Celebrate 2011 Weekend
Michigan State Athletics Mission Statement
Sept. 22, 2011
Thursday night, the Michigan State athletics department began the Celebrate 2011 Weekend, by holding the 2011 Hall of Fame Induction and Varsity Letter Jacket Ceremony at the Pasant Theatre at Wharton Center. The event honored Spartans past and present.
Athletics Director Mark J. Hollis was the MC of the evening. After welcoming the nearly capacity crowd, Hollis began by introducing each member of the 2011 Hall of Fame class. One at a time, they came to the stage to watch a video on their MSU accomplishments and address the audience.
Hall of Fame Speeches
Upon conclusion of the speeches, the focus shifted to the current Spartan student-athletes. A video featuring past letterwinners talking about the honor of wearing their letter jacket transitioned into the respective coaching staffs announcing their students-athletes and managers. In total 138 of the deserving 154 student-athlete and managers were in attendance to receive their jackets from their head coach.
Earlier in the day, the Hall of Fame press conference and reception were held in the Red Cedar Room at the Kellogg Center. Each inductee received their Hall of Fame award from Athletics Director Mark J. Hollis prior to the press conference, and posed for a group photo at its conclusion.
Spartans Sports Podcast Interviews with the 2011 Hall of Fame Class
Each inductee plaque is now hanging in the MSU Athletics Hall of Fame inside the Clara Bell Smith Center.
Sept. 21, 2011
The Michigan State Athletics Department will "Celebrate 2011" over the next three days (Sept. 22-24). The second-annual event is dedicated to all former and current student-athletes who have provided the department with a storied past and a winning tradition that continues.
The weekend includes the Varsity Letter Jacket Presentation, the Hall of Fame induction ceremony, the announcement of the Varsity S Club award winners, and culminates Saturday afternoon when the Spartan football team hosts Central Michigan at Spartan Stadium at 12 p.m.
The "Celebrate 2011" weekend will begin Thursday, Sept. 22 with the Class of 2011 Hall of Fame Induction and Varsity Letter Jacket Presentation at Wharton Center's Pasant Theatre. This closed ceremony, which will be attended by varsity sport head and assistant coaches, is for student-athletes who received their first varsity letter during the 2010-11 academic year. In all, 154 student-athletes and managers will receive their letter jacket on Thursday night.
Prior to the MSU student-athletes receiving their letter jackets, the five-member Hall of Fame class of Morten Andersen, Mateen Cleaves, Dana Cooke, Kisha (Kelley) Simpson and Charles McCaffree Jr. will be recognized. Also during this event, the 2011 Varsity S Club award winners and the Varsity S Club Class of 2011 Honorary Members will be honored.
This year's Varsity S Club award winners are Paul Hruby (Jack Breslin Award), Sedric Audas (Hank Bullough Award), Angela Howard-Montie (Nell C. Jackson Award) and Joe Baum (Eldon VanSpybrook Retired Coaches Award). The honorary members of the Varsity S Club Class of 2011 are Mark Dantonio, Barry Greer, John Madden, Suzy Merchant and Roy Simon.
At halftime of Saturday's game, all of the student-athletes who attended the Varsity Letter Jacket Presentation will take the field, along with the Hall of Fame inductees. The Varsity S Club award winners and honorary members will be honored at the end of the first quarter.
"Celebrate 2011" Weekend Events
Thursday, Sept. 22
Friday, Sept. 23
Saturday, Sept. 24
2011 Hall of Fame Class - Morten Andersen
Online columnist Steve Grinczel profiles former football All-American Morten Andersen.
Cumulatively speaking, Morten Andersen was arguably the most visible Spartan on earth from 1982-2007. During that span, tens of thousands of fans watched him perform in massive NFL stadiums across the country along with millions tuned in on television. Then, Andersen's important kicks were replayed over and over on the postgame highlight shows until it was time to kick off the next game.
Some will be recalled as long as there's football.
Nevertheless, there was a disconnect between the former MSU All-American from Denmark and the Spartan Nation during those 26 seasons. The left-footed, soccer-style kicker was so busy playing pro ball for the New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons (twice), Kansas City Chiefs, Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants, the ties that bound him to his beloved Spartans were maintained primarily by what he was able to read and catch on TV.
"When I was playing in the NFL, I was so engulfed in my own career, you tend to lose a little bit of contact with the university," said Andersen. "I lost touch with the school for quite awhile."
That all changed when Mark Dantonio took over as the MSU head coach in 2007 and made tapping into the program's rich tradition, by reaching out to the vast extended family of past players, a priority.
