MSU Unveils 2020 and 2021 Sports Hall of Fame Classes
STARKVILLE – Mississippi State athletics will enshrine eight new members into the MSU Sports M-Club Hall of Fame on Sept. 25 when the Bulldogs play host to LSU at Davis Wade Stadium.
The six-member Class of 2020 features All-American defensive lineman Billy Jackson and coach/director of athletics Bob Tyler from football along with baseball standout Bobby Thigpen, three-time All-SEC pick Ray White of men’s basketball and the NCAA Championship women’s tennis doubles tandem of Jackie Holden and Claire Pollard. The 2021 Class consists of All-SEC center Sharon Thompson from women’s basketball and football’s Charlie Weatherly, who has served Mississippi State University for 58 years.
More information on the annual MSU Sports Hall of Fame Gala will be released at a later date.
2020 MSU Sports M-Club Hall of Fame Class
Billy Jackson (Football • 1980-81-82-83)
Jackson is one of the top defensive lineman and best defensive players in program history. He captured freshman All-America honors in 1980 by the Sporting News, All-America accolades from Sports Magazine in 1981 and was a three-time All-SEC First-Team pick. He racked up 32 of his program-record 49 sacks during his freshman and sophomore seasons and ranks inside MSU’s top 10 in tackles for loss (55.0 – 1st) and tackles (360 – 7th). The 49 sacks are second in the SEC history.
Jackson’s 17 sacks in 1980 are a program single-season record. He played a vital role in one of the most memorable moments in program history when he recovered a fumble inside the five-yard line with six seconds left to seal the Bulldogs 6-3 victory over No. 1 Alabama ending the Crimson Tide’s 28-game winning streak. Jackson also provided a game-clinching sack during a 19-14 Egg Bowl win against Ole Miss.
Coach Bob Tyler (Head Football Coach • 1973-78, Director of Athletics • 1976-79)
Tyler coached in the SEC for 10 years from 1968-78, including a six-year reign as MSU’s head coach. He served as both head coach and director of athletics from 1976-79, assuming the twin roles in May 1976. He was offensive coordinator for MSU in 1972 before being selected as head coach in 1973.
The 27th head football coach in MSU history, Tyler turned in four winning seasons with the Bulldogs, including a pair of nine-win campaigns. During the 1974 season, Tyler led the Bulldogs to a 9-3 record, including SEC wins against Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss and a victory over North Carolina in the Sun Bowl. That year, he was named National Churchman’s Hall of Fame Coach of the Year after guiding the Bulldogs to a No. 17 final ranking and the second-best season record in program history at the time. Only the 10-0-1 mark of the 1940 team topped the 1974 results.
A native of Water Valley, Mississippi, Tyler posted an impressive 91-19-6 record over 11 years at five high schools before he came into the collegiate ranks.
Bobby Thigpen (Baseball • 1985-86)
After appearing in 53 games in his first season on campus – most of which came in the outfield – Thigpen set the standard for what the college baseball two-way player would look like during his second season in Starkville. In two seasons, Thigpen appeared in 118 career games, which included jogging from the outfield to the pitcher’s mound on 29 occasions.
The right-hander tallied a then-school-record seven saves during the 1985 College World Series season and carried a .306 batting average. For his career, Thigpen drove in 101 runs, hit seven home runs and was credited with seven saves and one victory. He fanned 49 batters in 42 innings of work on the mound in 1985, while also posting career highs for average (.306), hits (70), runs scored (46), home runs (9), total bases (109), walks (40) and RBIs (56).
One of five Bulldogs selected in first 10 rounds of 1985 Major League Baseball Draft, Thigpen was taken during the fourth round by the Chicago White Sox. His nine-year MLB career included a 1990 All-Star selection and 1990 Rolaids Relief Pitcher of the Year award. He posted a then-MLB record 57 saves in 1990, a record which stood for 18 seasons. Overall, Thigpen amassed 201 saves and 31 victories in 448 appearances with three MLB organizations. He also spent three seasons as an instructor in the White Sox organization.
Ray White (Men’s Basketball • 1976-77-78-79)
White, a three-time All-SEC selection, is one of most versatile guards in program history. He is joined by Quinndary Weatherspoon as the only players to amass over 1,500 points, 500 rebounds, 300 assists and 200 steals and is one of six players in program history to average double figures during all four seasons. The Gulfport native collected 217 steals which is a program record and is rated among MSU’s top 15 in steals per game (2.17 – 2nd), field goals made (684 – 5th), points (1,652 – 6th), points per game (16.5 – 12th) and assists (314 – 14th).
