As thousands of patrons file into Mizzou Arena, they pass by a tribute to MU’s greatest athletes. The Walsworth Family All-American Plaza, on the arena’s north side, honors past and present MU athletes who were named All-Americans.
“The idea behind the plaza is to recognize and honor our student-athletes who have brought prestige and great achievement to the university,” said Chad Moller, media relations director for the athletic department.
The distinction of All-American is granted to athletes who have excelled in their sport and is earned two ways: either a student-athlete finishes within a certain range of places at a championship event for the National Collegiate Athletics Association or a student-athlete is named to an All-American team by an outside voting body. For example, MU athletes have received All-American awards from organizations including the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association and the Football Writers Association of America.
“The vast majority of sports are awarded by voting panels, but sports such as track and field and cross country are won by results at NCAA championship events. For example, if you finish in the top eight at a track event, you are designated an All-American,” Moller said.
The plaza is named after Don Walsworth, an MU graduate and a current curator for the University of Missouri System. Walsworth serves on the intercollegiate athletics steering committee for the “For All We Call Mizzou” campaign. His company, Walsworth Publishing, is listed as donating $1 million or more.
An MU sports fan, Walsworth said he is honored to have the All-American wall named after him and his family.
“I think the Mizzou Arena is a beautiful facility and to be a little part of that is very special,” he said.
The plaza is decorated with flags, street lamps, a large brick M and the All-American wall, which features plaques of MU athletes from before 1940 to the present day, including Kevin DeForrest, who became the first swimming All-American at MU in 1979; Albert Lane, a 1984 four-time All-American hurdler; and Barb Wright, MU’s first softball player named to an All-American team.
At a capital review committee meeting in April, the athletics department requested the entry plaza and the All-American wall be dedicated to the Walsworth family and committed to pay all costs associated with creating the monument.
“We wanted to name it after him because his family made a gift to our capital campaign and have been lifelong supporters of Mizzou,” said Eric Morrison, director of external relations for the athletic department.
Naming opportunities for buildings and interior spaces require approval from the UM Board of Curators and the UM system president.
“For new buildings, we generally consider naming opportunities if the donation is equal to 50 percent of the required private funding for the building,” MU spokesman Jeremy Diener said.
Until November, Mizzou Arena was named the Paige Arena after Wal-Mart heiress Paige Laurie. Her parents, Bill and Nancy Laurie, gave $25 million toward the $75 million project, and in exchange for their donation, the Lauries received several concessions, including naming rights. The Lauries gave the naming rights to the curators after their daughter was implicated in a cheating scandal at the University of Southern California.
“Naming opportunities are important because they provide a legacy of the donor’s philanthropy for others to see,” Diener said. “This often serves as inspiration for others to follow.”