"It's always good to reconnect with your formative years," Andersen said. "I have great memories from Michigan State and the time I spent in East Lansing prepared me for playing at the next level.
"I credit Mark Dantonio with reconnecting me to the university. He really made it clear he wants to bridge the gap with a lot of the alums who had been missing. He's really done a good job of bringing guys back into the fold and honoring the legacy of Spartan football."
Andersen returned to the Spartan Stadium turf as an honorary captain in 2008.
"Being an honorary captain and a part of the game again, I think, was important because it's not really necessary," Andersen said. "And yet, it was much-needed. It's a great step in the right direction."
Always a fan-favorite even from a distance thanks to his Tom Sawyer hairstyle and smile, Andersen's place in the pantheon of Spartans greats was always secure.
Hans Nielsen, a fellow Dane who kicked for the Spartans from 1974-77, was instrumental in recruiting Andersen to MSU. Andersen played just one season of American football for Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis, Ind., but reasoned, "If Hans can do it, so can I."
As freshman in '78, his team-high 73 points, on 52-for-54 point-after-touchdown and 7-for-16 field-goal accuracy, were instrumental in MSU's run to an 8-3 record. More importantly, he led the Big Ten in kick scoring with 56 points as the Spartans tied Michigan for the Big Ten Championship with a 7-1 mark.
Andersen earned second-team All-Big Ten honors after scoring 58 points as a sophomore and again as junior with 57, including three that came on a 57-yard field goal against U-M in front of 105,132 fans in Michigan Stadium. Having a hand - make that a foot - in defeating the Wolverines ranks right at the top of Andersen's fondest memories.
"It became eminently clear after I arrived that there was one team on the schedule that we wanted to beat more than any other," he said. "We won 24-15 and kicking a field goal to be part of it is still special."
In his final season as a Spartan, Andersen tied his career-high with 73 points while earning first-team all-conference and All-America distinction. He converted all but one of 29 extra-point attempts and was good on 15-of-20 field goals. Andersen led the league in kick scoring with 68 points in conference games and was second overall.
And, Andersen distinguished himself from every kicker who played before him in the Big Ten, and those who would come after.
On a blustery day in Columbus, Ohio ¬- Sept. 19, 1981 to be exact - Andersen kicked a 63-yard field goal that remains unmatched in the Big Ten record book. Andersen was the first conference kicker employing a holder and a ball that wasn't shaped like a pumpkin to crack the 60-yard barrier. His effort against Ohio State was the longest since Wisconsin's Pat O'Dea drop-kicked a 62-yarder against Northwestern 82 years earlier.
When Andersen completed his collegiate career he had 10 field goals of 49, or more, yards and he topped Michigan State's all-time lists for field goals with 45, extra points (129) and scoring (261 points). Twenty years later, he ranks sixth, fourth and fifth, respectively, in those categories.
"The 63-yarder against Ohio State was pretty cool," Andersen said. "The crazy thing about it was I had a pretty good wind behind me. It probably would have gone through from 73. I kicked it a long ways.
"But the things I think of most of all from back then are the relationships, the training camps, the Saturday nights after the games, the locker room - those kinds of bonding experiences that are hard to describe. It's a very private, intense kind of feeling. That's what I took away from Michigan State."
The momentum Andersen generated as a Spartan led to even more distinction after being selected by New Orleans in the fourth round of the '82 NFL Draft. He was a three-time All-Pro and played in seven Pro Bowls. In '99, the Walter Camp Football Foundation named him to the collegiate All-Century Team (1900-2000).
And when he retired in 2008, he left the game as the NFL's all-time leading scorer with 2,544 points, 600-plus more than Jason Hanson of the Detroit Lions, the closest active player on the list.
Being inducted into the MSU Athletics Hall of Fame is sort of like making a record-long field goal with a helping wind. After all, he said, he played on a team that featured Eddie Smith at quarterback, a wide receiver named Kirk Gibson and Mark Brammer at tight end. With 523.1 yards of production per game, that team remains the most prolific, in terms of total offense, in Big Ten history, which is pretty amazing considering the advancements in tactics and strategy since then.
"This is really more of a reflection of the team we had with Eddie Smith and Kirk Gibson and a high-powered offense," Andersen said of his Hall of Fame selection. "It seemed like every time I went on the field, it was for kicking extra points.
"This is not something I take lightly because of what the school meant to me. When I went there, I was just 10 months out of Denmark. I am just so grateful for the experience of them being a part of my life and me being a part of theirs."
