SPOKANE — The Big Sky Conference's hall of fame doubled in size on Saturday night.
The conference opened its Big Sky Kickoff weekend with its second hall of fame ceremony at the Northern Quest Resort and Casino where 14 new members representing seven universities were inducted.
After opening remarks from senior associate commissioner Jon Kasper and commissioner Tom Wistrcill, each inductee was introduced with a short video recapping their accomplishments with the Big Sky Conference before appearing on stage to do an interview with Director of Broadcast and Digital Media Alex Eschelman.
"It's a wonderful weekend, certainly a celebration of everything we do here at the Big Sky," said Wistrcill. "We're really excited to be here, its the kickoff of the season. This is the start of it and everybody gets fired up. Really proud of our staff and everybody who works so hard to make it happen.
Three of the inductees forged their legacies in The Treasure State: Montana men's basketball's all-time leading scorer and rebounder Larry Krystkowiak, Montana State 5x All-American runner Shannon Butler, and trailblazing Montana State athletic administrator Dr. Ginny Hunt, who passed away in November at the age of 86.
After graduating from UM, Krystkowiak went on play over 10 seasons in the NBA and then coach for over 20 years at the college and NBA level, most recently spending 10 seasons as head coach of the University of Utah.
He stepped away from coaching following the 2020-21 season and said that it's given him more time to spend with his family.
Krystkowiak's prolific production with the Griz launched him into a 30-plus year span of playing and coaching at a high level. But he said, looking back, it's the people he connected with along the way that was the most rewarding aspect of the game.
"It really started a barrage of memories," said Krystkowiak of learning he'd been inducted. "What I've seen through the whole process is it's very little to do with the award, it's just all the people I've had the good fortune to become friends with. Coaches and teammates. Tons of basketball memories and just how great the game has truly been to me."
Butler, a Eureka native, originally signed with Auburn university after graduating high school. But a little over a year later, he began to miss Montana.
"I came back to Montana cause I missed it so much," Butler said. "And I called (then MSU track and field head coach Rob Stark) and asked him for some advice. He said, 'You remember what I told you when you left? You'll always have a place in Bozeman and you'll always have a chance to be a Bobcat.' Changed my life."
Hunt became MSU's first-ever Director of Women's Athletics in 1977 and quickly used her role to become a pioneer for women's sports in the early years of the Title IX era. Her name and her legacy will forever be tied to the passage of that landmark bill.
"It's so important you're willing to have people who are willing to take on that leadership role and to champion something as important as women's sports," said Wistrcill. "And she was that for the Big Sky Conference. All the accolades we get I think a little piece of her is part of that.
"So grateful to see that we're gonna get a chance to honor her and her legacy tonight."
2023 Big Sky Conference Hall of Fame Class
Archie Amerson, Football, Northern Arizona (1995-96)
Lindsey Anderson, Track & Field, Weber State (2004-07)
Geronne Black, Track & Field, Portland State (2010-13)
Shannon Butler, Cross Country/Track & Field, Montana State (1989-91)
Debby Colberg, Volleyball, Sacramento State (1976-07)
Kim Exner, Volleyball, Eastern Washington (1995-98)
Chick Hislop, Cross Country/Track & Field, Weber State (1969-06)
Dr. Ginny Hunt, Administration, Montana State (1977-93)
Margarita Karnaukhova, Women’s Tennis, Sacramento State (2003-06)
Larry Krystkowiak, Men’s Basketball, Montana (1982-86)
Jamie Martin, Football, Weber State (1989-92)
Charles Roberts, Football, Sacramento State (1997-00)
Michael Roos, Football, Eastern Washington (2001-04)
Ron Stephenson, Commissioner (1981-95)