Former Titan baseball Head Coach George Horton sat front row center Saturday night in the Titan Student Union for the Cal State Fullerton Athletic Hall of Fame and laughed hard as he heard what may have been his favorite joke of the night.
The emcee stood on stage and said he had an announcement to make. "There's a green and yellow Lamborghini (the University of Oregon's school colors) parked outside with its lights on. License plate, Horton 8," he said. Horton and the crowd exploded with laughter.
Horton showed his support for the Titans with his presence; the former national champion coach gracefully took any Oregon jokes directed his way.
CSUF's Athletic Hall of Fame induction honored past and present Major League Baseball players Mark Kotsay and Phil Nevin, distance runner Heather Killeen-Frisone, Olympic basketball gold-medalist Leon Wood, two-time Super Bowl winner Mark Collins and former CSUF women's softball Head Coach Judi Garman.
At the ceremony, President Milton Gordon said student athletes represent "the best" of CSUF. He unveiled an image of what the wall of fame, a work in progress, will look like after completion. The wall will be placed in the Titan Gym.
CSUF history was displayed on three large screens in the TSU Pavilions. Images included photographs of the 1960 men's basketball team, the former female gymnastics team member with one arm, and dozens of other captivating images.
Over the years, CSUF traditions have changed. There is no longer a football team, a topic that caused Collins and Nevin to say they're disappointed in the changes and want to see football return to the campus.
Throughout the induction acceptance speeches, more than one inductee used the phrase "I bleed blue and orange" on a few occasions. Those words may have resonated with the large audience in formal attire. Friends, family, colleagues and fans showed support through their presence, undivided attention and standing ovations, which was given to each inductee as they graced the stage, headed toward the gray podium where they were given a glossy plaque and a medallion around their necks.
If the athletic hall of fame ceremony had a theme, it was Titan pride. Kotsay of the Oakland A's explained how he was offered scholarships at various universities including USC, Pepperdine and ASU, but chose orange and blue.
"It's hard to conceive that I'm standing in front of you," Kotsay said. "When I first started at Cal State Fullerton, I was 5'10 and 180 pounds, wet."
Kotsay said hard work led to his successes. He also joked that he knows the university has grown because there are "locker rooms and showers" now.
Kotsay said CSUF's future remains bright.
"Cal State Fullerton's program still holds its great reputation. George Horton did a great job. I believe the current coach is going to move in the same direction," Kotsay said.
Frisone also explained how CSUF affected her life.
"Cal State Fullerton taught me to be a balanced student athlete. They really put an emphasis on academics here," Frisone said. "They gave me that ability to balance everything and be well-rounded, that's carried over into my personal life right now. I try to be well-balanced with everything."
Frisone, who is competing for a spot in the next Olympic games, has a marathon next Sunday in New York and the self-described "perfectionist" is familiar with hectic schedules. She made the Dean's list eight out of her nine semesters at CSUF while holding various jobs.
For Frisone, the stress was worth it and it was easy for her to select which university to attend.
"I was going into my junior year of high school and [my husband] was starting his freshman year here. My brother was running on the team and introduced us, so it was a good recruiting tool for Cal State Fullerton," she said.
Her father, brother, husband and sister-in-law were all Titans. Frisone said they will "always be Titans."
Collins, who holds the school record for pass interceptions in a season, couldn't hide his enthusiasm as he told the crowd, "This is an honor, this is great!"
Similar to Kotsay, Collins' speech was humorous. The Super Bowl winner announced that he "spent a lot of time in the pub."
Collins was also pleasantly surprised by the university's growth.
"I was walkin' on campus the other day, and just the changes that have happened. Twenty-three years, I'm outta college. The campus is very different," Collins said. "I'm very happy to be associated with [CSUF]."
Garman, who was the first full-time softball coach in the country, built the CSUF women's softball team from the ground up.
"To say we started from scratch is an understatement," Garman said. "We had a $3,000 budget. There were 10 sports in one office, but you know what? We had fun."
The inductee was honored to have a tournament named the Judi Garman Tournament.
"It was a great honor. I still find it hard to believe, so I call it 'the classic.' To have that honor is very, very special," Garman said.
Garman hinted at her emotions in being inducted to the CSUF Hall of Fame.
"When I drove on campus, I said, I might start crying right now!"
A current NBA referee, Wood was also emotional. Sounding slightly choked up as he began his acceptance speech, Woods revealed that the significance of the ceremony was beginning to sink in.
Woods also confessed that he was a stubborn athlete. When he was told he should be a point guard, the 6'3 inductee opposed.
"Point guards mean they gotta pass [the basketball]," Woods said. "I was averaging 36 points a game."
Woods' achievements include competing on the United States Olympic team and playing alongside NBA greats such as Michael Jordan.
Nevin couldn't hide his love for sports. He played both football and baseball at CSUF.
"[At CSUF], I was very fortunate to play for, look at the numbers, the best college baseball coach of all time … obviously, he cares a lot about winning and the kids that are here, their futures, too," Nevin said. "He recognizes when somebody has the chance to go behind college."
Nevin is currently an announcer for ESPN and works with the San Diego Padres radio.
"I'm a big college football fan. I'll always check on what Fullerton's baseball team is doing," Nevin said.
Soon, the Titan Gym will have a wall of fame where anyone can see the inductees' career achievements.