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.”
NOTE: This is the 11th installment in a series introducing the AHSAA Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2015. Look for the final inductee Ron Ingram’s profile Friday. The 25th AHSAA HOF Banquet is set for March 23 at the Montgomery Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center.
By BILL PLOTT
Veteran AHSAA track and field official James Houston Young graduated from Uniontown High School in 1963 and Livingston University in 1968. He also holds a master’s degree from the University of Montevallo.
It was at Livingston, now the University of West Alabama, where he was introduced to track and field. In his junior year he went from manager on the football team to a sprinter and jumper on the college’s inaugural track team. He was captain of the team his senior.
He started his teaching career at Beatrice High school in 1968 but only remained there a year. He then took a job as a department store salesman for a year, returning to education in 1970.
His new position was at Lowndes County Training School where he taught for a year. In 1971 he moved to Selma High School as a driver education teacher, football assistant and head track coach. He started a cross country team at the school, compiling a dual meet record of 47-6.
In 1979 he moved over to Selma’s Wallace State Community College where he remained as an administrator until he retired in 2001. He has received service awards from the Alabama Veterans Association and the National Association of Veterans Program Administration.
When he started teaching at Beatrice in 1968, he also started officiating track events. He has continued ever since. He has worked at every state track meet since that first year and currently serves as state meet director for all AHSAA track and field events.
He was named AHSAA Southwest District Official of the Year and AHSAA State Track Official of the Year in 2008. He received the National High School Federation Citation Award for Officiating in 2010.
Young, who will be inducted into the AHSAA Hall of Fame’s Class of 2015 March 23, has also worked as a starter and official at numerous Southeastern Conference, NCAAA and Junior Olympic events. He ran in the Vulcan Marathon in Birmingham in 1979.
His work in track and field has been so respected that he was selected as one of the torch bearers for the 1996 Olympic Games. Young joined nine other bearers in carrying the torch to Atlanta. His leg of the journey was through downtown Selma. The torch he carried is displayed in his home.
“The biggest excitement was when my torch was originally lit,” he recalled in an interview several years ago. “It was exciting to know that everyone who was in the Olympics had their eyes on me. You have so much adrenaline built up that you go faster than you realize. When I got ready to pass off the torch, I wished I had run a little slower to enjoy one more minute of the run.”
Michelle Russ, director of sales with the Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Sports Commission, wrote of his work with that organization: “I have known Houston for seven years and I can tell you, without hesitation, that he is one of the finest people I have ever met. Houston has worked closely with the AHSAA, the City of Gulf Shores and the Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Sports Commission since 2007 on the AHSAA Outdoor Track Championships. Houston not only worked to attract the event to the area but also works year round to plan for this incredible event. He shares his time, knowledge and enthusiasm with all parties involved in the track championships to make sure the event is a huge success. In 2012, under that guidance of Houston Young, the City of Gulf Shores designed and built a new track facility for the citizens and athletes of the state of Alabama to enjoy.
“Houston routinely takes the time to help the community and young athletes from across the state. In fact, Houston’s presence in our community has impacted many around him. Houston volunteers his time on a regular basis. He shows leadership skills during difficult times, excellent problem-solving skills and has a real team-first attitude. Houston Young is an asset to Alabama high school athletics, regional track programs and the Gulf Shores and Orange Beach community.”
Grant Brown, director of Gulf Shores Recreation and Cultural Affairs, also commented on Young’s work: “On the professional side, Houston has been instrumental in the growth of track and field in south Alabama and most specifically, Gulf Shores. His knowledge and ability to expertly coordinate officials, coaches, athletes, volunteers and the facility staff is a testament to his expertise. In addition, when faced with the need to renovate our aging track facilities, Houston’s knowledge and passion led the way, helping us improve and expand our facility. Our city spent nearly $1 million and now has a state-of-the-art track capable of hosting the highest level events. We currently host the AHSAA Track and Field State Championships, NAIA National Outdoor Track and Field Championships, and the Sun Belt Conference Championships. Houston is Meet Manager at each of those prestigious events and handles them with excellence.
