Wilmington welcomes 2010 Hall of Fame Class
Austin, Barber, Cox, Otte inducted Saturday
October 13, 2010
Shown, from left, are 2010 Wilmington College Athletics Hall of Fame inductees Charlie Cox, Pat Austin, Kevin Otte and Roger Barber.
Pat Austin, Roger Barber, Charlie Cox and Kevin Otte comprise the 2010 Class of the Wilmington College Athletics Hall of Fame. The group was welcomed to the Hall of Fame during an induction brunch on Saturday and introduced at halftime of Wilmington’s homecoming football game with Marietta.
Pat Austin enjoyed an unparalleled baseball career at Wilmington College that took the Chillicothe native to the bright lights of Major League Baseball.
Spotted by then-WC baseball coach Jim Schmitz, Austin initially went to the University of Dayton with designs on playing basketball for the Flyers. Dayton’s loss turned out to be Wilmington’s gain.
"It didn’t take long to get comfortable in Wilmington. Within the first week it just felt like home, the place to be," Austin said.
In 1985 Austin hit the diamond and quickly established himself as an undeniable force. A hard-hitting, smooth-fielding shortstop, he batted .465 and ripped 15 triples — a mark that still represents the Wilmington College and NAIA all-time single-season records.
"It was a combination of things. I had the speed and I also was able to go the other way when I was hitting," Austin said. "There was just something about that right-center field gap — that once I got the ball between those two outfielders, the only thing in my mind was going all the way to third."
In 1986, Austin notched school-record 76 hits, and not only snagged everything hit in his direction, but also caught the attention of big-league scouts. In June 1986 he became the first Wilmington College baseball player to be selected in the MLB draft when the Detroit Tigers tabbed him in the fifth round.
A week later Austin was playing for Bristol and went on to hit .309 and steal 48 bases in 68 games. The stolen bases established an Appalachian League record that still stands today.
His trek through the Detroit organization culminated with a spot on the Tigers’ 40-man roster in 1990.
"After the 1990 season I was traded to the Cardinals, but hurt my ankle and was released while I was on the disabled list," Austin said.
Austin went on to play in the Baltimore Orioles and Philadelphia Phillies systems, but a back injury ultimately halted his baseball career. In six seasons he batted .289 with 10 home runs, 188 runs batted in and 193 stolen bases.
"I wouldn’t trade the Wilmington College experience for anything," Austin said. "We had a lot of long road trips after piling into vans, but it was a very special time in my life."
Austin is a finance manager with Verizon Telecom. He resides in Atlanta, Ga. He has three daughters; India, Nicka and Misha.
Roger Barber was the voice of the Quakers for nearly three decades and became a part of the fabric that is Wilmington College athletics.
A native of Murray City, Barber attended Ohio University but became an honorary Quaker in 1981 when WKFI radio began broadcasting Wilmington College football games.
"Bill Liermann was doing the play-by-play and asked me to help him. I just loved the association with the administration, the coaches and the players," Barber said.
Barber’s knowledge of sports and unique way of sharing it made him a can’t-miss on Saturday afternoons. He quickly became the fans’ favorite, which suited him just fine.
"That was important to me. I’ve always had a good rapport with the fans. I enjoyed visiting with them before and after games. There’s no one more important in sports than the fans," Barber said.
When football season gave way to basketball, Barber was at the microphone. In all, he helped broadcast more than 700 Wilmington College games and was in Virginia Beach, Va., when the Lady Quakers captured the 2004 NCAA Division III basketball title.
"That was the highlight of my broadcasting career," Barber said. "The neat thing about that was it kind of came out of the blue. The Lady Quakers didn’t even win the league that year. They lost six games and had one of their better players injured just before the tournament started. That team just seemed to come together overnight."
Barber’s career has truly been a hall of fame journey. In 2008 he was inducted into the Clinton County Sports Hall of Fame, an honor that was preceded by his reception of the 2006 Ohio High School Athletic Association Media Service Award for his on-air coverage of high school athletics.
"I had no idea that any of these honors would ever come my way; it’s just beyond words," Barber said. "Not being from Wilmington and having not attended Wilmington College, I never thought that this could be possible. It is very humbling."
Barber is a retired sales representative with Prudential. He resides in Sabina with his wife Kate. They have three children; Bart, Beth and Brad; and six grandchildren.
Charlie Cox was the quintessential non-traditional student when he came to the Wilmington College campus in the mid 1950s. At 6-4, he towered over opponents of his hometown Washington Court House Senior High School. When he became a father during his junior year, he became ineligible to compete at the high school level.
Enter Wilmington College.
