Chuck Landon: More local inductees needed at sports hall
CHARLESTON — While sitting at the 68th Victory Awards Dinner a week ago, there was plenty of time to browse the list of inductees in the West Virginia Sports Hall of Fame.
That’s when it hit me.
There is a glaring lack of athletes and coaches from Marshall University, in particular, and the Huntington area, in general, in this state Hall of Fame.
The much-deserved induction of Marshall football coaching icon Bobby Pruett here last Sunday increased the total to 19.
Only 19. Out of a total of 176.
That’s only 10.8 percent from a community nicknamed “Title Town” for all its high school state championships, not to mention the exploits of athletes and coaches from Marshall.
Remember, there are only two major college athletic programs in the state of West Virginia — WVU and Marshall. Yet, this area has just 19 of the 176 inductees in the state’s only sports Hall of Fame?
That’s more than a little disproportionate. Particularly considering it had been 43 years since a former Marshall coach had been voted into the West Virginia Sports Hall of Fame, until Pruett was inducted.
Forty-three years. Until Pruett, the last Marshall coach to join our state’s lone sports hall of fame was Jule Rivlin in 1971. Before that it was Cam Henderson in 1955.
Those are the only three Marshall coaches in the state Hall of Fame. They are joined by a total of just nine former Marshall athletes. The list includes such football players as Jackie Hunt, Gunner Gatski, John Zontini, Norm Willey and Bill Young. Herd basketball is represented by Hal Greer, Leo Byrd, Charlie Slack and Walt Walowac.
As for the Huntington area, the West Virginia Sports Hall of Fame includes such connections as Lewis D’Antoni, father of Danny and Mike, who is from Mullens, W.Va., and coached at Chespeake High School; Ray McCoy, track and field icon; Carl Ward, highly successful coach at now defunct Ceredo-Kenova High School; Berridge Long Copen, former golf great; Buzz Nutter, Vinson grad who went onto stardom with the NFL Baltimore Colts; Bill Campbell, amateur golf icon; and Frank Loria, a Clarksburg native who perished in the Marshall plane crash as an assistant coach after an All-American career at Virginia Tech.
Browse that list of 19 names again.Obviously, the list of inductees is in need of modernization.
The good news is help should be on the way. Former Marshall and New England Patriots’ star wide receiver Troy Brown became eligible in 2013. Carl Lee, a South Charleston native and MU alum who spent 12 years as a top-flight cornerback in the NFL with three Pro Bowl appearances, is eligible and deserves induction.
Chad Pennington becomes eligible in 2015 as does John Wade, who spent 12 years in the NFL. Basketball star Jason Williams is eligible in 2016, Randy Moss in 2018 and Byron Leftwich in 2018.
They should be first-ballot inductees. And don’t forget veteran basketball coach Sonny Allen, a Moundsville, W.Va., native who played at Marshall with Leo Byrd.
Then, there are such pioneers in collegiate athletic administration as Dot Hicks, who still is a champion of women’s athletics, and the late Ed Starling, who was one of the first Afro-American officials in state history. There are many worthy candidates for the West Virginia Sports Hall of Fame from Marshall and the Huntington area.
It’s time to start recognizing them.
Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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