RICHLANDS — The man who practically invented the Richlands High School athletic tradition singlehandedly is finally being recognized by the Virginia High School League.
Hicks, for whom Richlands’ Ernie Hicks Stadium is named, has been appointed to the Virginia High School League Hall of Fame for enshrinement along with former Oscar Smith head football coach Bill Dee, former Oscar Smith athlete Kenny Easley; Norview’s Larry Stepney; Western Albemarle’s Billy Baber; Park View Sterling’s Natalie Baird Etheridge; Woodbridge’s Rebecca Wakefield-Snider; Jeffrey Custer, who coached at Christiansburg, Woodbridge, Gar-Field and Lake Braddock, and Lou Sorrento, who coached at George Mason, Culpeper County, C.D. Hylton and Mountain View.
Hicks is being inducted as a contributor rather than a coach, along with George C. Marshall’s Nancy Burke.
Hicks’ induction into the VHSL Hall of Fame has been an ongoing quest for former Richlands resident Bob Nassif, a 1946 graduate of Richlands High School who played football under Hicks. Nassif, helped spearhead efforts to have Hicks recognized in the VHSL Hall as early as 1992.
Hicks, who essentially ran all the athletic programs at Richlands when he started working at the high school in 1924, coached in the community until retiring in 1963. His only break was the hiatus he took from 1943 to 1944 to serve in the armed forces in World War II.
Hicks was a longtime friend to late Bluefield Daily Telegraph sports editor Stubby Currence, who dubbed Hicks “The Master of the Clinch.” Hicks never won a state championship at Richlands, coaching as he did during a time in which no state playoff system existed. He is credited with 167 career wins at the Southwest Virginia school, including a 64-30-1 run during the 1950s that included several county titles, two District VII championships, one area championship and one regional championship.
‘I’m elated about coach Hicks,” said Nassif in a phone interview. “I’m just so happy and I know the people in Bluefield will be happy, too.”
Nassif said Tazewell County School Superintendent George Brown was instrumental in getting Hicks inducted into the hall.
The induction ceremony will be held at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Charlottesville, Va. on Sunday, June 23. Tickets to the event are $35 per person and may be purchased online at: https://gofan.co/app/school/VHSL/Hall-of-Fame.