NOTE: This is the final installment in a series introducing the AHSAA Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2015. Congratulations to the 12 selected for this year’s induction. The 25th AHSAA HOF Banquet is set for March 23 at the Montgomery Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center.
By BILL PLOTT
“Ron Ingram is Mr. High School Sports!” Steve Savarese, Executive Director of the Alabama High School Athletic Association, said it unequivocally.
In his letter supporting Ingram’s nomination to the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame, Savarese described Ron as “a great ambassador for this Association and the entire Alabama high school sports community.”
Ingram has been a shining example of what high school athletics is all about from his playing days to his careers in journalism and with the Alabama High School Athletic Association.
A native of Brundidge, Ingram graduated from Pike County High School in 1970. He attended Troy University for two years, and then transferred to the University of Alabama where he graduated in 1974 with a degree in journalism/public relations and a minor in radio/TV.
His love of high school sports was born in Brundidge at a young age.
“I learned at any early age, while watching my brothers play, just how fascinating the passion of high school sports is,” he recalled. “I personally participated in four sports in high school and loved them all. I guess I have loved it ever since. When I became a sports writer, I began to understand more fully why the passion exists, where it comes from and how it drives student-athletes to accomplish more than they ever imagined possible.
“The men and women who coach high school sports are missionaries of sorts, teaching life lessons, building character and sense of family commitment while molding kids from a wide array of backgrounds into focusing on a common goal. The communities sense it and respond accordingly.
“I was fortunate to be able to tell that story through my role as a journalist for the past 40 years. And now that I am working even more closely with the men and women who give so much to this mission, I love and understand it even more.”
His first job out of college was as an account executive with the Earl Hutto Advertising Agency. He soon found a position with The Dothan Progress, a weekly newspaper, as sports editor. It was a dramatic turning point for both his career and for the promotion of high school sports in Alabama.
While cover local sports for the Progress, Ron started and managed the Alabama Sports Writers Association All-State Football Team in 1978. The process brought together numerous media representatives to compile a team based on merit more than regional preferences. This was quickly expanded to include an ASWA All-State Basketball Team each year.
During the regular season of first football and then basketball and baseball, the ASWA began publishing weekly rankings of teams in each classification. The eagerly-awaited rankings added another element of excitement and anticipation to the various sports.
In 1981 Ingram moved over to The Dothan Eagle where he served as sports editor for three years, earning several writing awards from the ASWA, the Alabama Press Association and The Alabama Associated Press Association.
He joined The Birmingham News in 1985 and the resources of the state’s biggest newspaper allowed him to expand even further his passion for high school athletics. He continued chairing the Alabama Sports Writers Association teams for football and basketball but soon expanded to include baseball, volleyball, soccer and softball, sports that were often overlooked on a statewide level.
While in Birmingham he helped the Alabama Sports Writers Association initiate the Mr. Football, Mr. & Miss Basketball, Mr. Baseball & Miss Softball Awards, which have recognized the most outstanding athletes in those sports each year. During his 22 years at The Birmingham News, Ingram won the ASWA Sweepstakes Award twice (19887, 1994), the Bill Shelton Award (2005) signifying the ASWA Sports Writer of the Year. In 2006 he also received the John W. Russell Ambassador of the Game Award from the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He was inducted into the Wiregrass Sports Hall of Fame in 2009 and was named the Auburn University Journalism Advisory Council’s Distinguished Community Journalist of the Year in 2012. The Alabama Sports Writers Association inducted him into its Hall of Fame in 2013.
In 2007 Ingram joined the Alabama High School Athletic Association as Communications Director.
“Throughout my career in high school athletics, I have been privileged to work with some of the finest men and women in the field. This group includes coaches, officials, administrators, and AHSAA contributors who all have had one common trait – a desire to excel and to make a difference in the lives of those they serve. One of those individuals is Ron Ingram,” wrote Savarese. “He is an outstanding administrator, a dedicated professional, and a human thesaurus relating to high school sports information in the state of Alabama.
“He [has been] inducted into the Alabama Sports Writers Hall of Fame. Without a doubt he is the most respected sports writer in the state of Alabama. Additionally, Ron served or is serving on many National Federation of State High School Association (NFHS) committees including but not limited to the NFHS Hall of Fame selection committee and the Records Committee. His lifetime of experiences and expertise has provided countless people lasting enjoyment and lifelong memories.”