Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a past president and member of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
LIKE IT IS:
Hall turned relevant, vibrant under Tucker
Delayed by last week’s weather and national signing day, the “short” meeting Ray Tucker asked for didn’t happen until Thursday.
Ray, citing numerous personal reasons, said he had decided to retire as executive director of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in Little Rock. He appreciated his 16 years with the organization, he said, but recently decided it was time to explore some other avenues.
As longtime colleagues and friends - Monday night poker buddies - we visited a few minutes (as executive director and president of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame), and it was obvious Ray’s mind was made up.
The Hall of Fame has weathered the firing of a longtime employee, which led us to temporarily put plans to build a conference center on hold, as well as some other cutbacks and layoffs in the past 18 months.
For the most part we are on solid ground.
The annual banquet Feb. 28 at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock will be Ray’s last day on the job, and a search committee has been appointed to find his replacement.
So Feb. 28 becomes an even bigger day.
Not only will we be inducting David Bazzel, Ken Duke, Gary Blair, Bennie Fuller, Stephanie Strack Mathis, Dennis “Dirt” Winston, Don Campbell, Alvy Early, Ken Stephens, Jim Barnes and Harry Vines, we will be celebrating Ray, who is also the voice of UALR Trojans men’s basketball and a weekly regular on Drive Time Sports, 103.7 The Buzz.
Ray was hired a month after I had tried to resign from the board, but then-President Mike McGibbony asked me to hold on, changes were coming.
To be honest, and this was a very long time ago, I had sat through one too many board meetings and watched two and even three people go to sleep.
Understand that the board of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, by its own by-laws, is mandated to have 40 board members, plus committees for senior and posthumous divisions.
McGibbony started enforcing term limits, and the board became more active and vibrant.
Ray changed the direction and thinking from a group of good old boys getting together to honor one another, mostly former Razorbacks, to a statewide organization.
The board is more diverse than ever before. Almost every college in the state is represented.
Money was raised, with the help of Buddy Sutton, Ray and others, to open our museum in Verizon Arena. And arrangements, including a $1 million grant, were in place to add a 500-seat conference center but that was just before then-President Andrew Meadors discovered some missing funds.
All of that is behind us now. We have added two more annual scholarships in the past three months, bringing our total to four, to honor Rush Harding and Nancy Williams, who have done more for the Hall of Fame than could be shared in this space.
The economy, of course, is affecting us, and we have new challenges on a regular basis. But there is still no greater honor in the realm of Arkansas sports than to be voted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame. Our inductees are the who’s who of sports in the Natural State.
We have open membership for $75 and every vote counts. Members also have the right to nominate people to be put on the voting list.
For more information or to join go to www.arksportshalloffame.com or call 663-4328.
Tables, $1,000, and tickets, $125, are still available for the biggest sports party of the year.
We are celebrating a great 2014 class of 11 and thanking Ray Tucker for his service.
Sports, Pages 13 on 02/11/2014