Sadly, the West Virginia Conference is a thing of the past.
The league – officially known as the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WVIAC) – was made up primarily of small colleges around the state. It existed for close to 90 years.
The WVIAC has been dissolved. Most of the members are now going to be a part of the new Mountain East Conference. Charleston, Concord, Glenville, Fairmont, Shepherd, West Liberty, West Virginia State, West Virginia Wesleyan and Wheeling Jesuit are all sticking together. Joining forces with the aforementioned WVIAC schools will be Urbana, Ohio, Notre Dame College of Ohio (located outside of Cleveland) and Virginia-Wise.
Through the years, several Jackson County natives and others with ties to the area enjoyed athletic success in the old WVIAC. In the July 25th edition of The Jackson Star News, we shared with readers some of the former football stars of the league who had a connection to Jackson County. Due to space limitations we couldn't bring you all of them.
So, as we continue our assault on the WVIAC history books, it's time to recognize a few more names from not only football but other sports.
Roger Hart – In 1965, 1966 and 1967, Hart earned First Team All-West Virginia Conference honors as a basketball player for Morris Harvey College (now the University of Charleston). Hart served as the head boys basketball and head boys track and field coach at Ripley High from 1973-1977.
Cal Bailey – In 1967, Bailey was named to the All-West Virginia Conference First Team in baseball as a first baseman at West Virginia State. Bailey spent time after that in pro baseball before entering the teaching and coaching profession. He started his career as a teacher and coach in Jackson County. Bailey has been the head baseball coach at State since 1978 (and will retire at the end of the upcoming 2014 season). He was the league's Coach of the Year in baseball seven times.
John Gattuso – An outstanding defensive end in football at West Virginia Tech, Gattuso was a First Team All-WVIAC selection in 1975. Gattuso was a member of Frank Marino's first coaching staff at Ripley in the football season of 1977. Gattuso played for Marino at old Welch High School.
Jay Robinson – In the spring of 1976, the one-time Ripley High athlete earned All-WVIAC honors in golf. Robinson, who would later return to his home county to serve as the head pro at Greenhills Country Club, excelled in golf, basketball and baseball during his high school days.
Gary Blair – As a freshman at Fairmont State in the fall of 1976, the former Ravenswood Red Devil football standout was a First Team All-WVIAC pick as a defensive back. Blair, who died a few years ago, played in the North-South Football Classic of 1976. It was the first N-S showdown since 1955.
Chuck Carr – A one-time county resident and Ravenswood assistant baseball coach, Carr was a First Team All-WVIAC baseball player in both 1981 and 1983. A native of St. Albans, Carr was the league's Hitter of the Year in '81.
Randy Anderson – In the 1981 conference men's tournament, Anderson and former Ripley High teammate Scott Ludwig helped lead Glenville to the semifinal round. Anderson was the Pioneers' dynamic point guard and earned the Commissioner's Heart & Hustle Award. Since his playing days, Anderson has been a highly successful basketball coach. Ripley High was one of his stops. He led the Vikings to the school's only State Tournament appearance in 1996.
Scott Ludwig – As a senior in the season of 1982-83 at Glenville State College, the smooth-shooting Ludwig led the conference with a 92.7 percentage from the free throw line. Ludwig, an area businessman, was a standout player at Ripley from 1975-78.
Shelley Ritchie – After helping lead Ravenswood to the Class AA state championship in December of 1982, Ritchie moved on to play basketball at the University of Charleston. She had a solid four-year career, culminating with All-WVIAC Second Team status in 1987.
Nikki Randolph – For two straight years the former Ripley High standout topped the assists category for WVIAC women's basketball while playing at Glenville. Randolph averaged 7.8 assists per game during the 1987-88 season and 9.0 in the 1988-89 campaign.
Kim Creel – A First Team All-Stater at Ravenswood, Creel moved on to play basketball at Glenville and is now in the school's Hall of Fame. Among her many highlights was leading the conference in field goal percentage at 58 percent during the 1987-88 season.
Lisa Thompson – Not once, but twice during her softball playing days at West Virginia Wesleyan did this one-time Lady Viking standout earn First Team All-WVIAC and the prestigious Pitcher of the Year Award. Those honors came following the seasons of 1992 and 1994.
Frankie Cummings – The former Ripley High First Team All-State baseball player moved on to the collegiate ranks and enjoyed a great career as a pitcher at West Virginia State under Cal Bailey's guidance. Cummings was a First Team All-Conference pitcher in the season of 2000. He is now a Ripley High assistant baseball coach.
Josh Romeo – A former Ravenswood High athlete, Romeo had a fine football career at Fairmont State. Romeo played at Ravenswood as a freshman, sophomore and junior before moving to Parkersburg High during his senior year. He was a running back/wide receiver/return man for the Fighting Falcons. In the first game of his career at Fairmont in the season of 2002, Romeo earned West Virginia Conference Player of the Week honors. He led the league in kickoff return yardage during the 2004 season.
Corey Isner – After an outstanding three years as a quarterback for Ripley High, Isner became the face of the new football program at the University of Charleston. He started the bulk of his career in the seasons of 2003-06. Isner set several passing records as a QB for UC and was named the WVIAC Conference Player of the Week once in 2004 and twice in 2005.
Rick Simmons – The former editor of The Jackson Herald was quite the golfer. Simmons excelled both on the high school level at Ripley and in college for Glenville State. After giving up the family newspaper business, Simmons returned to Glenville and among his jobs was serving as GSC's head golf coach. He was named the WVIAC Coach of the Year for the sport in 2003.
Tim Fisher – The Ripley High graduate was not only an All-WVIAC
golfer in 2004 but was also chosen as the sport's Player of the Year. Fisher, who was the West Virginia High School golf champ in 1998, has won three West Virginia State Amateur titles since his college career ended.
Tyler Franklin – One year after Fisher earned All-Conference, another Ripley High graduate in Tyler Franklin garnered the same honor. Franklin played his college golf at Fairmont. He is now an assistant pro at Berry Hills Country Club in Charleston.
Casie Waskey – Just like Lisa Thompson did in 1992 and 1994, Waskey, a former Ripley High player, was named First Team All-WVIAC and the Pitcher of the Year twice while competing at Alderson-Broaddus College. