MORGANTOWN — It’s been a long time coming, from all the way back in the 1930s, when they were known as the Hilltoppers, their school perched at the pinnacle of North Price Street, through the decades, when they became the Hilltopper Hawks in 1973, then just the Hawks a year later.
University High athletics has always managed to shine brightly despite the enormous challenge of a lack of home field for nearly every team in nearly every sport for nearly every season. But in 2008, it finally relocated to its spacious new campus on Bakers Ridge Road, replete with a state of the art gym, weight training facility and in Mylan Pharmaceutical Stadium, perhaps the prettiest location for football, soccer and lacrosse in the state.
And still, there’s been a final piece missing, a crimson and gold ribbon to tie up the rich history of UHS athletics from its nascent years to the present.
Missing until now.
The inaugural class of the University High School Sports Hall of Fame will be inducted at 4:30 p.m. Friday in the Gold Gym at UHS before the Hawks football team takes on Wheeling Park, and for athletic director Jeff Bailey (who’s celebrating his 20th year as AD), it’s been a dream come true.
“For years, I’ve been traveling to other schools, seeing their Hall of Fame displays, knowing that we should have one at University, too,” he said. “I’d ask how they did theirs, the criteria, all of it. And once we got the ball rolling late last year, with the help of Kim Greene, our principal, and the other members of the Hall of Fame committee, it all fell together pretty quickly. We knew we didn’t have to reinvent the wheel, just put our own unique system in place that worked best for us.”
That system includes a
10-member class of 2018, with up to five-member classes every year thereafter, with special attention given to different eras, different sports, and recognition extended to athletes who’ve been graduated for at least a decade, plus coaches, administrators, and support personnel who are retired. Once nominated, individuals will remain on future ballots forever for consideration in future inductions.
Committee Chairman Pat Ryan, who taught history for 20 years at UHS before retiring nine years ago, but who still runs the stadium clock Friday nights, was honored and thrilled to be a part of the process.
“You know, the best Hall of Fame for my money is the National Baseball Hall of Fame,” he said. “That first class, with Cobb, Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson, it just takes your breath away. There’s magic in that first-ever group. And that’s what we wanted to bring to our first class at UHS. That feeling of awe for the incredible accomplishments of the very best of the best.
“It was so difficult to whittle the list down to ten,” he continued, “because there are just so many tremendous names to choose from, and from all eras and sports, too. Of course, our greatest fear is that we’ve left someone deserving off, but we’re just as thrilled to be starting a new tradition that will carry on for years and years.”
“I can’t tell you how excited we all are for this first celebration,” Bailey said, “but we’re just as excited for the future of the UHS Hall of Fame, especially the nomination process. We want this to be all about honoring those individuals who have been exceptional in their investment and commitment to University High athletics throughout its history. We want the entire UHS community — from parents to coaches to fans to the athletes themselves –— to be involved and engaged, and we will accept nominations every year.
“There are so many who deserve to be honored,” he concluded, “so many who’ve loved University High and its athletic programs, and we can’t wait to get started giving some of that love back.”