“Personally I have not met a more gracious, dedicated man who truly does what he does for the love of the sport and the people involved. I cannot think of a more worthy person to be recognized [in] the distinguished list of hall of fame inductees. He will represent that elite fraternity well.”
NOTE: This is the tenth installment in a series introducing the AHSAA Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2015. Look for veteran track & field official Houston Young’s profile Thursday. The 25th AHSAA HOF Banquet is set for March 23 at the Montgomery Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center.
By BILL PLOTT
Bobby Wright was graduated from Buena Vista (GA) High School in 1970 and Fort Valley State College in 1974.
He began his teaching and coaching career in 1975 at Carver High School in Columbus, GA. He was head track coach and an assistant in football and basketball.
In 1977 he moved across the Chattahoochee River to Central High School in Phenix City. At Central he taught, coached and chaired the Health and Physical Education Department over the years. He added athletic director to his duties in 1998.
His first basketball team went 19-9 in 1989-90 advancing to the sub-state. In 26 years as boys’ basketball coach, Coach Wright has had 24 winning seasons and 15 squads with 20 or more wins. His teams have averaged more than 20 wins per season in compiling a 546-185 record, including 22-4 in 2015 and a Central Regional tournament runner-up finish. He collected his 500th win in the Shaw Christmas Tournament last year. During his career his Central teams have won17 area championships and appeared in 20 sub-state tournaments, advancing to the quarterfinals 10 times and the semifinals five times. The 1998-99 team was Class 6A state runner-up.
Basketball has been a dominant factor in Wright’s home life, also. His wife Carolyn has been the girls’ basketball coach at Central since 1991. She won her 400th game in 2013.
Wright was named coach of the year by local newspapers numerous times.
In football, he served as defensive coordinator for 25 years. Central had only two losing seasons during that time. Opponents were held to single digits in scoring against Central 16 times. Fifty-nine shutouts were recorded by his defensive squads. Central won the Class 6A state championship in 1993 with him as defensive coordinator.
Former football Coach Wayne Trawick wrote of Wright’s value to his team: “Coach Wright became our defensive coordinator in 1984 after serving several years as position coach on defense. Selecting Bobby as our defensive coordinator was certainly one of the best decisions I made during my tenure at Central High School. He was a great motivator and was so good in getting the best effort from each young man he coached. His tough love approach to his coaching style was well accepted by our players. They respected him and loved him. Bobby’s preparation for each game was excellent.
“We hired Coach Wright as our head basketball coach for the 1989-90 school year. He had served under Coach James Redd for several years as our B-team coach and varsity assistant. He not only continued the tradition Coach Redd had built at Central, he improved it. [He has] the most wins by a Central basketball coach in school history. I’m sure that number will go up considerably before he retires.
“Bobby works tirelessly in helping athletes in football and basketball get to the next level, and Central certainly has had quite a number to achieve that.”
Retired principal William G. Hayes wrote: “It was my privilege to work with Coach Bobby Wright from 1984 until 1986…Coach Wright is very cognizant of the importance of both education and athletics. He has devoted his life to the development of both and in particular to education and athletics at Central High School. I have observed Coach Wright as a teacher, football coach, and head varsity basketball coach. In fact, it was my privilege to name Coach Wright head varsity basketball coach at Central. His knowledge and leadership skills have established and maintained a very competitive program that is recognized throughout the state of Alabama.
“Coach Wright possesses a profound ability to motivate student athletes. I have often observed students with all odds stacked against them become successful because of Coach Wright’s drive and determination n working with them. He would accept nothing but their best, no excuses. While I could recount for you statistics, accomplishments and honors, nothing is as important as the positive impact he has made and continues to make on so many young lives.
Hayes said being selected to the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame is an honor that Coach Wright is very deserving of. “But, if you were to ask him, he would probably say seeing a young student-athlete grow, mature and succeed in the classroom and on the field of play is reward enough.”
Alabama and Mississippi High School All-Star Teams report for the 25th annual Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Basketball Games Wednesday at 2 p.m. in Montgomery.
Mississippi’s boys’ and girls’ squads will practice at Huntingdon College Wednesday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Alabama’s teams will practice at the Cramton Bowl Multiplex during the same time period.
