By Jeff Murphy, February 1, 2016
WARRENSBURG, MO – Before Athletic Director Jerry Hughes was honored as recipient of the Missouri Sports Legend Award by the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame Sunday, Jan. 31, a number of alumni, athletic staff, and other members of the University of Central Missouri community took time to congratulate him during a gathering at SPIN! Neapolitan Pizza Saturday evening. University of Central Missouri President Charles Ambrose and his wife, Kris, hosted the event at The Crossing – South at Holden, immediately after Mules and Jennies victories at the Multipurpose Building.
Hughes was honored Sunday in Springfield as a Missouri Sports Legends. Through his recognition, Hughes joins an elite group of individuals to receive this designation, including former St. Louis Cardinals outfielder, Stan Musial; University of Missouri head basketball coach, Norm Stewart; Kansas City Royals third baseman, George Brett; and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback, Len Dawson.
Ambrose said that through the Sports Legend Award, Hughes joins a group of individuals “who help define sports in Missouri.” Hughes became the 33rd honoree. David Pearce, senator from District 21, Missouri Senate, and Denny Hoskins, representative of District 54 and speaker pro tem, Missouri House of Representatives, presented Senate and House resolutions honoring Hughes for his achievement.
In talking about Hughes, the president commended his work in the community, including efforts related to literacy, which have touched young people throughout the Warrensburg R-VI School District. He also spoke about the leadership by both Hughes and his coaching staff that has produced many outstanding student-athletes.
“When you think about relationships and purpose, that’s what legends are made of. That’s what we are celebrating tonight,” Ambrose said.
Richard Phillips, vice president, UCM Alumni and Foundation Board of Directors, also spoke about the outstanding student-athletes, noting that for 15 consecutive years, the 500-plus student-athletes at UCM have averaged at least a 3.0 grade point average, as a whole.
“As I look at a successful organization and individuals who have a great deal of success, there are a handful of things I look at,” Phillips added. “No. 1 is a person who sets high expectations. As I look at the career Jerry has had – and I’ve told him many times – he sets high expectations for himself, his coaches and the student-athletes that we have on campus.
“Secondly, he also hires absolutely quality people as coaches, those individuals to work with students. I’ve always been so impressed with the quality of coaches that we have up and down the line. Jerry has been able to mesh all of these things together to make for a learning climate that is second to none,” Phillips said.
Weldon Brady, a member of the Board of Governors, spoke about the care Hughes has given to long-standing athletic facilities to ensure they are well maintained, and the relationships he has formed with individuals who have made it possible to improve and build new athletic facilities.
“He has truly changed the skyline of our athletic facilities at UCM,” Brady said. “When you think about how he has done it…over the years he has identified what I call super donors. These super donors are there when projects need to be done.” A number of such donors have helped support multiple projects.
Hughes said the award he is receiving honors the University of Central Missouri.
“This award is not about me, it’s about all of my coaches over the years, the tremendous staffs that have worked for me day in and day out, and great student athletes,” he said. He also commended the support he receives from the administration and the Board of Governors, and thanked the people at the gathering saying the award is “because of you.”
Hughes, who was joined at the event by his wife, Vici, their children and grandchildren, is a native of Versailles, Mo., who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UCM, and gained All-MIAA honors as a former member of the Mules golf team. He joined the university in 1979 as business placement director, and went on to become associate athletics director in 1981 and athletics director in 1983. Under his leadership UCM’s athletics program has earned a reputation for outstanding performance, and unprecedented success. This is highlighted by the dual NCAA Division II basketball championships in 1984 by the Mules and Jennies and the men’s basketball national title in 2014. UCM also won the 1994 and 2003 NCAA Division II baseball championships, the 2003 women’s Intercollegiate Bowling Association national title and the 2015 Indoor and Outdoor national titles for Jennies Track and Field.
With Hughes as athletics director, the Mules and Jennies entered the 2015 fall semester having won 151 Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association championships, eight national championships, had 45 other top four NCAA finishes and made more than 260 NCAA postseason appearances.
Hughes, who is the first three-time winner of the NACDA Central Region Athletics Director of the Year award at any NCAA level, has been a Division II member of the NCAA Executive Committee and chair of the D-II Championships Committee. He also served a term as NCAA Vice President for Division II and has been a member of the NCAA Council. This makes him the only person to twice hold the highest-ranking office available to D-II athletics administrators, and one of many achievements that contributed to his inducting into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 2005.
In addition to his involvement with UCM athletics teams, Hughes spearheaded fundraising for major renovations of the Central Missouri football and baseball stadiums, as well as the development of UCM’s South Recreation Complex and the Audrey J. Walton Clubhouse at Pertle Springs. In 2015, he oversaw the complete redesign and renovation of Keth Memorial Golf Course, and the rebranding of the course, Traditions Restaurant, and Walton Clubhouse as Mules National Golf Club.
He is the founder of the Las Vegas High Desert Class NCAA Basketball Tournament held each December for 17 years in Las Vegas, Nev., and has served as regional director of the Show-Me State Games, and member of the Governors’ Council on Physical Fitness and Health.