MONTICELLO — Alvy Early has coached 1,023 women’s basketball and softball victories at Arkansas-Monticello since 1979 and this past spring led the softball team to the first Great American Conference championship.
This fall, he’ll be honored along with four others with enshrinement into the UAM Sports Hall of Fame, it was announced Friday. Early, Lindsey Kight, Gene Franklin, Charles Grassi and the late Don Sawyer will be inducted at a dinner at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 11 at the John F. Gibson University Center as part of homecoming week festivities. Monticello businessman George Harris will receive the UAM Spirit Award.
To select Early, the Hall of Fame selection committee waived a rule requiring coaches and athletes to be separated from the university for five years before they are eligible for induction. Early won 425 games as the Cotton Blossoms’ basketball coach from 1979-2000 and 598 in softball since 1997.
“Alvy Early is not just the winningest coach in UAM history, he is one of the most successful coaches in the history of intercollegiate athletics in Arkansas,” UAM athletic director Chris Ratcliff said in a press release. “The committee felt it was only appropriate that we make an exception for an exceptional coach. We feel like this year’s Hall of Fame class is outstanding.”
Early was a three-sport athlete (football, baseball and tennis) at UAM and a successful high school coach at West Fork before returning to Monticello to take over the women’s basketball program. He coached 11 All-Americans, won or shared four Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference championships, was named AIC coach of the year four times and NAIA district coach of the year twice, and in 1990 coached the Blossoms to an NAIA runner-up finish.
In softball, he led the Blossoms to five straight Gulf South Conference West Division championships from 2000-04 and added two more before the school joined the GAC in 2011. He was named the GSC’s West Division Coach of the Decade for 2000-10 and has produced eight All-Americans, 42 Academic All-Americans and two players of the year.
Kight is one of those players of the year, winning the award for the West Division in 2003 and 2004. She was chosen to the GSC’s All-Decade Team for 2000-10 after compiling an 89-26 pitching record from 2001-04 with a 0.96 ERA, still a school record. She threw six no-hitters, posted 49 shutouts and recorded 985 strikeouts.
She also was named All-GSC all four years, the 2001 GSC Freshman of the Year, and made All-South Region three times.
Franklin pitched and won both ends of a baseball doubleheader three times and led UAM to the 1963 and 1965 AIC titles. He’s one of two baseball players and six athletes in school history to earn first-team all-conference honors three times. He threw 15 strikeouts each against Arkansas-Little Rock (in an 11-inning game) and Central Arkansas (in 13 innings) and also no-hit Harding in 1964, the season he finished with a 0.25 ERA.
Grassi made All-AIC in 1953 and 1954 as a fullback and linebacker. Sawyer was named first-team All-AIC quarterback in 1957 and 1958, amassing a 16-4 record for both years.
Harris, a 1966 UAM graduate and president of Commercial Bank of Monticello, is a long-time supporter UAM athletics.
Tickets to the Hall of Fame dinner are $35 each and may be purchased by calling the athletic department at 870-460-1058.