July 15, 2014
The Coastal Carolina Department of Athletics announced that Alan Connie (cross country/track & field head coach), Josh Hoke (football), Diana Jepchirchir Mendes (cross country/track & field), Thomas Jordan (track & field) and Tyler Thigpen (football) will be the 24th group of inductees into the George F. "Buddy" Sasser Athletics Hall of Fame.
The Class of 2014 will have its official induction ceremony on the morning of Nov. 15 prior to the Coastal Carolina football contest versus Monmouth, and the group will be recognized at halftime of that game as well.
Head Women’s Cross Country/Track & Field Coach (1986-2014)
• Head coach from the inception of the cross country program at Coastal Carolina in 1986 and the indoor track & field program in 1998. He was the associate head coach for women’s outdoor track & field from the program’s beginning – 1994 – until taking over the program in 1999.
• Announced his retirement after 28 seasons at Coastal Carolina in May of 2014.
• Was a 33-time Big South Coach of the Year, including 13 recognitions in cross country, 10 in indoor track & field and 10 in outdoor track & field.
• Named the 2004 Southeast Region Coach of the Year for indoor track & field.
• Voted the Big South Coach of the Decade in cross country (1990’s and 2000’s), in indoor track & field (2000’s) and in outdoor track & field (2000’s).
• Led Coastal Carolina’s women’s cross country/track & field indoor and outdoor “Triple Crown” titles four times (2003-04, 2005-06, 2008-09 and 2013-14).
• In his 28 years, Coastal Carolina’s women’s cross country, indoor track & field and outdoor track & field programs won a total of 28 Big South Championships.
• His women’s cross country teams won a Big South-best 13 conference championships, while 85 student-athletes have earned All-Conference selections, 15 have won individual champions and subsequently have been named the Big South's Runner of the Year, 17 earned NCAA All-Southeast Region selections and nine qualified for the NCAA National Championship. Julia Viellehner (2006) and Jepchirchir (2007) went on to earn NCAA All-American honors, being the only Big South women’s cross country runners to receive the honor. He also coached 11 Big South Rookies of the Year. The Chanticleer cross country program ended the 1996 regular season ranked 24th nationally and climbed to as high as 20th in 1997 and 30th in 2002.
• In track & field, Connie coached student-athletes to 10 All-American honors, as well as 91 Big South Indoor Champions, 115 Big South Outdoor Champions, and a combined 543 indoor and outdoor All-Big South honors.
• Coached Amber Campbell, a two-time Olympian.
• The Chanticleers ended the 1998 indoor season ranked 26th nationally.
• His cross country program earned 17 consecutive Academic All-American Team with distinction honors from the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA). The track team earned 12 consecutive All-Academic Team honors as well. In 2007, Coastal was sixth out of 327 Division I track & field. programs with a 3.421 cumulative team GPA and in 2008 ranked 21st nationally with a 3.319 cumulative GPA.
• Four of student-athletes earned Academic All-America honors. Most notably, Felicitas Mensing earned the Big South Scholar-Athlete of the Year Triple Crown (in the sports of cross country, indoor track & field and outdoor track & field) in the 2007-08 season – only the third athlete in Big South history to accomplish the feat.
• Two-time first team CoSIDA Academic All-America (2005 and 2006).
• Three-time FCS Athletic Directors Association Academic All-Star.
• Member of the National Football Foundation Hampshire Honor Society.
• 2006 Big South Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
• 2006 Big South Football Scholar-Athlete of the Year and three-time Academic All-Big South.
• Two-time, first team All-Big South selection.
• Led the Big South in scoring with 83 points 2004 and 80 points in 2005, while leading league kickers in scoring four times (2003, ’04, ’05 and ’06). Also led the Big South in field goals made in 2004 (10), 2005 (14) and 2006 (10).
• Scored 297 career points and made 177 career extra points, which were Big South records until 2011.
• For his career, owns CCU records for extra points made (177), extra points attempted (183), extra points kick percentage (.967), field goals made (40) and field goals attempted (63).
• Also owns the CCU career record for best career punting average (37.21 yards per punt; 66 punts for 2,456 yards).
