Two Hilltopper Greats to be Inducted into WKU Athletic Hall of Fame

BOWLING GREEN, Ky.  -  Two former Western Kentucky University athletes will be inducted as the 19th class into the WKU Athletic Hall of Fame in ceremonies set for Homecoming Weekend this fall.

The 2009 class includes Chris Ridler (track/cross country) and Willie Taggart (football).

The induction of the 2009 class brings to 117 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.

The 2009 class will be inducted in ceremonies during the annual W-Club Homecoming Brunch, set for 10 a.m. (CT), Saturday, Nov. 7, in the Hall of Champions 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 Calendar" down the column on the left just under the "Big Red" box; 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 '09-10 dues is entitled to two complimentary tickets to the event;  however, seating is limited in the Hall of Champions and reservations MUST be made - either online or with Edwards or Just - to ensure seating is available.  Non-members, and the general public, are required to purchase tickets.  Letterwinners who have not yet paid their '09-10 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 4 p.m. (CST), that afternoon.  Head Coach David Elson will pit his Hilltoppers against defending Sun Belt Conference power Troy at Houchens Industries - L.T. Smith Stadium.

Now, more about the members of the 2009 WKU Athletic Hall of Fame class.

Chris Ridler / Men's Cross-Country, 4 letters (1973-76); Men's Track, 4 letters (1973-76)
Chris Ridler came to The Hill from his native England and wasted little time making a name for himself.  When he completed his eligibility in 1976, he had earned All-America honors five times - 1973, '74 and '76 in cross-country;  and '75 (when he finished seventh in the NCAA outdoor three-mile run) and '76 (in the indoor three-mile).  He finished eighth, eighth, and 24th, respectively, in the NCAA cross-country championships in those All-America years.  And, that eighth place in 1974 was a key factor in the Hilltoppers' runner-up team finish at the NCAA meet that fall.  He won the Ohio Valley Conference individual title in cross-country in both 1974 (in a remarkable four-way tie with teammates Nick Rose, Tony Staynings and Dave Long) and in 1976;  and, he helped the Toppers take another OVC crown in '75 as well.  After captaining the 1976 Topper cross-country team, Ridler returned to England where he passed away in 1984 after a battle with leukemia.

Willie Taggart / Football, 4 letters (1995-98)
Willie Taggart came to WKU from Bradenton, Fla., in 1994, and, after red-shirting his first year on The Hill, took over as the starting quarterback early in his freshman season on his way to becoming college football's dominant option quarterback.  He earned All-America recognition each of his last two seasons and was a finalist for the Walter Payton Award (given annually to the outstanding offensive player in I-AA football) as both a junior and a senior;  he finished in the top-six in the balloting both years.  A two-year selection for the I-AA Independent All-Star Team, he was named the Offensive Player-of-the-Year  by I-AA Independents as a senior (1998), when he was also selected as the WKU Male Athlete-of-the-Year.  Taggart also won Hilltopper football's prestigious Al Almond Award as  a senior.  He completed his career on The Hill as the NCAA I-AA record-holder for rushing yards by a quarterback, amassing 3,997 yards on the ground, which was also a WKU school record for all runners.  He also held WKU career standards for rush attempts (721);  TDs rushing (47);  most 150-yard-plus rushing games (8) and all TDs scored (47), as well as the single game record for average yards-per-rush in a game (17.36 - 191 yards on 11 carries).  His steady play made him just the second Topper on record to lead the team in total offense each of his four seasons.  He also set a school record for career pass efficiency with his 127.71 rating.  He totaled a  WKU school record 289 career points after leading the club in scoring three of his four seasons.  After graduation, Taggart remained a part of Hilltopper football - first as a graduate assistant, then as a full-time assistant coach and finally as associate head coach - for eight years (1999-06) before joining Jim Harbaugh's football staff at Stanford in 2007.  Taggart and his wife Taneshia reside in Menlo Park, Calif., with their children, Willie, Jr., and Jackson.