Andersen, who resides in Atlanta, now applies his MSU experience to Morten Andersen Global Inc., which helps Danish companies enter the U.S. market. He also is a studio analyst for NFL games on Atlanta's CBS affiliate and wrote a book, "Life Is a Kick," which was a best-seller in Denmark and is being translated into English. Andersen is also working on a self-help volume entitled, "A Certain Kind of Stubborn," and is in demand as a motivational speaker.
Phil Hickey, a '77 graduate of Michigan State's School of Hospitality Business, met Andersen at an MSU Alumni Association golf tournament in Atlanta several years ago. A close friendship ensued and Hickey, the chairman of O'Charley's, Inc., an $800 million restaurant company, advises Andersen in his business dealings.
"Of the many qualities that make Morten such a worthy candidate for the MSU sports Hall of Fame, a number of these same qualities are also serving him well in his post-playing days," Hickey said. "As for his playing days at MSU, the numbers speak for themselves, and I won't delve into them other than to say he produced significant results for a number of years, often times under extreme pressure.
"What makes Morten a hall-of-famer in both sports and his life after football are his qualities of tenacity, perseverance, work ethic, team focus, relentless curiosity, core intellectual depth (as) one of the few athletes to graduate with two majors, adaptability and a genuine care for his fellow man.
"As Morten has gone about forging his life after football, these qualities frequently come into play in his role as CEO of Morten Andersen Global. Morten is becoming deeply involved in the broadcasting business, employing the same perfecting-skills-and-attitude approach that he used in kicking."
And just like he was on windy Saturdays in Spartan Stadium, Andersen remains unaffected.
"There are a lot of great athletes in the MSU Hall of Fame," Andersen said. "I never really thought of myself in this way when I was playing. To become a part of their legacy, and to be immortalized in this sort of way, is pretty humbling."
2011 Hall of Fame Class - Mateen Cleaves
Online columnist Steve Grinczel profiles former men's basketball All-American Mateen Cleaves.
Mateen Cleaves had every opportunity to lower his expectations from the day he arrived at Michigan State. He could have settled for ordinary. He could have accepted mediocrity. He could have gone through the motions, played some minutes as a role player and called it a career.
He could have quit altogether, never to be heard from again, and no one would have blamed him.
The excuse-card was the first Cleaves was dealt in 1996, but he kept it facedown for four triumphant seasons, always trumping it with drive and determination few could match and a case-hardened smile that told you things weren't nearly as bad as they appeared - even if they were actually worse.
"My whole sole purpose was to try to help Michigan State win a national championship," Cleaves said as if it was inevitable regardless circumstances he had to confront along the way.
The Cleaves-led Spartans defeated Florida in the 2000 NCAA title game that Monday night in Indianapolis, but such a feat, in and of itself, wouldn't be enough to stamp his ticket for the MSU Athletics Hall of Fame, said head basketball coach Tom Izzo, nor would his distinction as the Spartans' only three-time All-American.
The numbers are impressive and some are great. Cleaves should stay atop MSU's all-time assist list, with 816, for years, if not decades, to come, and it's hard to envision another Spartan handing out 20 assists in a game like he did against Michigan in 2000. Not even Earvin "Magic" Johnson had 274 assists in a single season, as Cleaves did as a junior, although his grip on the No. 14 spot on the school's scoring list with 1,541 points is tenuous.
"None of that's what sets him apart," said Izzo. "That just makes him another real good player. What sets him apart in more of the Magic Johnson mold was his ability to motivate people to do things they never though they could do. He had such an ability to get on other people and hold them accountable, and they loved it.
"He was a pied piper. They would have followed him off the building and I might have joined them. He never big-timed anybody, so he talked with them and never down to them. I just think the smile and the intangibles are what made Mateen Cleaves a hall-of-famer, not the stats."
Cleaves' single-mindedness was evident at his first preseason practice as a Spartan freshman. Although he joined fellow Flint native (and then sophomore) Antonio Smith as the second cornerstone of Izzo's program, he got off to a slow start.
Cleaves suffered with a lower-back injury that required him to wear a turtle-shell brace from his hips to his chest for six weeks in practice and a few games. Despite being overweight and never quite in top game-condition, he started 24 of 29 games and averaged 10.2 points.
After following through with his commitment to "live" in the gym the following offseason, a slimmed-down Cleaves led MSU to the first of his three consecutive Big Ten Championships while earning conference Player of the Year honors.