• Was a three-time National Special Teams Player of the Week and 10-time Big South Special Teams Player of the Week.
Diana Jepchirchir Mendes
Cross Country/Track & Field (2006-08)
• 2007 NCAA cross country All-American, placing 29th at the national championship.
• 2007 cross country All-Region, placing fifth at the regional meet.
• 2007 Big South Indoor Track & Field Most Outstanding Athlete.
• 2007 Big South Women’s Cross Country Runner of the Year.
• Five-time Big South Champion.
• Earned eight All-Big South honors:
- 2006 Cross Country (2nd)
- 2007 Outdoor Track (2nd in 5,000 meters and 3rd in the 10,000 meters)
- 2007 Cross Country (champion)
- 2008 Indoor Track (champion in 3,000 meters and 5,000 meters)
- 2008 Outdoor Track (champion in 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters)
• Owns the CCU women’s cross country record for a 6k course (20:24).
• Began her collegiate career at the University of New Orleans, where she won Sun Belt Conference championships in cross country, indoor 3,000 and 5,000 meters, and outdoor 5,000 and 10,000 meters, while earning Sun Belt Cross Country and Indoor Track Runner of the Year.
Outdoor Track & Field (2004, 2006-08)
• 2006 All-American in the javelin, placing seventh at the national championship.
• Two-time NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championship participant (2004 and 2006).
• Placed 24th in the javelin at the 2004 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championship.
• Four-time qualifier for the NCAA East Region (2004, ’06, ’07 and ‘08).
• Three-time All-Region honoree in the javelin after placing fifth at the 2006 NCAA Regional, sixth in 2007 and seventh in 2008.
• Also participated in the 2004 NCAA East Regional and placed 13th, but still advanced to the NCAA Championship as an automatic qualifier due to his record-setting throw at the 2004 Big South Championship.
• Four-time Big South Champion in the javelin, winning titles in 2004, ‘06, ’07 and ’08.
• Four-time All-Big South honoree in the javelin.
• Set the CCU and Big South record with a throw of 232’ 6” in the javelin in 2004 (later broken by CCU’s Jason Flanagan in 2012).
• Coastal Carolina’s first quarterback and led the Chanticleers to a 34-11 record from 2003-06 while going 12-4 in league play over the program’s first four years. Still owns almost every CCU single-game, single-season and career record for passing and total offense.
• Led Coastal to Big South Championships in 2004, ’05 and ’06 as well as the school’s – and Big South’s – first NCAA Championship appearance (2006).
• The first player in Big South history to be drafted in the NFL, going in the seventh round (217th overall pick) to the Minnesota Vikings. Currently on the Cleveland Browns roster, Thigpen played for the Kansas City Chiefs from 2007-09, the Miami Dolphins from 2009-10 and the Buffalo Bills from 2011-12.
• In 2006, named Don Hansen’s Weekly Gazette National Offensive Back of the Year and finished seventh in the voting for the Walter Payton Award.
• Named first team All-America by the Associated Press, named to the 25-man American Football Coaches Association All-American team and named 1st team All-American by Don Hansen’s Weekly Gazette.
• 2006 Big South Offensive Player of the Year and first team All-Big South.
• Earned a National Player of the Week honors three times and Big South Offensive Player of the Week honors six times.
• Led the Big South with a conference-record 3,296 passing yards in 2006 – his 274.7 passing yards per game in 2006 is additionally a league record – as well as throwing a league-record 29 touchdown passes that season. His 3,952 yards of total offense in 2006 is a Big South record, while his 167.42 passing efficiency rating from 2006 was a record until 2012.
• Rushed for 1,638 yards in his career, which was a Big South record, and currently ranks second among league quarterbacks. Also owns the top two longest runs from scrimmage by a Big South quarterback with a 76-yard touchdown run versus VMI in 2005 and a 76-yard run versus Gardner-Webb in 2006.
• For his career, completed 486-of-879 passes for 6,598 yards with 25 interceptions and 53 touchdowns. He rushed 345 times for 1,638 yards, averaging an impressive 4.7 yards per carry, with 13 scores. He amassed 6,598 yards of total offense, averaging 200.9 yards of total offense over 41 games for his career.