SALT LAKE CITY — Ron McBride acknowledged he might be making history at the University of Utah's Crimson Club Hall of Fame banquet at EnergySolutions Arena.
"For a fired coach to be honored by the university . . . that's a first I guess," McBride said before Monday night's gathering. "It's great. I think I have about 21 years here between assistant coach and head coach. I feel real honored about this whole thing. It's an awesome deal."
McBride, who joined basketball star Keith Van Horn, coach/administrator Norma Carr and champion alpine skier Bente Dahlum in this year's class of Crimson Club Hall of Fame inductees, insists there was "no fence that needed to be mended" after he was fired by Utah a decade ago.
"This is a profession and there's no sacred cows in this profession. Sometimes you think you're untouchable, but you're not untouchable," McBride said. "So I was here 13 years as the head coach, which is a long time for a head coach, and a lot of good things happened."
McBride won 88 games with the Utes from 1990-2002, leading them to six bowl appearances and two conference championships. Despite getting dismissed, McBride kept an eye on the program and is proud of the things the team accomplished under Urban Meyer and Kyle Whittingham.
"When you look at it, realistically, it was time, probably, for a change — a new voice at the top — because you're hearing the same thing over and over again," McBride said. "I think you need something to reinvigorate it or excite it again. So when you look back at it, I think it all worked out positive. It gave me an opportunity to see what I was made of."
The challenge, McBride explained, was to see if he would take the easy way out, or try to recreate his career.
McBride chose the latter — going to Kentucky and coaching in the SEC for a couple of years before taking the head coaching job at Weber State. His recent "retirement" didn't last long. McBride is now coaching the offensive line for the AFL's Utah Blaze and serving as a representative for Sonny Bryan's Smokehouse restaurant in Sandy. He's making his own choices these days.
"Being fired makes a better man out of you. It tests you to see what you're made of and to see whether you can rebound from it. I think it was good for me to be able to do that," McBride said while expressing his love for the Utah football program and the Hall of Fame recognition. "You've got to adjust in life. If something bad happens to you, you've got to adjust to it. Fortunately for me, I was able to move forward in my career and kind of recreate it again."
Van Horn is optimistic that the basketball program he led to national prominence in the '90s will also find a way to stand tall once again.
"I really hope so. I think they've had to make some difficult decisions lately but I think ultimately in the long run those decisions will pay off," Van Horn said. "You have to get kids in here that really want to be here, that have a lot of character. If you're able to do that I think that's a good first step."
In speaking with fans over the past six months or so, Van Horn noted that folks are pleased that the team is starting to play the right way. He's hopeful that the Utes will start climbing again with incoming recruiting classes.
During Van Horn's career at Utah (1993-97), the Runnin' Utes won 98 games and three conference championships. The two-time first-team All-American and three-time WAC Player of the Year is the program's all-time leading scorer with 2,542 points and is one of just seven players to have his number retired.
"I know when I came in here the players that had played before me had set a certain standard," Van Horn said. "There had been a lot of great history here and I felt like I wanted to live up to that standard and live up to that history both as an individual and collectively as a team. I hope that the new guys coming in see that and feel the same way."
Induction into the Crimson Club Hall of Fame, he noted, is a great honor.
"I'm real humbled to be included with all these great, past University of Utah athletes," Van Horn said.
This year's two other inductees — Carr and Dahlum — had similar thoughts.
Carr was a pioneer of sorts in the establishment of women's athletics at the university, serving as the school's first softball and volleyball coach when varsity programs were established in 1975. The most successful softball coach in school history led Utah to 380 wins and three College World Series appearances over a span of 14 years.
In volleyball, Carr won two conference coach of the year awards in four seasons at the helm. The Utes won 77 matches during that span.
Carr also helped coach women's basketball and assisted with athletics administration while at Utah. In 1989, she was named the athletics director at Salt Lake Community College — becoming the first woman to hold such a position in state history.
"I'm overwhelmed and very pleased. I was totally surprised by this," Carr said of her Crimson Club Hall of Fame recognition. "You work hard and you just do things. You don't do things for this kind of an accolade. It's always nice to be honored by your peers and people that you think a lot of. It was a surprise to me, a wonderful surprise."
Dahlum used the same word to describe her induction. The alpine skiing champion had one of the most successful careers in University of Utah and Norwegian history. She won seven titles in Norway from 1975-81.
"It's hard to describe," Dahlum said before Monday's banquet. "It was a surprise to me. But it's very nice. I'm very honored."
Approximately 1,000 guests attended the gathering, which also served as the Senior Awards Banquet.