respert was selected as the Big Ten Player of the Year by the media and coaches, and was the recipient of the Chicago Tribune Silver Basketball Award.
In addition to leading the Big Ten in scoring, he also paced the conference in free-throw percentage (.869), 3-point field goals per game (4.25 pg) and 3-point field-goal percentage (.479). He finished the regular season ranked third in the nation in 3-point field-goals per game and eighth in scoring. He led MSU in scoring in 24 of 28 games, score 20 or more points in 23 outings. He set a MSU single-game record with nine 3-pointers at Indiana on Jan. 11, 1995, a record that stood until 2003.
“I was outrageously surprised when I received the phone call to inform me of my selection into the MSU Athletics Hall of Fame,” Respert said. “I’m a history buff, so I’ve always measured myself against the greats that have come through Michigan State. In my opinion, I always fall a little short because we didn’t have the team success that guys like ‘Magic’ Johnson, Greg Kelser, Scott Skiles and Mateen Cleaves enjoyed. This is indeed a humbling honor.
“Personally, I challenged myself every year to do more to help my team win. The (scoring) numbers really meant nothing to me because my role on the team was to be the top scorer. My teammates understood my role too, so they provided me with extra scoring opportunities. I took advantage of those additional scoring opportunities by staying aggressive on the offensive end of the floor and shooting a good percentage from the field. My coaches and teammates gave me all of those scoring opportunities, so they deserve a ton of credit for this special recognition.”
“Shawn Respert became the best shooter we ever had at Michigan State,” former Spartan head coach Jud Heathcote said. “That’s his greatest accomplishment because he made himself into being a great shooter. Shawn improved each and every year through hard work and dedication. During my tenure, Shawn was one of the few players who had the green light, but he also understood when to shoot and when not to shoot.
“I took two of my assistants to watch Shawn play at Bishop Borgess. He played forward in high school, so I asked them if they believed he could make the transition to guard in college. Both said ‘no’ but I overruled. Later, I took those same assistants to watch Eric Snow play. Eric played small forward in high school and they asked me if I thought he could move to guard in college. I responded ‘no’ but they overruled me. So ‘Fire and Ice’ really came together by mistake rather than by design.”
Outside of his Michigan State career, Respert was a member of Team USA on two occasions. During the summer of 1993, he played for the Gold Medal-winning team in the World University Games, averaging 12.1 ppg in the tournament. The following summer, he won a Bronze Medal with Team USA at the Goodwill Games in St. Petersburg, Russia.
In 1995, Shawn Respert was drafted with the eighth pick of the first round by the Portland Trail Blazers, although he was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks. He played in 172 games with Milwaukee, Toronto, Dallas and Phoenix over the course of his four-year NBA career. He then played overseas in Italy, Greece and Poland before retiring in 2003.
Women’s Basketball/Softball/Volleyball (1975-78)
Diane Spoelstra became a rare three-sport athlete at Michigan State, earning starting positions in volleyball, women’s basketball and softball from 1975-78. According to athletic communications’ records, Spoelstra is one of only two women to compete in three different sports at MSU, joining Shirley Cook (1955-58: field hockey, basketball and track).
A two-year starter in volleyball for Coach Annelies Knoppers, Spoelstra helped the Spartans to a combined record of 82-13, including back-to-back (unofficial) Big Ten Tournament Championships and consecutive appearances in the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women Championships.
She was a three-year starter in softball from 1976-78 for Coach Dianne Ulibarri and helped Michigan State to a combined record of 68-32, including three-straight 20-win seasons. As a sophomore, Spoelstra started at third base for MSU’s 1976 AIAW National Champions (24-4 overall record) and batted .467 (7-for-15) in the College World Series. In a 6-4 win over Kansas in Game 2 of the College World Series, Spoelstra went 4-for-4, including a triple, and scored a run. For the season, she led the team in home runs (3) and walks (16) and finishing third in both runs scored (20) and RBI (15).
In 1977, the Spartans (23-11) again advanced to the AIAW College World Series and finished third. MSU went 21-17 in 1978, winning the (unofficial) Big Ten Tournament Championship.
