VHSL takes control of Hall of Fame
The Locker Room
By Dan Callahan
A major shakeup has taken place and it is long overdue, but hopefully worth the wait. The Virginia HIgh School League will now manage entirely the selection process of inductees for the VHSL Hall of Fame. Any previous nominations can now be re-submitted. The Hall of Fame selection committee will meet Wednesday, June 8 to select the Class of 2016. This process covers coaches, athletes, and others who deserve special recognition for their contributions.
I received a phone call from Pulaski County athletic director Scott Vest Wednesday afternoon and it was the good news I have been waiting on for years. Joel Hicks, and his 301 career victories, will have the chance to receive the honor he so richly deserves. He should have received the honor no later than 2004. I don’t want to rehash something I have commented on numerous times over the years, but Hicks was a victim of a bad system, a poorly executed responsibility, and personalities with power they should not have had.
“The VHSL will assume all responsibility for Hall of Fame inductions,” said Vest. “Mike Smith (Hampton head football coach) has been released of his responsibilities. Many people, not just Pulaski County, believe this change is long overdue. I believe now deserving athletes and coaches that have been repeatedly absent from induction will now receive the recognition they deserve. The process will be conducted by an unbiased group. It would be accurate to say we are very happy with this change at Pulaski County. Coach is a very special person. This needs to happen,” said Vest.
But it appears now that the most successful athletic coach in the history of Pulaski County will finally be honored with an induction into the Hall of Fame. It is not a guarantee, but a new system is in place, the old one is out, and the people in charge are new. The numbers don’t lie. There is no explanation for why Hicks is not in the Hall of Fame. There never has been. There are coaches in the Hall of Fame whose accomplishments pale in comparison to Hicks. If he’s not in it, it is not a Hall of Fame. But a huge hurdle has been eliminated with this decision. I and many fans in Pulaski County are hoping for a sound and very deserving decision by reasonable people. I’ll be surprised if it does not happen.
The effort to get this accomplished goes all the way back to former Pulaski County Superintendent of Schools, Kenneth J. Dobson, and it has continued over the years only to run into the same roadblock over and over. It was frustrating to say the least, but the effort continued, and if something is right, something that is deserving, is never allowed to go away until the right thing is done, there will be victory in the end. The push for Hicks to be inducted into the Hall of Fame never stopped.
I also want to thank all the people over the years that joined in the effort. There were former rival coaches, former administrators at competing high schools, former players, and a bunch of Cougar football fans and friends who stayed the course, but this last push began at a meeting in Charlottesville between then VHSL executive secretary Ken Tilley and Pulaski County School Board chairman Mike Barbour. Barbour made his feelings very apparent concerning Hicks and the Hall of Fame. Early in the current school term Vest renewed the effort, and with the endorsement of Superintendent of Schools Dr. Tom Brewster, and Barbour the effort began once again. All the materials, and accomplishments were packaged again and sent to the committee, but we had heard nothing until Wednesday, however, the powers that be knew Pulaski County was upset, had been upset for years, and would continue to be upset until a wrong was righted. Apparently, there were problems elsewhere as well.
But all the time and effort is going to be satisfied in this opinion, and all the people over the years that joined in the effort with letters, phone calls, trips, conferences, and continued nominations, I thank you because it is the respect and appreciation that Hicks has long deserved, and it is the respect that the Pulaski County football program deserves, all its coaches and players over the years. It will be a happy and proud day for them as well.
It was on the eve of the state championship game in Richmond in 1992. I had written a Locker Room column during the week prior to the state title game, and stated it again on a regional television station. I said; “Joel Hicks has always coached his team to be a champion, prepared his team to play like a champion, and has required his team to act like a champion. If he gets that state championship tomorrow it is for one reason, and one reason only. He deserves it.” He got it.
I believe that when June 8 rolls around Joel Hicks will receive a landslide vote into the VHSL Hall of Fame. The reason? He deserves it.