White registered a career-high 34 points versus Indiana State during his career debut and the program’s first game in Humphrey Coliseum on Dec. 1, 1975. He knocked down the game-winning shot with three seconds remaining in a 63-61 win over No. 17 Kentucky on Jan. 15, 1979.
White was honored as MSU’s SEC Basketball Legend in 2017-18 and was chosen by the Los Angeles Lakers in the fourth round of the 1979 NBA Draft.
Jackie Holden and Claire Pollard (Women’s Tennis • 1986-87-88-89)
Holden and Pollard are two of the most decorated players in program history and comprised State’s best doubles team ever.
In 1989, Holden and Pollard claimed the SEC Doubles Championship before being crowned NCAA Doubles Champions to end their senior seasons. The tandem finished the year as the nation’s top-ranked duo, receiving All-American and All-SEC recognition for their stellar performance. In addition, Holden and Pollard were named the 1989 Volvo Collegiate Series Doubles Team of the Year and earned main draw entries into the 1989 Wimbledon and U.S. Open Championships.
Holden and Pollard are tied for first all-time in MSU women’s tennis history with 178 career victories each. Pollard still ranks first all-time in doubles wins with 111, while Holden follows in second with 106 victories. Both players are among State’s career Top 10 in numerous singles and doubles categories and each excelled academically as Bulldogs as ITA Scholar Athletes and Academic All-SEC honorees.
Pollard began what has been a very successful coaching career at MSU when she led State’s women to an 11-10 record in 1991. She continued her career at Lamar as the men’s and women’s head coach from 1994-98 and currently serves as the head women’s coach at Northwestern where she has been since 1999. In her 22 seasons, Pollard has led the Wildcats to 17 top 25 finishes (nine top 10s) and 12 Big Ten titles. She is a five-time Big Ten Coach of the Year and was the 2008 Wilson/ITA National Coach of the Year.
Holden served as Pollard’s Assistant/Associate Head Women’s Tennis Coach at Northwestern from 2008-14, which saw the Wildcats advance to the NCAA Round of 16 six straight seasons and the national quarterfinals twice. NU finished all seven of Holden and Pollard’s seasons coaching together in the ITA top 15, including the 2008 and 2009 campaigns ranked No. 2 nationally.
2021 MSU Sports M-Club Hall of Fame Class
Sharon Thompson (Women’s Basketball • 1995-96-97-98)
After a successful career as a four-year starter for the Bulldogs, Thompson finished as one of the best players in program history, ending her time at MSU ranked first in rebounds (936), blocked shots (86) and double-doubles as well as being second in scoring (1,526). The two-time All-SEC honoree earned first team recognition as a senior after posting 16.8 points and 8.9 rebounds per game during the 1997-98 campaign.
The Geiger, Alabama, native still stands as one of the best rebounders in MSU history, ranking fourth in total rebounds and fifth in rebounds per game (8.7). Thompson led the Bulldogs in boards all four years, and she was tabbed to the SEC All-Freshman Team after recording 12.8 points and 9.6 rebounds per game during the 1994-95 campaign. That rebounding average ranks ninth for a single season in program history and is second among MSU freshman.
Thompson also established herself as an elite shot blocker, pacing the Bulldogs in the category during three of her years. Her 86 career blocks rank seventh all time at State.
An SEC Great selection in 2005, Thompson became the first Mississippi State women’s basketball player to be drafted professionally, being taken sixth overall in the 1998 ABL draft.
Charlie Weatherly (Football • 1956-57-58)
Weatherly’s impact at Mississippi State University extends far beyond his time on the gridiron. In 2005, Mississippi State awarded him with the prestigious honor of National Alumnus of the Year for his service to the university in a variety of roles, including playing an instrumental role in the development of MSU’s Alumni Association and working with eight MSU Presidents.
The two-time letterwinner in football earned his bachelor’s degree in Industrial Management in 1959 and was in the first graduation class to receive a diploma from Mississippi State University (previously called Mississippi Agriculture and Mechanical College and Mississippi State College). While competing for the Bulldogs, we played on both sides of the ball, starting at end his junior and senior seasons and seeing action at wide receiver, where he caught nine passes for 162 yards and two touchdowns.
The Ripley, Mississippi, native became the first full-time field representative for the Alumni Association in 1962. By 1967, he was promoted to Executive Secretary (later called the Director of Alumni Affairs). He was named the Coordinator of Special Projects for the Alumni Association and the MSU Foundation in 1987, playing a crucial role in organizing fundraising programs at State. He remained with the foundation in various roles until 1997, when he retired from his position as Director of Development for Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine.
Weatherly continues to fundraise and work in a limited capacity for the department as Senior Development Director Emeritus. He previously served on the Board of Directors for the MSU Alumni Foundation.