"He was cocky enough to use his mouth, but then he backed it up," Izzo said. "He was just a tough kid who had his own dreams and goals and was going to do everything he had to do to achieve them. Between his freshman and sophomore years, when he was 25 pounds overweight, his goal was to be cut and in the best shape on media day, and he did it.
"That showed me he could accomplish things he put his mind to. A lot of people can talk it, but not many can walk it."
The injury bug struck again the following summer when he sprained his ankle while playing for the U.S. national team in an exhibition game and was unable to play in the World Championship. A month later, he fell down a flight of stairs and separated his shoulder.
Nevertheless, he had a record-setting junior year and was named first-team All-American, first-team All-Big Ten and conference player of the year for the second straight season. The Spartans won the Big Ten regular season and tournament championships and advanced to NCAA Final Four for the first time since 1979.
As the 1999-2000 season got underway, Cleaves sustained a stress fracture in his foot and required surgery. Even that seemed like a part of Cleaves' master plan because while he was missing the 13 non-conference games, the other Spartans, such as fellow Flintstones Morris Peterson and Charlie Bell, learned they could be a strong team without him.
Consequently, when he returned for the Big Ten opener, Michigan State was primed for a 13-3 conference romp to another championship, a second league tournament crown and a storybook journey as a No. 1 seed through the NCAA Tournament, including a pair of unforgettable victories over Syracuse and Iowa State in the Midwest Regional at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
The national championship game in the RCA Dome gave Cleaves one more chance to surrender to misfortune and pain when he got tangled up with Florida's Teddy Dupay while driving to the basket early in the second half. Diagnosed with a severely sprained ankle, Cleaves could have hobbled back out on crutches and called it a career. After all, the Spartans, already tempered by his absence earlier in the season, increased a six-point lead to 11 while he was in the locker room.
True to form, however, Cleaves ordered trainer Tom Mackowiak to re-tape his ailing foot. He hobbled back to the court four and a half minutes later and brought the Spartans home with an 89-76 victory.
Cleaves added Final Four Most Outstanding Player accolades to the national and conference honors he was accustomed to receiving, but he remains being defined by a solitary achievement.
"That's all I ever thought about," Cleaves said. "When I was at Michigan State, I never thought about individual goals. I never thought about being an All-American or going into the Hall of Fame. All I cared about was winning championships, but I guess when you do that, those are the kind of things that happen because I couldn't have done it by myself. I had great teammates and great coaches and great people around me."
Cleaves' energy and enthusiasm at the age of 34 is hard to distinguish from how it was when he was an indomitable twenty-something.
Entry into the Hall "does take you back and allows you to reflect on all the good memories," Cleaves said. "I've been thinking about when Coach Izzo first came to my house in Flint and recruited me as an 18-year-old boy. Everybody at Michigan State has something to do with this honor that I'm getting. I wish it was a big enough trophy, or whatever it is, so everybody's name can be on it because it just wasn't me. I had a lot of help."
Cleaves' great performances on the court are too many to list, and his game-winning shots forever memorable, but Izzo is especially fond of his game at Northwestern as a sophomore.
"He had two points at halftime and we were trailing," Izzo said. "I took him to the shower room and just chewed him out and asked him what he was doing? Then he goes out and gets like 30 in the second half, and he's not even a good shooter."
Actually, it was 32 points for a career-high 34 that held up to the end of his career.
Izzo also will never forget how the 68-62 loss to Duke in the '99 national semifinal all but guaranteed Cleaves would resist the lure of the NBA to return for his senior season.
"He said, I told you in high school what I wanted to do," Izzo said. "If he would have won a national championship (as a junior), maybe he would have gone pro but he hadn't finished business. The thing I most appreciated about him was he was so competitive but he'd never pout about a loss. He just vowed he'd do something about it."
"I remember the halftime of the Syracuse game when he threatened Peterson's and everybody's life if they didn't come back (from a 10-point halftime deficit). I heard him yelling and screaming from the hallway and I went in there and just grabbed a chair and sat down and hardly said a word. That was a defining moment."
With a six-year NBA career behind him, Cleaves has turned his attention to supporting the Boys and Girls Clubs of Flint, and broadcasting. He's a studio analyst with Fox Sports Detroit, was a regular on the Big Ten Network in 2010-11 and looking to expand nationally.
The Hall of Fame induction is evidence that his career continues even though his playing days are over.
"It'll never end," he said. "Whether I was 80 years old when I got in or 34 as I am now, it's just an honor to even be considered because it's not easy to get in. I'm just so very prideful to be in this category with all the greats that have come through Michigan State.
