CPP's 1983 cross country team, women's basketball player Niki Bracken, men's basketball player Larry Gordon and women's track and field and cross country runner Joann Howard were inducted into the Hall of Fame February 10. | Photo courtesy of CPP Athletics

Storied athletes inducted into CPP Athletics Hall of Fame

By Christian Malone, May 14, 2024

Since 1986, Cal Poly Pomona Athletics has honored the most praiseworthy and accomplished student-athletes and coaches with a spot in the CPP Athletics Hall of Fame, with the latest inductees entering the pantheon of distinguished alumni earlier this semester.

The 2024 class of awardees include Niki Bracken, who played women’s basketball for the green and gold from 1986 to 1990, Larry Gordon, who was on the men’s basketball squad from 2005 to 2009, Joann Howard, who competed on the women’s track and field and cross-country rosters from 1982 to 1987 and the 1983 men’s cross-country team.

Every two years, a new Hall of Fame class is selected by a committee predominantly composed of Bronco Athletics administrative staff. Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Brian Swanson shared that with so many athletes in consideration, narrowing down the pool to the top candidates was difficult.

“It’s astounding how many times some of these folks were All-American or national champions,” Swanson said. “The level of success was just tremendous.”

Swanson mentioned that even during stellar eras in CPP athletics, these handful of athletes stood out. Perhaps the greatest example of that is Bracken, who managed to turn heads with her stellar play despite joining CPP’s women’s basketball squad during its most dominant era.

To this day, she still ranks first in games started with 125, defensive rebounds with 544, field goals attempted with 1,925, points scored with 2,246 and field goals made with 955. The latter two totals rank not just the best in CPP history, but the best in the history of the California Collegiate Athletic Association.

Along with stellar stats, Bracken boasts numerous personal accolades, including back-to-back Women’s Basketball Coaches Association All-American honors, four All-CCAA recognitions and the CCAA Player of the Year award for the 1989-90 season.

After continuing to compete professionally in Taiwan and Israel, the Compton native returned to Southern California, becoming a peace officer for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in 1997. In her 28 years of service, the now Lt. Bracken said her dedication to being a team player — and supporting her peers that she gained in her childhood and during her time at CPP — has continued to shape her life.

(Left to right) Niki Bracken, Larry Gordon and Joann Howard have all made history in their respective sports during their tenure at CPP. | Photo courtesy of CPP Athletics

Bracken was not the only basketball player to earn a spot in the Hall of Fame this year.

Larry Gordon, who played for the men’s basketball team from 2005 to 2009, is perhaps the most versatile player in the program’s history. He cracks the top 10 in 19 of 25 statistical categories in the team’s record book, most impressively ranking first in offensive rebounds with 291, defensive rebounds with 656, total rebounds with 947 and career double-doubles with 36.

Gordon is also one of CPP’s most storied athletes beyond the collegiate level, competing professionally in Germany, South Korea, Romania, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, Portugal, Austria and Israel from 2009 to 2021. Since retiring from professional play, Gordon has served as a police officer for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.

Looking back, Gordon sees the team’s NCAA DII National Championship run in the 2008-09 season as the proudest moment of his collegiate career. While the Broncos finished runners-up to the University of Findlay Oilers that year, that run paved the way for CPP’s first ever National Championships victory the following year.

Another pioneering figure and trailblazer in CPP Athletics history is Howard, another inductee in the 2024 Hall of Fame class.

During her tenure with CPP’s women’s cross-country roster from 1982 to 1987, Howard made history as she propelled the Broncos to their first ever National Championship appearance in 1985. She followed that up with a ninth-place finish in the 5000-meter run in the 1986 National Championship, which remains the best individual finish in program history.

With the track and field team, Howard made her mark with records in the 3,000-meter and 5,000-meter runs that still stand to this day.

Carrying the legacy she made at CPP, Howard still finds time away from her professional dentistry practice to run in triathlons, including three 140.6-mile Ironman Triathlons.

Beyond individual athletes, the CPP Athletics Hall of Fame also honors teams whose group achievements merit recognition, with the latest group entry being the 1983 men’s cross-country team.

The 1983 men’s cross country team is the only team in CPP history to win a NCAA Division II national title. | Photo courtesy of CPP Athletics

Led by storied head coach Jim Sackett, the team won the Cross County CCAA Championships, CPP’s first and only national championship in 1983.

That year, star runner Matt Blaty, who was individually inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2018, outright won the 10-kilometer race in the CCAA Championships while also leading the team with an incredible ninth-place, 31:04.0 finish on the national stage. Tony Reyes and Gary Borbon joined close behind with 11th and 14th-place finishes.

Despite more than four decades passing since that season, the men’s cross-country team still owns the title of the most recent team in the West region to win a national championship.

These four inductees join a list of some of the most storied athletes in CPP history, including Jim Zorn, who played quarterback for CPP’s football team and the Seattle Seahawks; John Scolinos, the namesake of Scolinos Field who led CPP’s baseball team to three national championship victories as head coach; and Darlene May, who is similarly the namesake of the Darlene May Gymnasium as well as the winningest coach in DII women’s basketball history.

To Swanson, the entire Hall of Fame serves to unite athletes at CPP throughout different eras.

“We have a tremendous history of athletic and academic success here, and as you go through the years and really start to encapsulate that, it allows people to reconnect with the campus and even reconnect with their old teammates,” Swanson said.

To the inductees themselves, particularly Bracken and Gordon, the recognition serves as an example to student-athletes of how much they can achieve with determination and focus, regardless of their background.

While CPP Athletics only sporadically inducted new classes throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Swanson says the athletics department hopes to regularly induct new classes every two years from here on out, with the next class set to join in spring 2026.

Feature image courtesy of CPP Athletics

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