By Jeff Murphy, August 21, 2023
This archive photo features the University of Central Missouri Multipurpose Building when Jerry Hughes was beginning his 40-year career in Intercollegiate Athletics leadership. His family, friends and co-workers say this facilty became his "home away from home."
During the four decades Jerry Hughes served in a leadership post within University of Central Missouri Intercollegiate Athletics, the UCM Multipurpose Building became much like a second home. He devoted countless hours at the institution’s main indoor sports arena watching the growth of thousands of student athletes, the building of regional and national championship athletics teams, and the countless celebrations that came with the home-teams’ successes. Although Hughes passed away on Jan. 21, 2023 while he was serving as Vice President of Intercollegiate Athletics, his professional legacy will live on with the Multipurpose Building being renamed the Jerry M. Hughes Athletics Center.
The facility’s new name was formally approved by the UCM Board of Governors when it met in plenary session on Aug. 17. University President Roger Best presented a recommendation for the name change, noting that Hughes’ long-standing service brought significant attention to UCM Intercollegiate Athletics and the university as a whole, resulting in a substantial impact on student recruiting and fiscal resources.
“Jerry Hughes had a profound impact on Intercollegiate Athletics and his alma mater through more than 40 years of dedicated service and leadership,” Best said. “The Multipurpose Building was his campus home throughout, and it is only fitting that we forever honor his contributions to UCM and so many others in this highly visible way."
Best called Hughes the “architect” of what has developed into one of the premier collegiate athletics programs within NCAA Division II. His work contributed to UCM consistently being near the top annually in a variety of competitive sports, and as Hughes’ stature grew within collegiate athletics circles, there were benefits for UCM.
“When you have a successful Athletics program that carries a national reputation, it brings resources to the university through donors and grants, and through increased tuition because students gravitate toward success and gravitate to the energy that Athletics can bring when they are successful in competition,” Best said.
During Hughes’ tenure as Athletics Director and ultimately Vice President, UCM Intercollegiate Athletics gained significant prominence nationally by winning 10 team-based national championships including two men’s basketball, two women’s basketball, two baseball, women’s track and field (indoor and outdoor), women’s soccer, and women’s bowling titles along with 179 MIAA championships and more than 300 NCAA Division II postseason appearances. This is in addition to many individual athlete’s accomplishments.
Following the meeting, Ken Weymuth, UCM Board of Governors president from Sedalia, Missouri, said it was an “honor to be able to name the ‘Multi’ after our long-time friend, Jerry Hughes.”
He echoed Best’s comments about the Athletics leader being well known for his leadership and having a reputation that spread across the NCAA. Calling Hughes a “legend,” Weymuth said, “Under Jerry’s leadership the Mules and Jennies were one of the most respected Division II schools in the country. CMSU/UCM were always the teams to beat.”
The announcement of the name change came in a plenary session which also involved an update on Intercollegiate Athletics by Dr. Matt Howdeshell, who was named Hughes’ successor. He began his duties on June 19.
Commenting on the board’s decision, Howdeshell noted, “Simply put, UCM Athletics would not be where we are today without Jerry Hughes. Jerry is a legend, not only at UCM, but within our industry of intercollegiate athletics. The renaming of the Multipurpose Building to the Jerry M. Hughes Athletics Center is a fitting tribute to honor Jerry’s legacy now, and into the future.”
Pleased about the board action, Hughes’s wife, Vici, offered the following statement: “Our family is humbled, and I know Jerry would be too, by the action taken today by the University of Central Missouri Board of Governors in renaming the Multipurpose Building the Jerry M. Hughes Athletics Center. On behalf of the family, I would like to thank President Best, his staff, and everyone else who made this possible. The building was truly Jerry's ‘home away from home’ and served as the foundation of the strong, dominating athletic program that Jerry built. We're grateful for this honor and the tribute to Jerry.”
Hughes graduated from UCM in 1971 with a bachelor’s degree in physical education, having lettered as a Mules Golf team member during his undergraduate program. He received his master’s degree in secondary school administration in 1979, joined the university the same year as a business placement director, and became Assistant Athletics Director in July 1981. He was named Athletics Director in January 1983.
In addition to impressive statistics related to UCM’s sports teams that came under Hughes’ watch, there were a number of fundraising successes that benefited Athletics and UCM. Donor engagement provided new named and renovated facilities and venues such as Walton Stadium, Crane Stadium, Mules National Golf Club and Walton Clubhouse.
Hughes’ contributions to state, regional and national college sports were prominently acknowledged with individual awards and recognitions such as the prestigious D2 Award of Merit, induction into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, being named a “Legend” by the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame and being named Central Region Athletics Director of the Year four times among other individual recognitions and awards. He also had significant influence nationally in the governance and structure of NCAA Division II through his leadership of and membership on national NCAA committees as well as within the MIAA Conference.
About the Jerry M. Hughes Athletics Center
Renamed the Jerry M. Hughes Athletics Center by Board of Governors action on Aug. 17, 2023, the Multipurpose Building was originally constructed in 1976, and is one of the largest structures on the University of Central Missouri campus. In early 1973, administrative and student cooperation produced the Multipurpose Building concept. The university’s student body voted to voluntarily increase student fees in order to construct the facility, and no state money was used for this project. The facility is not only home for many athletics events, but it is also a venue for annual commencement exercises, concerts, various large gatherings and recreational activities.
Jerry M. Hughes served the University of Central Missouri for four decades. He is being honored with the institution's main athletics/multipurpose facility being named for him as a tribute to his years of service to student athletes and their coaches.