"We're in bed together till the day I die."
2011 Hall of Fame Class - Dana Cooke
Online columnist Steve Grinczel profiles former volleyball All-American Dana Cooke.
A hall-of-fame career isn't always defined by statistics. To be sure, Dana Cooke has the bona fides to validate every honor she's ever received as a Michigan State volleyball player.
The two-time All-American set the single-season school record for total blocks (191) and block assists (163) in 1995. Cooke's 581 total career blocks rank second, her 1,245 digs are fifth and her 149 service aces are sixth on MSU's all-time list. She played in the third-most sets (460) and fifth-most matches (132) in program history.
What set Cooke apart, however, were her immeasurables, which the Spartans counted on while winning their first-ever Big Ten championship, defending the title the following season, playing in three straight NCAA tournaments from '94-96 and reaching national semifinal for the first time in '95.
"I think what I brought to the team was a good sense of leadership, knowing that everyone is motivated by something different and knowing how to get everyone on the same page when you've got some girls who are right there and some who want to turn tail and run," Cooke said. "It's up to the captains to make sure your other players don't get crushed in the meat-grinder that is high-performance athletic sport - how you get the most out of them, but still make sure they're going to be there to perform when you need them to be."
Would it be fair to characterize Cooke as the heart and soul of those championship teams?
"Absolutely," said her former MSU teammate, Jennifer Whitehead-Robinson. "We had a ton of talented players - but often you see those kinds of teams fall apart and crumble. I really think Dana was our strength and our rock."
Cooke left Burlington, Ontario, in `93 to play for noted taskmaster Chuck Erbe, who was just beginning his 12-year run as the Spartans' head coach.
"I came in as a freshman a lot more as an individual than a team player," said Cooke. "I walked in and remember thinking, `I know more than all these people, I know more than Chuck, I know more than everybody.' I was a nightmare, really.
"But by the end of it, we were all in it for each other. Even though it took all those individuals to make a great team, we were a great team together and that's what made it so incredible. It wasn't just about one person trying to break out; it was about everyone working together."
Michigan State finished with a 9-22 overall record, 5-15 Big Ten mark and 10th-place conference showing in Cooke's first season. A year later, the Spartans improved to 17-15 and 9-11 while taking seventh in the league and earning the school's first NCAA bid.
As a junior in '95, Cooke and fellow MSU Athletics Hall-of-Famer Val Sterk led the Spartans to their high-water mark: 34-3 overall, 19-1 and undisputed Big Ten champs, and a perfect 20-0 in Jenison Field House.
Michigan State advanced to the Final Four for the only time in school history, but fell seven points short of the national title match because of a 2-3 (15-10, 8-15, 8-15, 15-9, 8-15) semifinal loss to Nebraska, the eventual champion.
Cooke became one of only two MSU players to record triple-doubles, both of which came against Penn State. Her 19 kills, 21 digs and 12 blocks against the Nittany Lions on Oct. 21, 1995 stands out as one of the greatest individual performances by a Spartan.
Cooke's senior season ended with a 26-7 record, an 18-2 Big Ten finish that was good for a share of the championship, and a 3-1 loss to Florida in the NCAA Central Regional final.
Despite also being named as a co-captain (twice), All-Big Ten (twice), Academic All-Big Ten (three times) and Academic All-American (twice), Cooke enters the MSU Hall through the perspective of humility.
"To think of me in the same company of someone like a Magic Johnson or a Duffy Daugherty is weird," said Cooke. "There are people in there who have buildings named after them, and then there's me. But I'm going to take it, don't worry about that."
Cooke actually received her induction notification in 2010, but asked if she could delay it to attend the wedding of her best friend since kindergarten - the type of life-experience she missed all-too often because of her commitment to volleyball. Despite having a year to get used to the idea of seeing her face etched in glass on the façade of the Smith Academic Center, Cooke didn't covet individual acclaim.
"At the time I got first-team All-American, Val had the No. 1 hitting percentage in the nation for the whole season and we expected her to get it," Cooke said. "I was always the type of player who didn't jump the highest or hit the hardest and there were far more talented girls out there.
"I felt my strength was being a steady player who for the most part didn't make too many mistakes. I prided myself on being that consistent player. So it was a shock, and it was to Chuck as well, that I got nominated and actually got the award. I never set out to be an All-American."
Whitehead-Robinson said that like Cooke's modesty, her intangibles were off the chart.