The 25th annual Alabama-Mississippi Games will be played at Alabama State University’s Dunn-Oliver Acadome March 20 with the girls tipping off at 5 p.m., followed by the boys at 7. The games will be broadcast live over the AHSAA Radio Network and will be video live-streamed by the NFHS Network.
The games were played in Mississippi for the first time since 2002 last year, but return to Alabama this year. The games rotated between the two states from 1991-2002 but moved to Pelham Convention Center in 2003 where they remained through 2011. Alabama State hosted the games at Dunn-Oliver Acadome in 2012 and 2013.
Alabama won the boys’ game last year 90-83 with Mississippi winning the girls’ game 95-89. The Alabama boys now hold a 13-11 edge in the series while the girls’ series is even at 12-12.
Coaches for the Alabama girls’ squad are Donnie Roberts of Red Bay and LaKenya Knight of Jeff Davis. Roberts, 64, is the state’s all-leading career wins leader for girls’ basketball with an 835-347 slate over 42 seasons. He directed Red Bay (25-9) to the Class 2A state championship in 2015 and was 2A runner-up in 2014. Knight, 41, coached Jeff Davis (31-4) to the AHSAA’s first Class 7A state title this season. She has compiled a 219-66 record in 12 seasons. Brenda Mayes of Muscle Shoals is the administrative coach.
Coaches for Alabama’s boys are Hoover High School’s Charles Burkett and Obadiah Threadgill IV of Lafayette. Burkett directed the Bucs (27-9) to the Class 7A state championship winning 50-43 in the finals to beat two-time state champion Mountain Brook. Threadgill, 78-36 in four seasons, directed LaFayette (25-5) to the Class 2A state championship with a 69-39 win over defending champion Elba in the finals. He is the son of Notasulga coaching legend Obadiah Threadgill III. Burkett’s career record was unavailable. Jamie Lee of Decatur is the administrative coach.
Mississippi boys’ head coach is Calvin Brown of East Marion and girls’ head coach is Patricia Wilson.
Alabama’s rosters and Mississippi’s rosters can be found at www.ahsaa.com.
The practice itinerary is listed below.
2015 ALABAMA-MISSISSIPPI ALL-STARS
DAILY PRACTICE AND
Wednesday, 3/18/2015 Thursday, 3/19/2015 Friday, 3/20/2015
Morning Practice Afternoon Shoot Around
9:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. 1:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
AL Boys @ CB MS Girls @ ASU 1:30-2:00
AL Girls @ CB MS Boys @ ASU 2:00-2:30
MS Boys @ HC AL Girls @ ASU 2:30-3:00
MS Girls @ HC AL Boys @ ASU 3:00-3:30
Afternoon Practice Afternoon Practice Games
4:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. 2:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
MS Girls @ HC AL Girls @ FU 5:00 p.m.
MS Boys @ HC AL Boys @ CB AL/MS Girls @ ASU
AL Boys @ CB MS Boys @ HC
AL Girls @ CB MS Girls @ HC
AL/MS Boys @ ASU
Evening Practice @ ASU
7:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. MS
8:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. AL
HC – Huntingdon College
FU – Faulkner University
CB – Cramton Bowl Multiplex
ASU – Dunn-Oliver Acadome on the campus of Alabama State University
NOTE: This is the ninth installment in a series introducing the AHSAA Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2015. Look for Central-Phenix City Coach Bobby Wright’s profile Wednesday. Tickets for the 25th AHSAA HOF Banquet set for March 23 at the Montgomery Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center are still available to the public by calling 334-263-6994 by March 16. Tickets will not be sold at the door and mail order ticket deadline has passed.
By BILL PLOTT
Montgomery native John Tatum, Jr., graduated from Robert E. Lee High School in 1964 and Troy State University in 1969. He also holds a masters degree from Georgia State University.
The AHSAA Hall of Fame Class of 2015 inductee began his teaching and coaching career at Everitt Junior High School in Pensacola, FL, where he was an assistant coach in football and track for six years. He then moved to Walker High School in DeKalb County, GA, serving as head football and track coach for four years. His football record was 24-17-1 with three playoff appearances. In 1983 he moved to Norcross, GA, for a year.
