CLEVELAND – Five new members were inducted into the Mid-American Conference Hall of Fame Wednesday night at the Honors Dinner inside the Renissance Cleveland hotel.
Among the quintet were former Miami University and current Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, as well as former Toledo and current Missouri head football coach Gary Pinkel.
Also inducted were Central Michigan’s Casey Cunningham, one of the best wrestlers in MAC history, along with legendary track coaches in Eastern Michigan Bob Parks and Western Michigan’s George Dales.
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Foregoing his senior season to join the NFL draft, Roethlisberger was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers with the 11th overall pick in the 2003 NFL draft. In his time with the Steelers, he has led Pittsburgh to three Super Bowls, winning two of them. He was the 2004 NFL Rookie of the Year and has made three trips to the Pro Bowl. Over his 11-year NFL career, Roethlisberger has passed for 39,057 yards and 251 touchdowns.
Pinkel began his association with the conference as a player at Kent State (1971-73) and was part of a Golden Flashes team that won the MAC Championship and went to the Tangerine Bowl. Some of his teammates during his tenure with the Golden Flashes included current Alabama head coach Nick Saban and longtime Pittsburgh Steeler linebacker Jack Lambert. Pinkel was a tight end and a three-time letter winner. He earned all-MAC and honorable mention All-American honors in 1973.
After a few years as an assistant coach, Pinkel became head coach at Toledo in 1991. He led the Rockets to 73 career wins (number one in school history) and posted a .659 winning percentage. In MAC play, he garnered 53 victories with the Rockets, fifth on the MAC all-time list.
Pinkel’s best UT team was in 1995 when the Rockets went 11-0-1, winning the MAC Championship and a victory in the Las Vegas Bowl. In 2000, the Rockets defeated Penn State in Happy Valley 24-6 for the only loss the late Joe Paterno had against a MAC school.
After the 2000 season, Pinkel left UT to take over the head coaching job at Missouri and has led the Tigers to 113 wins the most wins of any head coach in Columbia. Relatively recently, he saw the Tigers move from the Big 12 to the Southeastern Conference, participating in two SEC Championship games (2013 vs. Auburn and 2014 vs. Alabama).
Cunningham compiled a 134-19 record in his four-year career -- the most wins by a wrestler in CMU history, including a 34-1 mark in 1999. He also is among the top-ten in career pins (31) and single season wins (37).
He later became an assistant coach and was part of seven MAC championships and tournament titles with the Chips.
Parks was a collegiate runner at EMU from 1951-55. He became the school’s first track and field coach 1967 and spent 34 years at the position before retiring in 2001. Parks coached for nine years at the high school level in Michigan before heading to Western Michigan as an assistant coach in 1961 before returning to Ypsilanti in 1967.
In his career, Parks led EMU to a 132-24-1 record in dual meets and 75-16 in MAC competition. Under his tutelage, Eastern won the NAIA Championship in 1967 and 70 and the NCAA Division II title, as well, in 1970.
When EMU joined the MAC and moved to Division I in 1972 Parks led EMU to two district championships in 1973 and 1974 and qualified for the NCAA Tournament seven times.
Among his athletes was Hasely Crawford. The native of Trinidad and Tobago won the 100-meters at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal.
Dales led the Broncos to the conference’s first two NCAA National Championships in 1964 and 65 both in cross country. He won 12 MAC track and field titles and eight cross country championships.
In his time in Kalamazoo, Dales never experienced a losing season and was 113-35 in dual track meets and 79-13-1 in Cross Country. Among the many athletes he coached at WMU was Ira Murchison, who was a member of the 4x100 meter relay team that won the gold medal at the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia
After retiring as a coach in 1970, Dales remained at WMU as a physical education teacher before retiring as a professor in 1987.