"When I came in, she was a couple years older than me, and she was definitely the best leader and the best captain I've ever worked with," Whitehead-Robinson said. "She worked so hard every day. We played the same position and she was a little bit shorter than me.
"But she was so strong and worked so hard, you would have never known she was four inches shorter than other people playing the same position. She took me under her wing and showed me what the program was about and what it took to be an All-American and win championships. She didn't let us get away with anything."
Cooke, who lives in Toronto, is married and expecting her first child, is likely the only player from those championship teams who is still actively competing.
After leaving MSU, she played three years of professional indoor volleyball in The Netherlands and was the head coach of the men's varsity program at McMaster University. She made the Canadian national beach volleyball team in '07, when she was the runner-up for rookie-of-the-year honors at the ripe old age of 33, but her bid to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics fell just short.
She played on the Corona Wide Open tour earlier this summer until her pregnancy reached its 12th week, and looks forward to competing in the Canadian Nationals next year.
"I'll likely play till the day I die," she said.
In the meantime, she'll reflect on the accomplishments that put her in the Hall of Fame.
"I was part of a really amazing time in the program's history," Cooke said. "When Chuck came in, he didn't have the top-10 recruits in the nation banging down his door. How do you take a program that had been in the basement in so long and turn it into a championship team in two seasons?
"And it was done mostly by relatively unknown and local athletes from Michigan and the Midwest. It wasn't until we got Jenna (Wrobel), the No. 1 recruit as a freshman (in '95), we started to get a little big bigger names. In my opinion, it's even more of an accomplishment because it was basically done with a team that just worked hard to find their potential as players and as a team."
Without Cooke, they may never have known where to look.
2011 Hall of Fame Class - Charles McCaffree Jr.
Online columnist Steve Grinczel profiles former swimming and diving head coach Charles McCaffree Jr.
The men behind the names on Munn Ice Arena, the Duffy Daugherty Football Building, and the Breslin Center are well known for their contributions to Michigan State University Athletics, much the way Charles McCaffree was in 1979 when the Intramural West swimming pools were named in his honor.
No one's to blame, really, for memories fading, great feats being forgotten and informed advocates moving away to distant locales, but over time, "McCaffree Pools" has become a generic term along the lines of, say, Fairchild Auditorium, which is named after an English professor who taught at Michigan Agricultural College from 1865-79.
That's about to change.
When Coach Mac, who died at the age of 73 in 1980, is enshrined posthumously in the MSU Athletics Hall of Fame, his pioneering spirit and innovative impact on swimming at the local, national and international levels will once again illuminate the relevance behind the name.
"This just means the world to me personally and the team members in general," said Jack Beattie, who earned All-America honors while swimming for MSU from 1952-56. "Coach Mac is probably best remembered for the personal interest he took in us swimmers.
"Michigan State, in my opinion, has a nice personal touch and takes better care of their former athletes than any other university I know. It's a unique atmosphere and Coach Mac set the tone."
McCaffree's claim to fame just happened to be doing "more than any other individual to organize American swimming," according to one tribute from several years ago.
After leaving Iowa State, where he coached the Cyclones to four straight Big Six titles, to take charge of the Michigan State program in 1941, McCaffree did as much to draw attention to the burgeoning institution in East Lansing as anyone else in athletics, and he was the face of MSU for many around the world until he retired from coaching 28 years later.
Under his direction, a once-dormant program became a national powerhouse, winning eight straight Central Collegiate Conference Championships from 1942-50 and one Big Ten title in `57. His '51 team finished second in the NCAA championships and the Spartans were third three times while averaging fifth in the national meet over a 19-year span.
The Spartans posted winning dual-meet records every season from '45-69 and had an overall mark of 191-58-2 under McCaffree. His swimmers captured 34 Big Ten and 22 NCAA titles and he coached six Olympians including two gold-medal winners, Clarke Scholes and Ken Walsh, and silver-medalist Gary Dilley.
"I think this is just a culmination of a very interesting and fascinating person who dedicated his later life to Michigan State," said David Lee McCaffree, who swam for his father in during the '58-59 seasons. "I think he would just be overwhelmed by this honor."
That's a telling statement for someone with a persona as big as McCaffree's. Legendary MSU president John Hannah called McCaffree "the Pope" because after he stepped down as coach to take over as director of the men's swimming programs, he watched practice from a balcony outside his office.
McCaffree was the very picture of sartorial splendor - known for his Harris Tweed overcoat and impeccable taste in clothing - and renowned for his revolutionary ideas.
For example, even though football was king on college campuses from coast-to-coast, McCaffree dismissed swimming's designation as a minor sport.
