Two-time NCAA champion gymnast Jenni Beathard, record-setting placekicker Kevin Butler, All-America golfer Nick Cassini and basketball great Jarvis Hayes will comprise the Class of 2019 for induction into the University of Georgia’s Circle of Honor.
Beathard, Butler, Cassini and Hayes will be inducted formally during the Circle of Honor Gala on Friday, February 7, 2019 in the West End Zone area of Sanford Stadium. The class of 2019 will also be introduced on Dooley Field at a 2019 home football game to be determined.
The Circle of Honor is designed to pay tribute to extraordinary student-athletes and coaches who by their performance and conduct have brought honor to the university and themselves, and who by their actions have contributed to the tradition of the Georgia Bulldogs. The criteria for selection also stipulate that each recipient has earned his or her academic degree.
In the storied tradition of Georgia women’s gymnastics, Beathard ranks among the very best. The Altamonte Springs, Fla., arrived at UGA in the Fall of 1996, part of what was considered the best recruiting class in school history. With Beathard as a mainstay, this class made good on its considerable promise by winning NCAA team titles in two of its four years.
As a freshman in 1996, Beathard overcame chronic ankle injuries to earn All-America honors on the uneven bars, finishing second at the NCAA meet. The following year, she flourished as the team’s top entry on bars and its leadoff performer on the balance beam. Beathard posted a score of 9.950 to win the NCAA championship on bars. As a junior she continued her excellence on bars by earning her first career score of 10.0 in a tri-meet with Arizona and Michigan. She went on to claim the NCAA co-championship on the balance beam, one night after the Gym Dogs captured the fourth team title in program history.
Beathard capped her collegiate career earning All-America honors in both bars and beam in 1999, helping lead Georgia to a second straight NCAA team championship. During the season she recorded two more perfect 10.0 scores on bars, first against Florida and later against N.C. State in her final home competition. At season’s end Beathard won the American Athletic, Inc. (AAI) Award, given annually to the nation’s outstanding senior gymnast.
Beathard was equally accomplished as a student in the classroom. She earned Academic All-America honors as a senior in 1999 and was an Academic All-SEC honoree three straight years. Beathard earned her B.S. degree in Exercise and Sports Science in 2000.
The Stone Mountain native stepped into some tall shoes when he arrived on campus in 1981. He was tasked with replacing one of the school’s all-time great kickers, Rex Robinson, from a team that had just won the national championship.
Butler proceeded to build a storied career for himself over the next four seasons, earning All-America honors twice (1983, ’84) and All-SEC first-team honors three times (1981-83-84). He set a slew of school, SEC and NCAA records, several of which he still holds to this day. He kicked 11 career field goals over 50 yards, including three over 55 yards, and set an NCAA record with 27 multiple field-goal games. Early in his senior season, Butler became the SEC’s all-time leading scorer, a mark that stood for 14 years. However, he is perhaps best remembered for his school record-setting 60-yard field goal with 11 seconds left to defeat Clemson in 1984.
Butler was a key cog on Georgia teams that went 38-8-2 between 1981-84, won two SEC titles, and appeared in two Sugar Bowls, one Cotton Bowl, and one Citrus Bowl. He was a member of the All-Century teams selected by the Walter Camp Football Foundation, Sports Illustrated, and ABC Sports.
Butler was selected by the Chicago Bears in the 1985 NFL draft. During his 11-year career in the Windy City, he set 19 club records, including career points (1,116), career field goals (243), career extra points (387), and longest field goal (55 yards). In 1985, he set the team’s rookie record with 144 points, and he kicked three field goals in the Bears’ 46-10 victory over New England in Super Bowl XX. He finished his career with the Arizona Cardinals in 1996 and ’97 after compiling 1,208 points, sixth-most in NFL history among kickers.
Some 34 years after he left UGA to turn professional, Butler returned to campus and completed his degree in Economics in 2018.
Nick Cassini joined the UGA Golf program in 1998 and helped lead the squad to the program’s first national championship the following spring. He later earned First-Team All-America honors in 2001, becoming the 16th Bulldog with that designation. Cassini also was a Second-Team All-American in 2000.
A native Atlantan, Cassini was chosen as the SEC’s Player of the Year in 2001, when the Bulldogs claimed their second straight conference title. That same season he claimed medalist honors at the Schenkel Invitational, was named team captain and earned the program’s Dick Copas Award as the team leader in stroke average.
When his college career ended, Cassini ranked second in school history with the lowest season average (71.05) and lowest round (7-under) and fourth in career average (72.11). During his UGA career, he also represented the United States three times at the Palmer Cup and Walker Cup, a pair of Ryder Cup-style, international competitions featuring top collegians (Palmer) and amateurs (Walker).
Cassini earned his B.S. degree in Family and Consumer Sciences from UGA in the Spring of 2001. He will become the first Circle of Honor inductee to have played for the men’s golf program exclusively. John Carson, a 2003 inductee from the football program, also lettered in golf in 1951 and 1953. And 2006 inductee Dick Copas served as head coach of the men’s golf team from 1971-96.
In just two short seasons, Jarvis Hayes left quite a legacy at UGA. Not only was he an extraordinary leader on the court, but his personable demeanor also made him a favorite among the Bulldog Nation.
A native of Atlanta, Hayes and his twin brother Jonas transferred to Georgia in 1999, having played at Western Carolina as freshmen. After sitting out the 2001 season, Jarvis took the SEC by storm as a sophomore. He averaged a league-best 18.6 points per game in 2002, earning SEC Player of the Year honors by The Sporting News, Basketball America and CNNSI. Hayes again led the Bulldogs offensively in 2002-03 while averaging 18.3 points per game and reached 1,000 career points in just 55 games, six games quicker than UGA’s career scoring leader, Litterial Green.
Hayes helped Georgia to a combined 41-18 record in his two seasons, with an NCAA Tournament berth in 2002. He joined Dominique Wilkins to become just the second Bulldog to earn consensus first-team All-SEC honors two times. He also owns the unique distinction of having won scoring titles in two separate leagues: the SEC in 2002 and the Southern Conference in 2000.
Hayes was selected by the Washington Wizards with the No. 10 overall pick in the first round of the 2003 NBA Draft. He played seven seasons with Washington, Detroit and New Jersey, as well as two seasons internationally in Italy and Romania. Hayes also became a naturalized citizen of Qatar and played for the Qatari national team in 2013.
Hayes returned to UGA and completed his degree in Housing in 2014.