Four Hilltopper Greats to be Inducted into WKU Athletics Hall of Fame

July 29, 2013

Bowling Green, Ky. -- Four great names in the history of Western Kentucky University athletics will be inducted as the 23rd class into the WKU Athletic Hall of Fame in ceremonies set for Homecoming Weekend this fall.

The 2013 class includes Brandi Beckwith Carey (swimming), Romeo Crennel (football), James Edwards (football) and Dr. Curtiss Long (track and cross country coach).

The induction of the 2013 class brings the number of former WKU athletes and coaches who have earned berths in the school's Athletic Hall of Fame since its founding in 1991 to 134.

The 2013 class will be inducted in ceremonies highlighting the annual W-Club Homecoming Brunch, set for 10 a.m. (CDT), Saturday, Oct. 26, on the main floor in E.A. Diddle Arena on the WKU campus in Bowling Green.

Tickets for the event, which is open to the general public, are $15 each and can be purchased and/or reserved:

• online at alumni.wku.edu (click on "Events", scroll down the list and click on "W-Club Homecoming Brunch"; then click on the "Registration" box and fill out the reservation form)

• by calling 1-888-WKU-ALUM (1-888-958-2586) or, locally in the Bowling Green area, 745-4395;

• or, by contacting either W-Club Treasurer Bill Edwards (270-745-6026; bill.edwards@wku.edu) or W-Club Secretary Paul Just (270-792-4247; paul.just@wku.edu).

Each W-Club member who has paid his/her 2013-14 dues is entitled to two complimentary tickets to the event; however, seating is limited and reservations MUST be made -- either online or with Edwards or Just -- to ensure seating is available. Non-members, and the general public, are welcome, but must purchase tickets -- either online (see above) or with Edwards or Just. Letterwinners who have not yet paid their `13-14 dues may do so online via credit card or at the door with a prior reservation.

The inductees will also be honored in ceremonies on Jimmy Feix Field at halftime of the annual Homecoming Football Game, set to kickoff at 3 p.m., that afternoon. New Head Coach Bobby Petrino will pit his Hilltoppers against Sun Belt Conference foe Troy at Houchens Industries - L.T. Smith Stadium. Tickets for the game are available by calling 1-800-5-BIG-RED (or 270-745-5222). A reminder: W-Club members with a valid 2013-14 membership card are entitled to one free ticket to the football game as well.

Now, more about the members of the 2013 WKU Athletic Hall of Fame class:

Brandi Beckwith Carey/Women's Swimming, 4 letters (1999-02)

Brandi Beckwith came to WKU from Lexington in the fall of 1998 as a member of Coach Bill Powell's second recruiting class for the fledging women's swimming program on The Hill. She made an immediate impact on the sport, leading the way in turning Lady Topper swimming into a winner and setting the foundation for what would become one of the Hilltopper Athletics' most successful programs of the first decade of the new millenium. She competed as Brandi Beckwith her first two years on The Hill, and, after marrying former Hilltopper swimmer Pete Carey (1996-99) on Sept. 30, 2000, finished her career as Brandi Carey. She qualified for the NCAA Championship meet three times -- her sophomore, junior and senior seasons -- and finished 10th in the 200 individual medley at the 2002 nationals, becoming the first Lady Topper swimmer to earn All-America recognition. The four teams she led went a combined 47-3 in dual meet competition, including an undefeated season (13-0) in 1999-00 and victories in the first two Sun Belt Conference Championship meets (2001 and `02). Carey was named the the Sun Belt Women's Swimmer of the Year as a senior in 2002 after leading the Toppers to the league title with her meet-high 98 points scored. She capped off that season with the WKU Female Athlete of the Year Award as well as winning her team's Scholar-Athlete Award -- for the fourth straight year (she remains the only WKU swimmer -- male or female -- to win that academic honor four times)! The dominant figure in the early days of women's swimming at both WKU and in the SBC, Carey completed her college career with school records in 10 individual events and all five relays. Perhaps more remarkably, she still owns Lady Topper standards in four events -- the 50 freestyle, the 100 free, the 200 free and the 200 individual medley. Carey was the first WKU swimmer (male or female) to win team MVP honors four times, a feat that has been duplicated just once.

Romeo Crennel/Football, 4 letters (1966-69); Graduate Assistant Coach (1970); Assistant Coach (1971-74)