"Any activity contributing to the health and welfare of an individual is of major importance despite the size of the gallery witnessing that activity in action," he said in a Michigan State athletics publication article in 1945.
He was instrumental in the design of starting blocks and played a major role in planning MSU's indoor and outdoor pools, which now bear his name and were considered state-of-the-art when they were opened in '59. That same year, McCaffree was named head coach of the U.S. national team that competed in the Pan American Games.
Other titles include: secretary of the NCAA swimming rules committee, editor of the NCAA swimming guide, member of the national AAU men's swimming committee and the national YMCA aquatic committee, and secretary of the U.S. Olympic swimming committee.
In '64, the American National Red Cross bestowed its highest honor, the service medal, on McCaffree for his long devotion to water safety, and he was the assistant manager of the U.S. men's national team that competed in the '72 Munich Olympics. He was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame on April 21, 1976.
Even though McCaffree competed in the freestyle for the University of Michigan on coach Matt Mann's first Big Ten championship team in the late 1920s, he was a Spartan through and through, according to David.
"I don't think he had any problem (with allegiances)," he said. "Dad stayed with the Spartans. Of course, that's where he came from."
McCaffree said as much in a Michigan State Athletic Publications article run in conjunction with the dedication of the pools, celebrated in Spartan Stadium before the MSU-Purdue football game on Oct. 20, 1979.
"The swimmers I coached here were a fine group of men, and many of them were from the state of Michigan," McCaffree said. "And the swimming facilities at State always were, and are now, some of the finest in the nation. All-in-all, I'm proud to be a Spartan."
Swimming was a family affair in the McCaffree household, and David's sister and brothers, Peggy McCaffree-Gerrie, Don, who became a team manager, and Chuck, were considered members of the team while growing up.
"I'm glad they're bringing up all the things he did, some of which I didn't even realize," said Peggy, MSU class of '56. "The thing that amazed me was we got to know all the swimmers. They were part of the family.
After a graduating senior completes his final competitive lap as a Spartan, he receives the Golden Spike "to hang their suit up on for the last time," said David McCaffree. "I say this is the ultimate hanging up of my dad's suit for the Royal Order of the Golden Spike.
"We're just so honored to participate in this and that the McCaffree name will live on at Michigan State."
2011 Hall of Fame Class - Kisha (Kelley) Simpson
Online columnist Steve Grinczel profiles former women's basketball All-American Kisha (Kelley) Simpson
The role of a pioneer is arduous and unglamorous. In time, however, when the effort and impact are fully understood and appreciated, the reward can be great.
Kisha (Kelley) Simpson never led the Michigan State women's basketball team to a championship, a feat that often magnifies an individual's contribution. The Spartans achieved only one winning record during Simpson's career.
There are no pieces of net in her scrapbook.
What Simpson did is lead a program, which had spent years trying to find its way, to the doorstep of success it has enjoyed since her departure. Two years after Simpson graduated in 1995, the Spartans won their first Big Ten Championship. There have been two more since - including in 2010-11 - and 10 NCAA Tournament appearances highlighted by the run to the Final Four and the national title game in 2005.
Average attendance for women's basketball at the Breslin Center was just under 1,700 during the Simpson Era, peaking at 2,052 during her final season. The Spartans' popularity continued to grow after her departure and average attendance has never been lower than 6,000 over the past seven seasons "of excellence." Five-digit crowds have become an annual occurrence since 2004-05.
No one played a bigger part in the transition MSU made while becoming a big-time women's basketball program than the unassuming Simpson. Despite enjoying only modest success on the court from a team standpoint, Simpson was the first of six Spartans to earn All-America status and was the program's first recipient of first-team All-Big Ten accolades.
She may be the only one surprised by her induction into the MSU Athletics Hall of Fame.
"When people found out about this they'd ask me, `Well what did you do Kisha, what records did you set?' And I'd say, `I don't know,' because I didn't really remember," Simpson said. "I just played and never really thought about it.
"So I had to go back and look at one of the books with all the stats in it that one of the coaches sent to me a couple of years ago, and I was like, `Oh wow, I guess I did make a difference. I did accomplish quite a lot during my time there.'
"It never really registered to me until now. I'm not even sure I believe it yet."
Simpson's 15.2 points per game from the forward position remains tied for first on Michigan State's all-time scoring-average list. Her 1,668 points were the most ever by a Spartan when she left and are now third. She broke the single-season scoring mark as a junior with 513 points and again as senior with 529, which currently ranks sixth. Only one other MSU player has scored 500 points in two separate seasons.
