Tribute to Jim Hayes

There are two times in an athlete’s career that I think are the most special. One is the look in Mom and Dad’s eyes when you offer a kid a scholarship to come play ball at UTA. That’s their dream. Kids that haven’t had the opportunity in years past to do what their able-bodied peers do – compete for an athletic scholarship. In our population, with all the medical bills and therapy and everything else that goes with injuries, there’s not a lot of money going around to send kids to college. The second one has to be watching them go across the stage at graduation. You know they’ve got a degree and their life is going to be much brighter than before they came here. The championships along the way, seeing them make First-Team. All American, seeing them selected for Team USA, stuff like that, those are just pats on the back for your hard work.

-Coach Jim Hayes, UT-Arlington Shorthorn, February, 2008.

Graduates from Paschal High School and prepares to join the army.
On his eighteenth birthday, he suffers a broken neck in a diving accident at Lake Benbrook in Fort Worth, Texas.
Enrolls in Tarrant County Junior College in Fort Worth. Despite poor grades in high school, he becomes an excellent student, involved in many campus activities. He is voted Student Body President of TCJC two years in a row.
Graduates from TCJC and transfers to UTA, choosing History as his major since it was one of the only buildings that was wheelchair accessible at the time. He is one of five wheelchair-bound students on campus.
UTA Handicapped Students Association is organized. They developed a proposal for a barrier-free campus. Funding from the Texas Rehabilitation Commission and UTA was utilized to make the campus a “model of accessibility”
Handicapped Administrators Day: Where Wendell Nedderman, Wayne Duke, and Dudley Wetzel attempted to push across campus in a Wheelchair. None of the made it. This began the vision of UTA as an accessible campus.
Department of Educational Support Services is established at UTA with grant money from the Texas Rehabilitation Commission. Jim Hayes, now a UTA graduate, is hired as program co-coordinator.
Part of the grant money from TRC is used to evolve physical education classes for the handicapped. In addition begins the Freewheelers wheelchair basketball team in the fall of 1976.
Some of the first scholarships awarded to disabled students based on academic excellence.
Student Congress, UTA students, and private donors help raise over $4,000 to send Jim Hayes, Randy Snow, and Chris Cooper to Stoke, England. In October of that year the FreeWheelers program officially becomes part of the Athletic Council at UTA.
Hayes pushes his Track chair 205 miles from Austin to Maverick stadium to build awareness, and to raise money for the Arlington Handicapped Society.
Hayes has enough players to create two teams: FreeWheelers blue, and FreeWheelers white.
Former FreeWheeler, Wheelchair Track, and US Rugby player Andy Beck is killed while crossing Cooper Street on his way to his first night of Graduate classes.
Later that year the Andrew David Beck Memorial Athletic scholarship is established by the Handicapped Students Association. This is the first full scholarship for adaptive sports. It is also heavily based on financial need. Also as a result of Beck`s accident the university devises a plan to lower Cooper Street, the state highway that bisects UTA, and install three pedestrian bridges.
The team begins a new era with a new name The Movin` Mavs. By the mid 1990s there are 6 full scholarships in place. The team wins national titles in 1991, 1992, 1993,1994, 1997, 2002, 2006.
Extra funding is approved for a wheelchair tennis program.
Jim Hayes passes away in August, leaving a legacy that has changed so many lives, and still provides so many opportunities.

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