In 1984 he became athletic director, head football and track coach at Montgomery Academy, a position he would hold for the next 23 years. He started out winning with his first team compiling a 7-3 record and a trip to the state playoffs.
Winning seasons and playoff appearances became a regular feature of Montgomery Academy football during his tenure. His record of 146-78 included 18 trips to the playoffs where his record was 40-17.
He had two undefeated regular seasons at MA, 1987 and 2006. The 1987 team finished 14-0, a school record for wins, and won the Class 1A state championship. The 2006 squad advanced to the quarterfinals of the playoffs, finishing with a 12-1 record. Two other teams made it to the quarterfinals and three to the semifinals. Tatum had nine area/region champions.
Current Montgomery Academy athletic director and head football coach Anthony McCall said Tatum has strongly impacted the way he does his job today. “I have had the pleasure of knowing John Tatum for the past 19 years. In addition to serving as my athletic director for 13 of those years, I was also a member of his varsity football coaching staff for five seasons. I am currently serving in the same positions John held at the Montgomery Academy prior to his resignation in 2007. Much of what I do each day in service to the Montgomery Academy community is a result of the great example he set for me to follow. His life of integrity and strong work ethic have made a significant impact on my life and career, and I attribute much of my transition into my present leadership role to him.
“Although John has made a profound impression on my development, I would be remiss if I didn’t’ mention his love and commitment to the players he coached and the men and women that served under his leadership. He consistently demonstrated how much he cared for his players with a stern, paternal love that impacted countless student-athletes, including my son. He taught his players to compete and win without doing it at all cost. He helped them to understand the importance of athletics as a means to enhance their maturation and development into productive citizens. He is loved and admired by many of his former players and employees because of his consistency, loyalty, and genuine friendship. There are not many men that I would recommend accolades for their life’s work, but I enthusiastically recommend John Tatum for the Hall of Fame.”
Archie Douglas, principal at Pacific Collegiate School in Santa Cruz, CA, and a former colleague, wrote; “I worked with John from 2001-2007, and I can say with confidence that he represents the finest virtues that attend the alignment of athletics and education. John can coach anything. He has the innate ability to motivate young people to reach beyond their comfort zones, to build a team around its particular strengths, and to bring out the best in his assistant coaches. For years, despite his humility, he was MA football. Generations of young men who played for him remember him with tremendous fondness and fierce loyalty, not so much for the lessons he taught them about football but for the preparation he gave them for life.
“As athletic director, John always had time for students, parents and anyone else. Though he continued to coach football, he was a strong advocate for all sports – for boys and girls – and he oversaw the emergence and growth of strong soccer, track, cross country and golf teams at MA during our years together without detriment to already prominent programs in tennis, football, basketball, volleyball and baseball.
“He advanced strength training and conditioning for all students with great foresight, resulting in a significant decrease in serious injuries in interscholastic sports as well as a significantly more effective physical education program.
“John was legendary at the academy for his humble kindness and generosity, for his commitment to every student, and for his fierce devotion to fairness and sportsmanship. Most of all, however, he was known for his integrity. In the years that I knew him, nothing mattered more to John than doing the right thing. He taught that to me, he taught it to my sons – both of them athletes – and he taught it to everyone his work touched. That single, unwavering aspect of his character has, I venture to say, contributed significantly to every successful athlete and team with which he has been associated.”
Former assistant coach Tim Bethea recalled Tatum’s relationship with his players. “When John got on a player at practice, he always followed up with an encouraging conversation after practice. He made sure the player did not lose confidence.”
After retiring from coaching, Tatum served as a consultant for Learning Through Sports Star Sportsmanship Program and as principal of St. James High School for a year.
NOTE: This is the eighth installment in a series introducing the AHSAA Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2015. Look for football coach John Tatum’s profile Tuesday. Tickets for the 25th AHSAA HOF Banquet set for March 23 at the Montgomery Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center are still available to the public by calling 334-263-6994 by March 16. Tickets will not be sold at the door and mail order ticket deadline has passed.
