By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
About 40 people gathered on Saturday to celebrate a big slice of West Virginia sports history, as the preservation of records of the now-defunct West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference was showcased at Bluefield State College.
“We have a tremendous amount of history here, and a lot of fantastic memories,” said Bluefield State athletics director Terry Brown. “That’s what this is all about.”
Dr. Marsha Krotseng, BSC president, said, “This really is a special day for Bluefield State, and all of the colleges that were part of the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.”
A portion of the upper floor of the Wendell G. Hardway Library has been renovated to hold the WVIAC’s newspaper clippings, photos, file folders and computer files.
The 89-year-old league folded on June 30 of last year after several institutions pulled out to create the new Mountain East Conference. Its headquarters in Princeton closed down.
Last summer, Bluefield State and conference officials executed an agreement ensuring that the memorabilia would remain intact and available for use.
“It’s just warming to me to know it’s going to be preserved,” said the conference’s commissioner for its last quarter-century, Barry Blizzard.
Krotseng said, “We knew that we didn’t want to lose the wonderful history of this conference. We knew that we had to preserve it. There are too many memories out there for our coaches, players, fans (and) friends.”
In her remarks at the ceremony, she quoted Maya Angelou, “For an individual to know where he’s going, he must know exactly where he has been, and exactly how he arrived at his present place.”
“That’s what it’s really about,” Krotseng continued. “That’s why this history is so important to all of us.”
Russell Manns, president of the Mercer County chapter of the BSC Alumni Association, put it another way, quoting his father. “Don’t ever forget where you came from,” he told the audience.
Well-known names in area sports are represented, many with large photos on posters scattered around the room.
Bluefield State Archivist Jim Leedy pointed some of them out:
• Cam Henderson, destined to become an innovative basketball coach at Marshall College (now University), was a student at Glenville State and coached an undefeated team in 1925 at Davis & Elkins College.
• Merrill Gainer, before his legendary coaching career at Big Creek and Bluefield, got his degree from Shepherd College (now University).
• Glynn Carlock Sr., mentor of generations of Graham G-Men, was shown in a 1961 photo while a student at Concord College (now University).
• Ron Ward, one of the top four scorers all-time in the league’s basketball history, glowered in an action shot taken while a Concord student.
• Archie Talley, with more points than any other WVIAC basketball player, wears the uniform of Salem College (now Salem International University).
• Bill Stewart, football coach at West Virginia University, was shown as a Fairmont State student.
• Leedy was proud to point out several Bluefield State alumni, such as Joe Fourqurean, a top-flight pro football player, and Tommy Pritchett, who holds the record for most points in a WVIAC basketball tournament game (52).
Blizzard and Brown are also Bluefield State graduates.
Groups of people broke off from the crowd as Leedy’s guided tour continued. Former coaches talked about greats from the past and again shared tales of athletic exploits.
Karen Mandeville, who worked for the WVIAC for more than 20 years, said her memories are of “a lot of hard work, but also fun times. I was thrilled when I was hired as administrative assistant with Mr. Blizzard.”
Mandeville said Blizzard’s administrative style was “very hands-on, but very considerate. A lot of commissioners ... would not do some of the things that we did, that Mr. Blizzard did.”
Blizzard said, “We viewed the conference as almost a living being. The conference was — people.”
Krotseng said, “Just listening to the stories today, for me, has been a tremendous experience. I know how (many) memories, and how many stories, are in these documents that we see, and the photographs, and what’s behind them.”
After the formal presentation, Leedy talked about the task of getting the materials in order.
“I knew it was going to be monumental,” he said. “I was a victim of success. Dr. Krotseng, Barry and Terry saw what I had done here, and they came to me with the project.”
“I asked, ‘What do I get?’ and they said, ‘All of it.’ I said, ‘ALL of it?! OK.’ ”
Blizzard said, “I am so pleased with what Jim’s done here. I think it’s very well presented; I think it’s very well organized.”
Leedy said, “It’s been a lot of fun. It’s been a lot or work.”
There is still much work to do, including the downloading of thousands of statistics, news releases, biographies and images from the league’s website, WVIAC.org. That site is scheduled to go offline at the end of this June.
“There’s so much information on the website,” Blizzard said.
Leedy said, “I am in the process of taking stuff off the website and digitizing it onto the computers over there (in his office). It will take some time to do, but we hope to, eventually, have it online ... at some point.”
Turning reflective on Saturday afternoon, Blizzard said the day was “sad” for him.
“It’s very sad, because this was my life. But, you know, the Lord has provided something else. I’m enjoying what I’m doing now, and I’m staying as busy as I want to be, and still involved in athletics.”
He is now administrative coordinator of the D2CCA, a group whose purpose is “to encourage and promote Division II athletics and high standards of sportsmanship ..”
— Contact Tom Bone at