Something you probably already knew if you scan the upcoming WVSWA website — West Virginia prep basketball legends Jerry West (East Bank) and Willie Akers (Mullens) were both first-team All-State Class A selections in 1956.
But something you might not have realized if you glance further down that same list: Jay Jacobs — yes, the long-time WVU radio analyst — was also a member of that elite first team, playing for Morgantown High more than 60 years ago. The year before, the first-team captain was none other than Huntington’s Leo Byrd, later an All-American at Marshall.
Whether you like to reminisce or research, the answers to a lot of your high school sports questions can be found beginning Aug. 1 when the West Virginia Sports Writers Association launches its long-awaited website at wvswa.org.
The site should have something for everybody. It will be sure to settle some long-running arguments in communities around the state, as it’s packed with more than 100 years of information on high school athletics, as well as many other items of interest to sports fans in West Virginia:
n Most every All-State team in football and boys and girls basketball, many of which go all the way back to the 1910s;
n Names of every award winner the WVSWA has honored through the years — the awards lists for the Kennedy (prep football player), Van Meter (high school coach) and Furfari (college coach) going back to the 1940s and the Hardman (amateur athlete of the year) starting in 1934;
n Brief biographies of every member of the West Virginia Sports Hall of Fame, which debuted in 1950 and has grown to more than 180 inductees with last spring’s additions of Randy Moss and Chris Smith during the 73rd Victory Awards Dinner;
n Histories of high-profile events like the state basketball tournament and the Super Six football championships, as well as attendance figures for those events.
n The always-popular list of team and individual records in football and boys basketball;
n Links to every member publication of the WVSWA, as well as an email list of the group’s entire current membership.
“It’s mostly historical stuff, things that will be really interesting for people to look at,’’ said Rich Stevens, the former assistant sports editor of the Daily Mail who has been researching and compiling information for the site for more than 21/2 years and logging it into the system.
“I’m a history buff, so just seeing names attached to those eras of the 1920s and 1930s is neat to me. The historical significance of the website is going to be great. If you look long enough, you can find all this information somewhere and spend a few dollars, but I believe this will be the one-stop shop for everyone interested in information coming out of our association. And you’ll never have a charge to get on.’’
Where else can you discover that Alex Schoenbaum, founder of the Shoney’s restaurant chain, was a first-team All-State offensive lineman for Huntington High School in 1932? At 6-foot-1 and 198 pounds, no less?
Stevens, currently a teacher in the Fayette County school system, has spent countless 12-hour days typing thousands of familiar and unfamiliar names, records and lists into the system for use on the website. A lot of the information, he said, came from Doug Huff, the retired sports editor of the Wheeling Intelligencer and a respected state sports historian. Since 1979, Huff has served as secretary-treasurer of the WVSWA. In 1999, Huff was inducted into the prestigious National High School Sports Hall of Fame.
“It’s unbelievable in terms of the amount of historical information he has,’’ Stevens said.
Stevens, however, doesn’t want state sports fans to think the site is simply a walk down memory lane. Some current stories will be included, as well as what he calls “fun things’’ like trivia games. He said the goal is to both inform and entertain.
“I want to keep it relevant and on a timely basis,’’ Stevens said. “We’ll be covering events and posting stories on there. And other things people want to see, things that interest them and some things people just never knew.’’
Stevens said the site, though chock-full of information from the start, won’t be complete for a while as he tracks down even more data.
“I don’t want people to be disappointed that not every list will be available on Aug. 1,’’ Stevens said. “If you want every list, that might be five years away because it involves a lot of typing. It will be comprehensive, but some minor sports might not be there.’’
Stevens noted that the WVSWA, a non-profit organization, is looking for advertising for its site to enhance some of its attractions. All proceeds from the group go to West Virginia student-athletes in the form of awards and the annual Victory Awards Dinner.
He’s also looking for feedback from fans who visit the site, urging them to email him if they see a mistake.
“I am making every effort,’’ Stevens said. “I know what it’s like to be challenged by a website that’s not user friendly. I’m going out of my way to make it as pleasant an experience as possible for viewers because I want them to access information without having to make five clicks. It’s as user friendly as a website hack can make it.’’