By BILL PLOTT
A native of Sylacauga, Philip Stephen Rivers graduated from Sylacauga High School in 1967 and Mississippi State in 1971. An all-round athlete at Sylacauga, he played football under AHSAA Hall of Fame Coach Tom Calvin and also participated in basketball and tennis, captaining all three teams his senior years. He won the state tennis doubles championship in 1967 and was all-county in both football and basketball. He played in the North-South All-Star game in 1967, an event he would later coach.
He received a scholarship to Mississippi State University where he played football and was later a graduate assistant.
He started his teaching and coaching career as an assistant football coach at Decatur High School in 1972. He got his early training as a football coach under another AHSAA Hall of Famer, Earl Webb. He also served as tennis coach for four years and as assistant basketball coach for a year.
Coach Rivers got his first head football coach job at Pelham High School in 1979. In two years at Pelham he compiled a 9-11 record.
In 1981 he returned to Decatur, this time as head football coach. After two struggling years, he turned the program around, producing a 6-4 mark in 1983 and a 10-3 record in 1985. He had had additional 10 and 11-win seasons as Decatur went to the state playoffs eight times. Two of his teams advanced to the quarterfinals. His overall record at Decatur was 103-59.
While at Decatur he was instrumental in establishing the first weight room, building a new field house and installing new full-length practice field.
After 15 years at Decatur, he moved to Athens where he had four straight winning seasons and state playoff appearances. Three of those teams had double digit wins and two of them advanced to the quarterfinals of the playoffs. While at Athens he was instrumental in the installation of a new dressing room, weight room and practice fields.
In 2000 he retired from coaching in Alabama, moving to a brand new high school in Wakefield, NC. In four years he carried Wakefield from a JV-only beginning to the semifinals of the of the largest school state playoffs. His record there was 36-16 with three playoff appearances.
Also, in Wakefield, he and his wife Joan watched their son Philip, who quarterbacked his dad’s Athens team, play football at North Carolina State. Philip has spent the past several years as the starting quarterback of the San Diego Chargers in the National Football League.
An athletic family, their son Stephen has been a quarterback in the SEC, playing at LSU for three years. He earned his degree in three years and played the 2014 season at Vanderbilt while attending graduate school. Their daughter Anna is an avid tennis player.
“Current Decatur head football coach, Jere Adcock, wrote about his experience as an assistant under Rivers. “Coach Rivers’ greatest contributions as a coach were not in the win and loss column, but rather in the lives of his players and assistant coaches. His teams were known for hard hitting defenses, sound kicking game, and the ability to run the football. He took less than average players and made them play average. He took average players and made them play good and took good players and made them play great. He demanded academic success out of them and emphasized it continuously. He focused young men to play for the name of their school and not seek individual notoriety. H had a unique ability to mesh the talented and untalented into a team that played together. A plaque in the field house in his honor has the following inscription written by his former players:
“ ‘Leader, gentleman, father figure – Coach Rivers was a master at getting the most out of his players, teaching us to play as one, to love and respect the man next to you like a brother, and that life was more than football. Many of the attributes we carry today are a credit to him and his leadership. His passion and love for the game are the reasons we were successful on the field as players and in the game of life.’”
Adcock added, “He taught his coaches also. When his assistant coaches took a head coaching position they were prepared for the task….When discussing Coach Rivers we all refer to his soundness of fundamental football, his handling of players, and his competitive spirit. As he coached players he also coached us. We marveled at how he handled players. He knew when to press and when to back off. He taught us the responsibility of a teacher and to respect the authorities that had given us our jobs. Just as he taught the players that there was more to life than football, he taught coaches the same thing.
“One of my favorite stories occurred when one of our coaches did not stop to greet his wife after a frustrating loss. Coach Rivers told him to go back and see her. He impressed upon him the importance of family over football. Another time we suffered a frustrating loss that occurred because a player decided to go against a play designed to stop the clock. In the Sunday film session and team meeting, Coach Rivers talked about seeing one of our players as an altar boy at church and the importance of things like that over football. That young man later became a priest.”