WACO — The Texas Sports Hall of Fame class of 2018 featured two local legends: Mary Hardin-Baylor head football coach Pete Fredenburg and former Killeen High and Olympic gold medal-winning women’s basketball coach Nell Fortner.
They were inducted along with the late Johnny Bailey, Gary Kubiak, Cathy Self-Morgan, Gerald Myers, Michael Young, Vince Young and Jill Sterkel.
Fredenburg and Fortner have a long history together, dating back to their days at New Braunfels High School. Fortner was a sophomore when Fredenburg joined the Unicorns coaching staff and his wife Karen was Fortner’s basketball coach.
“Karen used to have Pete come to practice and try and guard me, because nobody else on the team was able to.” said Fortner.
Fredenburg replied in a witty manor,
“Nowadays people would call what Nell did to me on that court abuse.”
The two HOF inductees had the Waco Convention Center erupting in laughter and they both paid great respect to one another on their hall of fame accomplishment.
Fortner attended high school in New Braunfels, where she was a Parade All-American and all-state player.
She played college basketball and volleyball at the University of Texas from 1978-1981, and she was a part of the Longhorns’ 1981 volleyball national championship team.
Fortner made the transition from player to coach in 1983, when she was hired by Killeen High School to coach the Lady Roos.
“Ricky Ray was the head football coach and athletic director at the time and I met coach Colbert in the summer playing softball and she asked if I was interested in interviewing for the job.”
“I went in for the interview and Ray hired me on the spot, he was awesome. Ray was fantastic, and all of us coaches there had a great time.”
Once Fortner left Killeen High in 1986, she began her illustrious career at the collegiate level.
Fortner was an assistant coach for Stephen F. Austin from 1986-1990 and Louisiana Tech from 1990-1995.
“I was fortunate enough that Gary Blair, who now coaches at Texas A&M, had seen me play and coach at Killeen,” Fortner explained “We ran into each other at the state basketball tournament and he asked me if I was interested in coaching college, and that’s how my collegiate coaching career began.”
She got her first collegiate head coaching opportunity in 1996 at Purdue. Fortner led the Boilermakers to a Big Ten title in her first season at the helm, followed by a run in the NCAA Tournament that went to the second round.
Fortner was named coach of the year for her accomplishments in 1996 and that success gained her another life-changing opportunity.
“It was a hard decision for me to leave Purdue, because I loved it there,” said Fortner “Purdue is a great university and I loved my staff and my players, but when USA Basketball ask you to coach the Olympics, you don’t say no to that.”
Under the guidance of Fortner, the USA won the gold medal in 2000, after defeating host team Australia 76-54. The USA team went undefeated in their Olympic run, making Fortner the all-time winningest coach in team USA Women’s Basketball.
The success that Fortner and the USA team had landed her a job in the WNBA as head coach of the Indiana Fever. Fortner returned to the college ranks after three seasons in the pros.
In 2003, Fortner lea the Auburn Tigers to two NCAA tournament appearances and finished with an overall record of 133-84.
The most successful season for Fortner at Auburn was the 2008-09 campaign, where the Tigers finished the season 30-4 and captured the SEC title.
Fortner retired from coaching, but made the comfortable transition to TV analyst, where she covers college basketball and volleyball for ESPN and the SEC Network.
Being inducted into the Texas Sports HOF was something Fortner never thought about, but she is extremely honored to become a part of history.
“I never pictured this happening, because you don’t do that as an athlete or a coach. As an athlete and coach you’re trying to win games and be great at your trade. The main focus while you’re in competition is winning games, not hall of fame awards, but I’m truly honored for this opportunity.”
FREDENBURG'S CLIFTON ROOTS
From his humble beginnings playing linebacker and tight end for the Clifton Cubs, under the direction of one of his inspirational mentors, coach Aubrie Roberts, Fredenburg made his way to the Texas Sports Hall.
“Coach Roberts was instrumental in my desire to become a coach,” Freden- burg said “The kind of man that he was really impacted my life and after being around him, I knew immediately what I wanted to do.”
Fredenburg attended Southwest Texas State (now Texas State), where he played in the secondary for the Bobcats until 1971, and he also met his wife Karen while attending the university.
Once Fredenburg graduated, he began his coaching career at Canyon High School in New Braunfels. He was only with Canyon for one season before he headed across town to coach at New Braunfels High.
Coach Fredenburg reflected on the beginning of his coaching career and explained how he grew to love the coaching profession.
“New Braunfels High School was a great experience for me, I fell in love with coaching there.”
Fredenburg would remain at New Braunfels for 10 seasons before leaving for Giddings for a two year stent.
Fredenburg left the high school ranks for good when he was offered a job to coach at Baylor.
Fredenburg spent 14 seasons at Baylor and he learned a lot about life and football while working under Grant Teaff.
“Working for Coach Teaff was awesome. It solidified everything that I believe in and do,” Fredenburg said “I learned a lot about the kind of young people you want to be around and coach and what things he would look for and what kind of program he ran.”
Fredenburg explained how there were four people who had an impact on his coaching life, and the other three coaches aside from Teaff that made an impact on Fredenburg were Aubrie Roberts, Jim Streety — who is one of Fredenburg’s best friends — and Corky Nelson.
Fredenburg left Baylor and headed south down Interstate 35, where he was given the opportunity to build a football program from scratch at UMHB in Belton.
“I was hired by UMHB in 1997 and our first season was in the fall of 1998,” said Fredenburg “I had just enough time to order equipment, build a field and field house and hire my coaches.”
During the Crusaders’ first year, they finished with a record of 3-7 and they were 2-5 in conference play. The Cru improved to 10-2 in their second season and began to establish their dominance in the Division III ranks.
Fredenburg's teams have won one national championship, played in three title games and won 15 conference titles.
The community of Belton and UMHB have become an essential part of Fredenburg’s life. Fredenburg believes in the mission of the university and feels at home within the community.
“It’s been an incredible journey for us watching the maturation of our program and to watch the youngsters grow and develop,” explained Fredenburg “obviously the university is an important part of my life and I believe in their mission and I feel good about what we’re doing here.”
Coach Fredenburg has built one of the most dominant and respected football programs not only in Texas, but the United States.
Fredenburg explained what the success of the program has meant personally to him and all of the players and coaches that have made this happen.
“You know I think there’s a lot of accomplishments that we’ve achieved, but obviously winning the national championship is the biggest thrill we’ve had. Every year in this business you can never win enough. We’re 29-1 in the last two years and all we think about is the one.
“The longevity that I’ve been able to establish in this business revolves around the motivation to develop young people and have good relationships with the coaches.”
Fredenburg was thrilled to be inducted into the Texas Sports Hall and called it a huge honor.
“You know you never think about going into the hall of fame, you just constantly work and try to get better, and when you do make it in, it’s truly remarkable. This honor means a lot for me to be able to share with the people who have helped me get here.”