2015 Hall of Fame Class
(Left to Right): Pat Sipe, Mike Hatch, Katie (Feenstra) Mattera, Sam Rutigliano and Eric Green
Eric Green was Liberty’s first NCAA Division I Associated Press football All-American, earning second-team honors following a standout senior season at Liberty. He finished the year with 62 receptions, 905 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns, becoming the first player in program history to record double-digit touchdown receptions in a season.
Green helped Liberty win its first six games of the 1989 season under fellow 2015 Athletics Hall of Fame inductee Head Coach Sam Rutigliano. He recorded the game-winning touchdown reception in Liberty’s 25-24 win over Eastern Michigan in 1989, the program’s first-ever win over an FBS opponent.
The native of Savannah, Ga., finished his career with five 100-yard receiving games. He was the first player in program history to play in the Hula Bowl and was the program’s second Senior Bowl representative.
Green was the 21st overall pick in the 1990 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. The NFL Rookie of the Year finished his 10-year professional career with 362 career receptions, 4,390 career receiving yards and 36 career touchdowns. He was twice named to the NFL Pro Bowl (1993 and 1994).
Mike Hatch was Liberty’s most dominant wrestler, finishing his four-year career with a program record 120 career victories. He is one of three wrestlers in program history to finish their careers with an 80 percent or higher career winning percentage (80.9), as he posted a 120-28-1 career record.
During the heavyweight’s four-year career, Hatch helped guide the Flames to four consecutive NCAA Division II South Regional championships (1984-87). Individually, Hatch was a South Regional heavyweight champion during his sophomore, junior and senior campaigns.
Hatch led the Flames to their highest NCAA Division II national championship finish in 1986 when Liberty finished the event in fifth place. The native of Middleboro, Mass., was a two-time NCAA Division II All-American and the national runner-up in his weight class in 1986 and 1987.
The heavyweight qualified for the 1987 NCAA Division I national tournament, where he finished in 15th place. He is one of eight wrestlers in program history to be a member of the Eagle Gold Club (100 career victories), leading the elite group of athletes.
Katie [Feenstra] Mattera
Women’s Basketball: 2002-05
Katie [Feenstra] Mattera helped put Liberty’s women’s basketball program on the national map, guiding the Lady Flames to the Sweet 16 of the 2005 NCAA Tournament. Mattera became the program’s first NCAA Division I All-American and the first of two student-athletes in Big South history to be named Player of the Year three years in a row (2003-04-05).
The native of Grand Rapids, Mich., led the country in field goal shooting percentage in 2004 and 2005, helping her finish her career with 1,845 career points scored.
The center finished her career as the program’s all-time leader in field goals made (764), field goal percentage (62.2) and blocked shots (257).
Mattera continued her stellar playing career at the professional level when she became the program’s first player to be selected in the WNBA Draft (No. 8 overall selection in 2005).
She finished second in the voting for 2005 WNBA Rookie of the Year and was a unanimous selection to the WNBA All-Rookie team. Her five-year professional career also including time in China and with Team USA, where she helped her team win a silver medal in the 2007 FIBA World League Tournament.
Football Coach: 1989-99
Following an 18-year coaching career in the NFL, Sam Rutigliano helped establish Liberty as an NCAA Division I football program and finished his 11-year coaching career as the program’s winningest coach (67-53).
The 1980 NFL Coach of the Year came to Liberty in 1989, the Flames’ second season at the Division I level. He made an immediate impact as the Flames won their first six games, including wins over nationally ranked James Madison and Eastern Illinois and the program’s first-ever win over an FBS opponent when Liberty knocked off Eastern Michigan on Oct. 14, 1989.
Rutigliano’s teams were consistently ranked in the Top 25. Liberty was nationally ranked 23 different weeks and finished three seasons listed among the nation’s best (No. 19 in 1992, 1995 and 1997).
Rutigliano coached 11 NCAA All-Americans, two CoSIDA Academic All-Americans, 18 NCAA I-AA All-Independent selections and six VaSID all-state honorees. He also helped elevate the play of fellow 2015 Athletics Hall of Fame inductee Eric Green, who became the first player in program history to be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft in 1990.
Rutigliano remained connected with Liberty’s program after retiring from coaching in 1999, playing a key role in the hiring of head coaches Danny Rocco and Turner Gill. Rocco helped Liberty win its first four Big South titles, while Gill guided the Flames into the NCAA FCS Playoffs for the first time in program history in 2014.
Pat Sipe finished his four-year standout career at Liberty establishing marks that have withstood the test of time. He finished his career as the Flames’ all-time leader in runs scored (179), total bases (489), home runs (59) and RBI (226).
The two-time Liberty team MVP (1985 and 1986) led the Flames in hits, home runs and RBI three-straight seasons (1984-86). As a freshman, Sipe posted a .332 batting average with 61 RBI and 12 home runs, helping the Flames win 40 games for the first time in program history.
During his senior campaign, Sipe helped Liberty advance to the NAIA Tournament in 1986, winning the District 29 and Area 8 events. Liberty advanced to the NAIA World Series that same season, finishing the event in fifth place.
Following his standout career at Liberty, the native of Virginia Beach, Va., signed a free agent contract with the Montreal Expos. He played three seasons of minor league baseball, finishing his professional career with 48 doubles, four triples, 32 home runs, 163 RBI and a .408 slugging percentage.