THE OHIO Valley Athletic Conference once again puts its best foot forward Saturday night with the enshrinement of the 10th class into its Hall of Fame.
THE OVAC is the largest functioning conference in the nation. It is also one of the finest. The Hall of Fame -- headquartered at Wheeling's WesBanco Arena -- was initiated to pay tribute to its glorious and tradition-rich past.
And what a past it is.
The OVAC is embarking on its 71st year of operation. During that time, the conference has played host to countless ultra-talented prep athletes. Many of whom went on to collegiate stardom and professional fame.
The OVAC Hall of Fame is more than just a shrine to honor athletes. The Hall is totally encompassing. Not only are former athletes honored, they are joined by worthy coaches, media, officials and family members (those who serve the conference in selfless fashion.)
The OVAC covers all bases.
Saturday night will feature the induction of 20 more individuals.
This year's inductees include:
OVAC 'Family' - Thomas E. Rataiczak (Bellaire), OVAC Executive Secretary/Treasurer; OVAC 'Contributor' - Tim McCoy (Jefferson Union) of WTOV-TV9; Media - Richard "Hoot" Gibson (St. Clairsville) of The Times Leader; Coaches - Nick Aloi (East Liverpool) and Jim Thomas (Wheeling Central); Officials - John Howell (Lancaster Fairfield Union) and Don Zinni (Yorkville); 1940s Athlete - Harry "Moo" Moore (Moundsville); 1950s Athletes - Ron "Cy" Godfrey (Martins Ferry) and Ken Vargo (Martins Ferry); 1960s Athletes - Jim Brown (Martins Ferry) and Larry Marmie (Barnesville); 1970s Athletes - Rhonda Noble (St. Clairsville) and Peri Powell (Martins Ferry); 1980s Athletes - Mark Emmerling (East Liverpool) and Blaine Rose (Stanton); 1990s Athletes - Sylvia Crawley (Steubenville) and Ben Taylor (Bellaire); 2000s Athlete - Bethany Piccolini (St. Clairsville) and Jedidiah Stephen (Shenandoah).
It is an illustrious and well-deserving group of individuals. They will join more than 150 previous inductees in the OVAC Hall. Their enshrinement is the crowning glory to remarkable contributions to the conference.
Five "Legends of OVAC member schools" will also be honored at the banquet, including John "Zip" Behen (Cambridge), Ken Cunningham (East Liverpool), Russell "Tuss" Edwards (Martins Ferry), Bob Hugh (Scio) and Joel Jones (Weirton Dunbar).
The "Legends" category recognizes athletes and coaches who competed prior to the inception of the OVAC in 1943 or while their schools were not members of the conference.
A special Distinguished Service Award will be presented to Judge Frank Fregiato, who has served as legal council for the OVAC since 1977.
We salute Saturday's new Hall of Famers.
They are truly deserving of their tribute. We also commend the OVAC for being a conference that is concerned about not just the present and future, but also its sparkling past.