UIS Prairie Stars names inaugural inductees to Athletics Hall of Fame

The first Prairie Stars Hall of Fame induction will take place during Homecoming 2014.

The University of Illinois Springfield Department of Athletics announces its first class of inductees for the UIS Athletics Hall of Fame. The inaugural class includes Aydin Gonulsen, Athletic Director and soccer coach (1976-2002); Harold Christofilakos, Friend of the Prairie Stars; Carla (Jimenez) Mills, tennis (1998-2000); Elias Shehadi, soccer (1976-1979); and the 1986 NAIA National Champion Men's Soccer Team.

"I am excited to announce the first class of UIS Athletics Hall of Fame inductees," Director of Athletics Kim Pate said. "This is a great opportunity to celebrate and honor key individuals who have made tremendous contributions to the athletics program and University."

The first-ever class is set to be inducted on Saturday, Oct. 11 during Homecoming with the time and place still to be determined. An advisory committee of Springfield community members, UIS alumni, staff, faculty, athletic coaches and players are involved in selecting the inductees.

Gonulsen was named the first Athletic Director and Head Soccer Coach at Sangamon State University in 1976. He proceeded to build the men's soccer program literally from the ground up, from recruiting the very first student-athletes (with no housing available at the time) to laying the sod on the existing soccer stadium.

In 1977, Gonulsen and other dedicated friends of the university began building the soccer program by transforming a cornfield on the SSU campus into the university's first soccer field.

As a coach in the NAIA, Gonulsen amassed over 426 career victories and three national championships in 1986, 1988 and 1993. His teams made over 20 appearances in the NAIA national tournament. During his tenure, the Prairie Stars participated in the World Collegiate Soccer Championships twice and one European Collegiate Championship, finishing in second place after defeating UCLA in the quarterfinals in 1988.

Considered the "founding father" of organized soccer in Springfield, Gonulsen first developed the sport at the YMCA and later promoted its recognition at the varsity high school and junior college levels in the city. He also created Springfield's first semi-pro indoor soccer team, the Springfield Sparks (now the Spirits), in 1981. Gonulsen's involvement in the youth soccer leagues and summer camps has thousands of area children participating each year, and the numbers are growing.

Read more at UISPrairieStars.com.

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