Romeo Crennel came to The Hill from Fort Knox in 1965 and, after redshirting his freshman year, starred in the line for four straight seasons, earning a reputation as one of the top defenders in the Ohio Valley Conference. In his three years on the Hilltopper defensive line, he totaled 189 tackles (122 main stops and 67 assists), ranking #2 on the club in tackles (74) as a rookie in 1966. He was #4 on that list as a junior with a career-best 77 stops and was credited with 38 his sophomore season. A team player all the way, Crennel answered the call as a senior (1969) in a big way, giving up a shot at almost certain All-OVC honors to move to the offensive line to help solidify the Topper front. The Topper co-captain in `69, he made the transition in fine fashion and did receive second-team All-conference recognition. His four WKU teams went a collective 25-11-3 (67.9%) overall, including league runner-up finishes in both 1967 and `68, when the Toppers were 7-1-1 and 7-2-1 overall, respectively. He was a graduate assistant on the 1970 football staff and then became the first African-American ever to coach on The Hill, putting in four seasons (1971-74) as defensive line coach for Head Coach Jimmy Feix. Overall, the five WKU clubs he worked with were a combined 42-10-1 -- a sharp 80.2% success ratio. Those teams won three OVC crowns and finished as the runner-up the other two years. The 1973 club still ranks as one of the great teams in WKU history, going undefeated in the OVC and then finishing as the runner-up in the first-ever NCAA Division II national championship playoff, completing the season 12-1 overall. Following the `74 season, Crennel spent three years at Texas Tech (1975-77), two at Ole Miss (1978-79) and one at Georgia Tech (1980) before leaving for the New York Giants, beginning a coaching career in the National Football League that would span more than three dacades. One of the great defensive coaches in the pro game, he served as the head coach of the Cleveland Browns for four seasons (2001-04) and he was the head coach at Kansas City for (2012, after serving as the club's interim head coach in the latter part of 2011). He career as an NFL assistant also included stints with the New England Patroits, New York Jets, Cleveland and Kansas City. He owns five Super Bowl championship rings -- 1987 and `91 with the Giants; and 2002, `04 and `05 with the Patriots. Crennel was inducted into the WKU Hall of Distinguished Alumni in 2009.

James Edwards/Football, 4 letters (1984-87)

James Edwards came to WKU from Jacksonville, Fla., and wasted little time working his way into the starting lineup. He took over as a starter in the defensive backfield late in his freshman year and stayed there for the remainder of his career on The Hill. He was a consensus All-American as a senior free safety, earning first-team berths on the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA), Associated Press, Kodak, Walter Camp and Sports Network teams. As a senior in `87, he was credited with 65 tackles (41 unassisted), seven pass interceptions (still the fourth best number in the Topper record books and ranking him ninth in the nation that fall in that category), nine passes broken up, two caused fumbles and a pair of fumble recoveries while helping to anchor a Topper defensive unit that ranked in the Top 15 in the nation in three departments -- total defense (10th - 270.2 yards per game); pass defense (13th - 141.1 upg); and (13th - +0.8 per contest). He was a key player in the Hilltoppers' efforts to gain a berth in the 1987 NCAA I-AA playoffs, WKU's first playoff appearance since 1975 and first-ever at the I-AA level). That 1987 club finished 7-4 overall and ranked #11 in the final I-AA poll. As a sophomore (`85), he led the defensive backs (and ranked second on the club) with his 93 tackles; that included a career-best 20-tackle effort against Eastern Kentucky. That same year, his interception late in the opener set up the winning touchdown in the Toppers' 21-17 upset victory over pre-season #1 ranked Tennessee State. In three-plus years as a starter, Edwards amassed 219 tackles (125 unassisted), 14 interceptions (still the fourth highest total in school history), and 25 passes broken up. Edwards signed with the Miami Dolphins in 1988.

Dr. Curtiss Long/Men's Track & Cross Country Coach (1980-07); Women's Track & Cross Country Coach (1982-07)

Curtiss Long has been a part of the Hilltopper athletic scene on virtually a daily basis for more than 30 years. He came to WKU in 1980 to take over as head coach of the men's cross country and track & field programs, then took on the added responsibility for Lady Topper track and cross country two years later. He was named the Sun Belt Conference's "All-Time Coach" in both men's and women's cross country on the occasion of the league's 30th anniversary in 2006. Long's teams won a WKU coaching record 33 conference championships -- 13 in men's cross country, 13 in women's cross country, two in women's indoor track, two in men's outdoor track and two in women's outdoor track in the Sun Belt; plus one in men's cross country in the Ohio Valley Conference. His 2006-07 Lady Toppers made WKU the first school on conference history to claim a "triple crown", taking SBC titles in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track. Long has been honored with 32 conference coach of the year awards -- the first in 1980 (OVC men's cross country) and the last in 2007 (SBC women's cross country). He coached 13 Topper athletes who earned All-America honors a total of 21 times. Sixteen of his athletes earned outstanding meet performer laurels on 21 occasions. Long's Toppers also won All-Sun Belt honors in cross country and indoor and/or outdoor track on 439 times. And, eight of his athletes earned berths on Olympic Teams -- Sean Dollman (representing Ireland in the 10,000 meters in `92 at Barcelona and `96 in Atlanta); Gavin Smellie (representing Canada in the 4x100 relay at the `12 Games in London); Raigo Toompuu (representing Estonia in the shot put in `12 at London); and Marlon Williams (representing the Virgin Islands in the 5,000, 10,000 and/or marathon in 84 at Los Angeles, `88 at Seoul, `92 at Barcelona and `96 in Atlanta) on the men's side; and, Lady Toppers Breeda Dennehy (representing Ireland in the 5,000 and/or 10,000 in `96 at Atlanta and 2000 at Sydney) along with Gwen van Rensburg (representing South Africa in the 1,500 meters in 96 at Atlanta). Only E.A. Diddle (42 years - men's basketball; 34 - baseball); Bill Powell (36 - swimming); Ted Hornback (33 - men's tennis); and Frank Griffin (32 - men's golf), all members of the WKU Athletic Hall of Fame, had longer tenures as a Hilltopper head coach than Long. He has previously been honored with induction into the Kentucky Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (TFCCCA) Hall of Fame (inaugural class in 2007) and the Florida TFCCCA Hall of Fame (2009). Long retired in December, 2007, but has continued to serve as a part-time assistant with the program since that time.