Stats tell story on Hall of Famers

If ever there were three people who deserved to be elected to the Upper Peninsula Sports Hall of Fame, it was Wayne Sickler of Calumet, the late Don Miller of Houghton and Dick Franti of Ontonagon.

The news of the induction of the local sports figures wasn’t surprising because all three had strong statistics.

I’ll grant you that stats can be vastly overrated in many cases. But in this case, the numbers were very telling.

Take Sickler, for instance.

After a fine career at Calumet High, where he excelled in football, basketball and track, Sickler went to Northern Michigan University to play football.

In the 1963 season, he led all state collegiate scorers with 70 points, accumulating his total with a combination of touchdown pass receptions, PATs and field goals.

Sickler later coached prep football at Munising and Calumet and was voted as the 1966 U.P. Coach of the year.

He eventually became the athletic director at his alma mater, and helped the Copper Kings develop a strong sports program.

Miller is generally conceded to be one of the fathers of prep hockey in the Copper Country.

Joining forces with legendary Michigan Tech hockey coach John MacInnes and others, he was instrumental in seeing the formation of the Lake Superior Hockey Conference in 1969.

Miller compiled a record of 378-260-23 and won five regional titles and a state championship in 1981. He was twice named the state Class B Coach of the Year during his career.

He and his late brother, Rick, combined to win more games (735 total) than any other brother coaching combination in the nation. Rick, who coached at Hancock High, could justifiably join his brother before too long in the hall.

Franti’s overall stats ensured he was a virtual slam-dunk in his first shot at the hall.

Anytime you win 501 games as a girls basketball coach (at Bergland and Ontonagon High) and another 245 coaching boys teams, you’re very deserving.

In many of those seasons, he handled both coaching jobs.

Franti, like the two other inductees, has always been the kind of coach who never blamed the referees or anyone else after a tough defeat.

“They (the opposition) played really well,” is a typical comment of his. “We just have to get better the next time …. and that’s up to the coaches.”

All of the new inductees were teachers first and coaches second. They gave their players the knowledge they needed to improve their games – the telltale mark of all good mentors.

It’s no mystery that I have been a critic of the U.P. Hall of Fame selection process at times over the years. But the group has done a much better job of recognizing deserving candidates from our area in the past few years.

People like Holly McCullah, Bill Lucier and the above three are evidence of that.

Should the above people have been selected earlier? Certainly. But I think the committee, which has revised its bylaws and added several new members, is getting better at a tough job.

And that’s all you can ask.