"When Patty and I got married, I could not participate in any activities — band, sports, whatever. That was a no-no," Cox said. "Wilmington College was my salvation. I only needed two subjects to graduate, so my assistant basketball coach and another teacher starting shopping to see where I might be able to go ahead to attend college as a special student, even though I didn’t have a high school diploma."
The search revealed that one school was willing to accept Cox: Wilmington College.
Cox quickly earned his diploma and began his collegiate experience at Wilmington.
"People at Wilmington welcomed me. There were so many different types of people. There were poor people working at Randall trying to get through. There were a lot of foreign students and war veterans. Wilmington College was interested in listening to people and helping them get an education."
Cox played basketball for hall of fame coach Fred Raizk. The Quakers went 16-5 during Cox’s sophomore season and 19-3 the following year. During the 1956-57 season, Cox pulled down 27 rebounds against Cedarville to establish a team single-game record that has endured the test of 53 years.
"Our second child, Garth, was born that day," Cox said. "Maybe I was just all pumped up. We brought him a basketball at Fayette Memorial Hospital and then went on to Cedarville."
At Raizk’s encouragement, Cox played other sports at Wilmington. He earned a letter in football, two in baseball and one in track and field. During his sophomore year, Cox lettered in all four sports.
"Baseball and track were the big challenge," Cox said. "A lot of times we had baseball and track going on at the same time. I would start at first base in baseball and run the third leg of the mile relay. When it would come time to run the mile relay, they would send notice up to Charlie and I would change uniforms and go run my track thing. It was sort of crazy."
After graduating from Wilmington, Cox learned while driving an ice cream truck that his future was waiting in food service. He started selling food at festivals and fairs and now is president of Concessions by Cox, Catering by Cox and CC Event Productions. He has served food from the Kentucky Derby to the Super Bowl and every event in between. Earlier this year, he was inducted to the Ohio State Fair Hall of Fame.
"All the people at Wilmington College had a big influence on me," Cox said. "They taught me that nothing is impossible. There were a lot of challenges, but the College showed me ways to deal with those challenges. The way I was treated at Wilmington had a lot to do with how I try to treat people."
Cox resides in Columbus. He has five children, Deborah, Garth, Teri, Dawne and Galen; and seven grandchildren.
Kevin Otte was at the heart of the renaissance of Wilmington College football in the late 1990s. The Marion Local High School graduate came in search of a degree in agriculture and a chance to play football for head coach Mike Wallace on Saturday afternoons. Four years later, he left Wilmington as one of the most decorated student-athletes in the College’s history.
"Wilmington was great. It was a small enough school where I could be relaxed and fit in," Otte said. "That was something that I really liked. And being at Wilmington gave me the chance to play football, which I loved. Not everybody gets a chance to play football after their high school playing days. It was great competition and I enjoyed every minute of it."
The Quakers went 13-17 during Otte’s first three seasons, but the tide was clearly turning on the gridiron. In 1999, Wilmington went 9-1 — the best regular-season record in team history. A defensive back who had a knack for finding the football, Otte provided synergy for a defensive unit that specialized in setting the table for the Quakers’ explosive offense.
"That was a special season," Otte said. "I don’t think any of us on the team really grasped what was going on. We had a rough stretch my first three years, but we could see — with the guys that were coming in and the guys that were coming back — that it was going to be a special season. It was also nice to see the team go 7-3 the following year against tougher competition in the OAC."
A relentless defender and a 4.0 student, Otte was an All-America and Academic All-America selection. He was Wilmington’s first Burger King Scholar-Athlete Award winner and the first Quaker to play in the Aztec Bowl all-star game. He was a finalist for the 1999 Gagliardi Trophy, given to the top NCAA Division III football player.
"The academic awards were very important to me. I had a 4.0 GPA and I wanted to continue that," Otte said. "Things just kind of fell into place on the football field. We had the right team, the right chemistry. We were really playing together. I wasn’t the standout on the team, but it allowed me to be recognized for the work that I did. I wouldn’t have regretted my playing days at Wilmington if I didn’t get those awards. They were just kind of icing on the cake, knowing that all the hard work really did pay off."
Otte’s journey at Wilmington was a portrait of achievement.
"I enjoyed the small campus, the close-knit community," Otte said. "It was nice to know all the professors on a first-name basis. There were a lot of kids from a similar background as mine. It really drew me into Wilmington. You have to find a way to make something work if you don’t fit in. The ag program and the football program both did that for me."
Otte is an agricultural consultant with Menke Consulting. He and his wife Angie (West '02) have four children; Peyton, Kyle, Brody and Alyse. They reside near Maria Stein.