They made me smile.
All the Facebook posts, that is, about the West Virginia Sports Legends Hall of Fame ceremonies at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center this past weekend.
Eight-seven folks were inducted.
Yes. Eighty-seven. As in 87.
“It was wonderful,” South Charleston High athletic director Bryce Casto, one of the 87, told me Monday.
Indeed, it’s a Mountain State sports of hall of fame that’s flourishing. A decade ago, state legend Tex Williams put together a gathering of 30 at the Beckley Shoney’s before moving the event to the Beckley Moose Lodge to, this past weekend, an overflow crowd at the Convention Center.
Which apparently featured smiles all around. Which put a smile on my face.
See, I used to be in the West Virginia Sports Writers Association and saw its hall of fame version struggle for years. There were cost issues of the plaques that hung largely unnoticed in the second floor of Charleston’s Civic Center.
Then, shockingly, the WVSPA turned down a 2010 offer from the city of South Charleston to build a $3.2 million facility to house the Hall. (“A true loss for West Virginia,” Casto said.)
Since, the Civic Center has been remodeled and the plaques shipped out. (“Fred Wyant said his was sent to Weston High,” Williams said. “There is no Weston High.”)
A Fayette Tribune article once said the “WVSWA aims to have a digital Hall of Fame display at the Charleston Civic Center. In addition, the members’ biographies and other details will be featured on an under-construction WVSWA website.” The article, though, appeared in 2017. Also, on Tuesday, the Civic Center’s John Robertson said they are “out of that business.”
“I’ve been going to the Victory Awards Dinner for 50 years,” Williams said. “I’ve probably only missed four or five. This year, they inducted Chris Smith and Randy Moss. And Randy didn’t even respond or show.
“We’re trying to piggyback on those failures.”
Casto pointed out Moss was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame faster. And in case you missed the news, in 2018, State Sen. Bob Beach, D-Monongalia, introduced Senate Bill 480, which would have created a new West Virginia Sports Hall of Fame.
Whatever the cases there, however, Williams’ version seems to be going swimmingly. While the sports writers’ hall is more exclusive, his is inclusive.
“We had close to 1,100 attend just for our hall of fame this past weekend,” said Tex. “You’ve got to reach out and connect.”
Williams’ Legends Hall directly connects with his Artie Museum, which he’s put together in a small town in Raleigh County. He houses decades worth of sports history and memorabilia. Perhaps more importantly, however, he’s brought people together.
When the museum opened in 2014, “The Logo” Jerry West was there, alongside ex-WVU basketball player and Logan High coach Willie Akers.
This past weekend? Basketball Hall of Fame member Rod Thorn was a speaker. Yes, Thorn was a great player, coach, NBA executive and Olympic committee chairman. Yet Williams had Thorn honor his father.
Also at the head table: Don Nehlen, Bob Pruett, Jay Jacobs, Wyant, Akers and Lonnie Warwick, among others. Former Moundsville High and WVU football standout Bill Underdonk was inducted. Businessmen like Tim DiPiero and Joey Holland have helped with the backing.
“This has grown like wildfire,” Tex, a former Marshall basketball player and popular in-state coach, said. “West Virginia has a great resource in its people nationally. It’s a shame we don’t bring them together and use those resources more.”
Casto said ex-Marshall coach Greg White said he saw more of his life influencers in those three hours than he’ll see the rest of his life.
“It’s a nice deal,” Casto said.
And next year? The event might move into the renovated Civic Center.
Which would be quite a twist.
And quite a nice way to welcome even more state legends and resources into the inclusive club.
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