Ken Stephens, a former UCA athlete and football coach who led the Bears to the NAIA national championship game in 1976 and four Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference titles during his 10-year tenure, will be inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame on Friday, Feb. 28.
Stephens, currently assistant supervisor in the Office of Student Success, is among 11 inductees in the Class of 2014. The banquet will be at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock.
Stephens, the first AIC athlete in any sport to be named All-American two years in a row, finished national runner-up in the 120-yard high hurdles for the Bears as a junior and senior. He never lost a high hurdle race during his college career except for those two national meets. As a free safety for the Bears, Stephens also still holds the UCA record for interceptions in a game with five, which he set in the 1951 season.
He was a star football and track athlete at Conway High School, where he won the high-point award in the Arkansas State High School Track Meet as a senior. He then came to UCA (then known as Arkansas State Teachers College), where he won four consecutive AIC championships in the 120-yard high hurdles and won the high point award at nearly every college meet in which he competed.
After coaching at Crossett, Bethany (Okla.), Walnut Ridge, Conway, Arkansas State and Morrilton, he led North Little Rock High School to state championships in 1965, ’66 and ’70 and then spent the 1971 season on Frank Broyles’ staff at the University of Arkansas. He then returned to his alma mater, UCA, in 1972, where he took over a football program that had suffered three consecutive losing seasons. Four years later, the Bears were playing for the national championship.
Stephens’ UCA teams won AIC championships in 1976, 1978, 1980 and 1981, advancing to the playoffs each year. He left UCA in 1982 with a 67-35-6 record after being hired to coach at Lamar University. He coached at Arkansas Tech from 1986 until he retired in 1992.
He came out of retirement in 2000 to coach four years at Ranger (Texas) College and was nominated for National Junior College Athletic Association Coach of the Year in 2002.
Among those who have played or coached under Stephens are Charlie Strong, the UCA graduate now the head coach at Texas; John Thompson, who led Arkansas State to bowl wins following the 2012 and ’13 seasons; Bill Keopple, head coach at Southern Arkansas; Monte Coleman, head coach at UA-Pine Bluff; James Bell, former head coach at Jackson State; and Barry Switzer, who was a sophomore at Crossett when Stephens was an assistant coach there.
The Class of 2014 includes David Bazzel and Dennis Winston, who played football for Arkansas; Gary Blair, the women’s basketball coach at Texas A&M and formerly of Arkansas; Ken Duke, the PGA Tour player; Bennie Fuller, the all-time leading scorer in Arkansas boys high school basketball history; Stephanie Strack Mathis, the career scoring leader in women’s basketball at Arkansas Tech; Don Campbell, the long-time high school football coach at Corning, Sheridan and Wynne; Alvy Early, the former UA-Monticello women’s basketball and softball coach; the late Jim Barnes, the first pick in the 1964 NBA Draft; and the late Harry Vines, who led the Arkansas Rollin’ Razorbacks to National Wheelchair Basketball Association championships in 1991, ’93, ’94, ’96 and 2000.
Tickets are on sale for the 56th annual induction banquet. Visit www.arksportshalloffame.com or call (501) 663-4328 for more information.