The 5-foot-10 Spoelstra was a two-year starter in basketball from 1976-78 for Coach Karen Langeland, who helped Michigan State to a combined record of 44-13 including back-to-back 20-win seasons. As a junior, she averaged 11.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.4 assists while connecting on 47 percent of her shots from the floor, as the Spartans won the Midwest Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (MAIAW) Championship and qualified for the AIAW Tournament. Spoelstra scored a career-high 28 points against Ohio State in the 1977 Big Ten Tournament.
As a senior, Spoelstra contributed 7.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game.
She started 45 of 51 career games for Coach Langeland, averaging 9.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists. For her career, Spoelstra shot 44 percent from the field and 70-percent from the free-throw line.
“I’m overwhelmed by the selection (into the MSU Athletics Hall of Fame),” Spoelstra said. “I was pleasantly surprised to receive the news, but it’s wonderful to be part of MSU’s sports legacy.
“Looking back, it certainly took a lot of discipline to compete in three sports. I was a natural athlete, but it took discipline to manage my time and effort. I certainly invested a lot of time practicing. I’m often asked what sport I enjoyed most, and honestly, basketball was my first love.
“I’m honored when someone describes me as a ‘pioneer’ for women’s sports. I competed at Michigan State during the beginning stages of Title IX, so it took a passion for sports for overcome a lot of the obstacles.”
Spoelstra began her playing career at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., before transferring to Michigan State.
Men’s Gymnastics Coach (1947-88)
The first coach in Michigan State men’s gymnastics history, George Szypula led the Spartans into the national spotlight during his 41-year reign. An owner of 252 career meet victories, Szypula led the Spartans to an NCAA Championship in 1958 and a Big Ten title in 1968, in addition to 18 individual NCAA and 48 individual conference champions.
Following a standout gymnastics career of his own and his service time in World War II, Szypula was named head coach of the new men’s gymnastics program at Michigan State in 1947.
It didn’t take him long to propel the Spartans into significance. In his second season as coach in 1949, MSU finished sixth at the NCAA Championships, led by Mel Stout winning the first NCAA individual title (parallel bars) in school history. Michigan State would go on to place among the top eight nationally on 15 occasions, including nine top five showings. The peak of Szypula’s coaching career came in 1958 when Michigan State shared the NCAA title.
In 1951, MSU’s first year in the Big Ten, the Spartans finished second at the conference meet, led by Stout winning the all-around, floor exercise, still rings, parallel bars and horizontal bars. It was the first of 17 top-3 team finishes which Syzpula coached at the Big Ten Championships. The Spartans won the Big Ten Championship in 1968, the only title in program history.
Two of his athletes won the Nissan Award, issued to the top collegiate senior gymnast in the country. Jim Curzi won the first-ever Nissan Award in 1966 and Dave Thor took home the honor in 1968, while three other Spartans were finalists for the honor. Szypula continued to coach Thor in 1968 at the Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City, where he was the top American finisher.
Syzpula received numerous accolades throughout his career, including being named NCAA Coach of the Year in 1966 and the NCAA Mideast Region Coach of the Year in 1987, while at MSU. He has also been inducted into the U.S. Gymnastics Hall of Fame, the Temple University Hall of Fame, the East Lansing High School Hall of Fame and the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame. He was also honored as a torchbearer for the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Games, carrying the flame on its tour through Michigan in January 2002.
Upon his retirement from MSU, Szypula spent 16 seasons as the boys’ gymnastics coach at East Lansing High School. A Philadelphia, Pa., native, Szypula graduated from Temple University in 1943, where he was the 1942 NCAA Men’s Tumbling Champion and a four-time AAU National Tumbling Champion (1940-43).
“I was very pleasantly surprised when I was told that I was being inducted into the Michigan State Athletics Hall of Fame,” said Szypula. “I have a lot of respect for Michigan State University, having spent the last 65 years in the area. It is an honor to be included among the great Spartans.
“There were so many great gymnasts that helped build the MSU program. Mel Stout, who won all but one of the individual titles in our first year in the Big Ten, and Carl Rintz, who was a nine-time Big Ten and four-time national champion, were the early figures. The one who most people thought was the most successful was Dave Thor, who was the top American finisher at the 1968 Olympics. But in all we had 18 national champions and 48 Big Ten champions that left a lasting memory on my time at Michigan State.
“Biggie Munn was the best AD that I worked for and it was great to watch the progress of the athletic department since I arrived.”