Simpson's name remains on Michigan State's career top-10 lists for free throws (second with 360), steals (sixth, 201) and rebounds (eighth, 701). The 15 field goals she made en route to a career-high 31 points against Northwestern as a junior remains a school record.
More than numbers, however, Simpson hopes she'll be remembered for the example she set.
"I think maybe `the all' that I gave whenever I played is what stands out the most for me," she said. "I know my coaches know that I didn't really play a lot of basketball outside of the season, but during the season I always gave 110 percent. I think that effort and dedication during the season is what helped me accomplish what I did.
"When I did play, I was very disciplined and dedicated to helping my team do well. That's something I learned from my coaches and playing sports in general - if you're a part of something then you have to be a part of it completely, and that's how I was.
"Getting up in the morning for practice, the two-a-days...whatever we had to do, is what had to be done. There was no quitting."
That task is being carried out in the program by current players and coaches, and those who will follow. However, Simpson's glass plaque hanging in the Smith Student-Athlete Academic Center should serve as a reminder of those who built the foundation along with Simpson, according to associate athletic director Karen Langeland, who coached the women's basketball team from 1976-2000.
"I think respecting the past is important for the athletes of today," Langeland said. "Especially in women's athletics, there are people who paved the way for them. Sometimes, I think they assume that things have always been the way they are now in terms of equipment, and apparel and playing in Breslin.
"There wasn't a Nike contract and we weren't chartering (airplanes) at that time. We were busing primarily. Compared to the distant past, the crowds were pretty good, probably two-to-three thousand, but certainly nothing like they are right now."
While Simpson made her mark on the program without fanfare, she blazed new trails as the face of MSU women's basketball.
"But my guess is she just didn't even think of herself that way," Langeland said. "She was just there to play basketball. She was such an outstanding athlete and her versatility is what was so valuable to us. She had great quickness and probably the biggest thing was how well she worked with our point guard at that time, Chris Powers.
"She was a funny kid because she wanted to leave after her first semester freshman year. She was really close to her family and was homesick. My assistant coach at the time, Sue Guevara, talked her into staying just one more semester, and she agreed. We knew the potential she had and that she would really be able to help our program and probably grow and mature as a person, which is exactly what happened."
Simpson finished out her career as a co-captain and three-time Most Valuable Player.
"She just did things so innocently," Langeland said. "She always played within herself and contributed as much as she could. She didn't really think about how important she was.
"She was probably one of the first athletes we got from the Detroit area who was that successful. She had a pretty good following from Detroit, and that really helped us in terms of building the program, along with the education and publicity she was getting at that time for others to see."
Simpson persevered through one .500 and two losing seasons before the Spartans turned the corner her senior year with a 16-12 record and career-best 8-8 Big Ten mark, which was good for fifth place.
The honors that followed, and her Hall-of-Fame induction are "a tribute to her ability and what she did for our program at that time," Langeland said. "Even though we didn't win championships, she certainly led us in that direction."
Although Simpson is foggy on details from her playing days, one performance somewhat stands out, "except I'm torn between whether I was in Minnesota or Wisconsin," she said. "I was maybe 10-for-11 from and it was almost a perfect game for me."
For the record, Simpson tied what was then a single-game school record for shooting percentage against the Badgers. Her 30 field-goal attempts against Toledo in '94 also stood as an MSU standard until Syreeta Bromfield launched 33 against Wisconsin in '02.
"For the most part, it never seemed easy to me," Simpson said. "I felt like I was really working every time I got whatever I got."
Simpson continues to put the discipline, dedication and effort she developed as a Spartan to good use in her hectic everyday life with husband, Matthew, while raising 16-year-old stepson, Matthew II, and sons Aaron (10), John (4) and daughter Harlem (2).
"We're a pretty competitive family and we play basketball out in the yard," Simpson said. "I just tell the kids I let their father win so he'll feel good."
By day, she's a social worker with a Master's degree. At night, she's pursuing a second Bachelor's degree, in nursing, at Wayne State University.
"What Michigan State did with basketball, and athletics as a whole, is teach me that if you start something, you finish it," Simpson said. "I think that's helped me in life in general because now I'm back in school again wanting to better myself.
"What do you do to better yourself? You go back to school and you dedicate yourself to that until you finish it. That's what I remember the most and the reason I think I'm a part of the Hall of Fame. In that sense I guess I would like to think of myself as a pioneer. They've made a lot of progress since I left."