Oct. 23, 2009
By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Insider
Billy Hollis reeled off the names as if it was yesterday.
"We just had two seniors: myself, and Gary Wisener, who was a football player that also won the javelin that year. Roy Smalley, who's also in the Hall of Fame. Tommy Minter's in the Hall of Fame. He was a football player and ran on our sprint relay team. David Bennett, Eddie Curtis, David Alexander, Ray Knaub. Buddy Tyner and John Fry were our weight people. We scored a lot in everything. It was just a great team."
A few "yesterdays" have passed since Hollis won three gold medals at the 1960 Southwest Conference Track and Field Championships as part of the first of three conference championships the Bears won under Hall of Fame coach Jack Patterson in a four-year stretch.
"Of course, (the SWC team championship) was the topping on the cake," said Hollis, who is one of six inductees for the Baylor Athletic Hall of Fame that will be honored at a banquet Friday night and at halftime of Saturday's Homecoming game against Oklahoma State. "Texas had always been so good. But we really thought that was the year for us to beat them. Everything just went the way we needed for it to go that day."
Hollis played a huge role in the championship, winning the 220-yard dash in 20.6 seconds, finishing third in the 100-yard dash and anchoring the winning 440-yard and mile relays in times of 40.6 and 3:13.40, respectively. All told, he scored 12.5 of the Bears' 79-point total to snag honors as the High Point Performer.
Smalley, Knaub and Minter joined him on the sprint relay, while Joe Thompson subbed for Minter as the third leg on the mile relay.
But Hollis gives the credit to Patterson, who "probably knew more about running the sprint relay than anybody around."
"My senior year, we won 11 straight sprint relays," Hollis said. "We won Texas and Kansas and Drake. We ran at the Coliseum Relays in Los Angeles. The Dodgers were playing in the Coliseum at the time, so we ran on grass. But Jack Patterson always told us to talk low and run loud. He didn't want us bragging about things. Just go out and beat folks."
After graduating from Baylor in 1960 with a degree in business management, Hollis returned to his hometown of San Angelo, Texas, and coached with legendary coach Emory Bellard at Central High School, winning a state football championship in '66.
"I loved coaching," said the 71-year-old Hollis. "And that year that we won the championship was great. But we had our first child, and there were some days when I went to work before she got up and got home after she went to bed. You just start figuring out how much you make an hour . . . . I always loved athletics. But I loved the insurance business as well."
Going into the insurance business, Hollis worked for 13 years with Blue Cross and then the last 25 years with State Farm. He and his wife, Sharon, still reside in San Angelo and have two daughters, one son and eight grandchildren.
"My son (William David Hollis) can't make it. He's a referee in the Lone Star Conference," Hollis said. "But we've got eight grandkids, and they're all coming (to the Hall of Fame banquet). So I'm really looking forward to it."
Joining Hollis in this year's Hall of Fame class are former football standouts Jay Jeffrey, Charles Benson and Frank Ditta from the 1980 Southwest Conference championship team; 1999 NCAA triple jump champion Stacey Bowers Smith; and 2002 National League Rookie of the Year Jason Jennings from baseball.
In addition, former men's basketball letterman Dr. Gerald Cobb (1948-50) will join the Hall of Fame's Wall of Honor.