Hall of Fame Class Continues American Tradition of High School Sports, Performing Arts

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Hall of Fame Class Continues American Tradition of High School Sports, Performing Arts

Dr. Karissa L. Niehoff, NFHS Chief Executive Officer 

@KarissaNFHS        @KarissaNFHS

The turning of the calendar to March is always an exciting time in the sports world. And in high school sports there is an additional reason to celebrate this year as it marks the first time since 2019 that state basketball championships – and other winter sports and activities – are being conducted in a normal timeframe and before packed crowds.

            March also is the time that we celebrate a select group of individuals whose achievements and contributions to high school activity programs merit special recognition.

            Earlier this week, the NFHS announced its 39th class in the National High School Hall of Fame. Started in 1982 to stand as “A Lasting Memorial to an American Tradition,” more than 500 high school athletes, coaches, officials, administrators, performing arts educators and other contributors have been recognized. And the 12 individuals selected for this year’s class have added to the one and only American Tradition of High School Sports and Performing Arts.

            Four of the 12 honorees who will be inducted July 1 in San Antonio, Texas, are former high school athletes, who not only were involved in multiple sports and activities in their high school days, but who have “paid it back” through the years to ensure that others have opportunities.

            Most people know Notah Begay for his golf exploits, or from his relationship with his Stanford teammate Tiger Woods, but Begay was just as excited about playing soccer and basketball at Albuquerque Academy in New Mexico in the late 1980s. 

            In 2005, Begay established the NB3 Foundation, with the goal to provide health and wellness education to Native American youth through soccer and golf programs. He wants Native American children to have the same opportunity to compete that he had. Woods himself noted Begay’s contributions during Begay’s induction into the Stanford University Hall of Fame several years ago.

            “Notah, for what he’s done for the Native American community, and not just the awareness of Type II Diabetes and obesity, not even the money he’s raised, the millions of dollars, but think of the thousands and millions of kids he’s impacted.” 

            Sanya Richards-Ross won 10 individual track and field titles at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and helped her team to four Florida state team championships.

            In addition to her success in three Olympics with four gold medals, Richards-Ross has been giving back as well. She founded the Sanya Richards-Ross Fast Track Program, which benefits children in Jamaica, and she has participated in USA Track and Field’s “Be A Champion” program, speaking to youth in communities across the country. 

            The other two athletes in this year’s class were involved in numerous other activities as well. In addition to football, the late Walter Payton played basketball and baseball, won the long jump in the Mississippi state track and field meet, and played drums four years in his high school’s band.

            Before his success with the Buffalo Bills in the National Football League, Thurman Thomas played basketball and participated in track and field in addition to his success in football at Willowridge High School in Houston, Texas. And despite his success at the collegiate and professional levels, he has not forgotten about his upbringing.

            In 2011, when the closing of Willowridge High School was being discussed due to declining enrollment, Thomas publicly advocated for the school to remain open and was involved in fundraising efforts for the football team.

            Not only did the three coaches in this year’s class win countless games and championships, they also had a lasting impact on thousands of individuals – and in the case of the late Ray Crowe, a lasting impact on a city and state.

As the basketball coach at Crispus Attucks High School in Indianapolis in the 1950s, Crowe became the first African-American coach to win the state championship while Crispus Attucks became the first African-American school in the nation to win an open state title. His success helped racial relations in the city and eased integration of the public schools.

The other two coaches in the 2022 class have a combined 79 years as leader of girls sports programs – and are still going strong. Ron Kordes has led the growth of girls volleyball in Kentucky the past 30 years and has won 22 state championships at Assumption High School in Louisville. Lamar Rogers is the winningest girls basketball coach in Tennessee history with 1,289 victories at Clarkrange High School the past 46 years.

Three of the most significant leaders of high school activity programs with a combined 121 years of service at the state and national levels comprise the administrators in the class.

The late E. Wayne Cooley, executive director of the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union for 48 years who offered opportunities for girls to play sports long before the passage of Title IX, is being honored, along with two individuals who were leaders at both the state and national levels.

Becky Oakes, who directed the Missouri State High School Activities Association for 13 years and was director of sports at the NFHS for 11 years, was a trailblazer in many ways, including her appointment as the first female president of the NFHS Board of Directors.

Early in his career on the NFHS staff, Jack Roberts was involved with the implementation of Title IX across the country and discussions regarding the Amateur Sports Act of 1978 – all before his 32 years as executive director of the Michigan High School Athletic Association during which time he was hailed as one of the nation’s most articulate advocates for educational athletics.  

Including Jeff Risk, a longtime official in North Dakota, and Susan McLain, a speech and coach educator from Oregon, this year’s class of the National High School Hall of Fame is truly an amazing group – one that will continue to impact high school sports and performing arts for years to come. 

Online link to article: https://www.nfhs.org/articles/hall-of-fame-class-continues-american-tradition-of-high-school-sports-performing-arts/           

            Dr. Karissa L. Niehoff is in her fourth year as chief executive officer of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) in Indianapolis, Indiana. She is the first female to head the national leadership organization for high school athletics and performing arts activities and the sixth full-time executive director of the NFHS. She previously was executive director of the Connecticut Association of Schools-Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference for seven years.

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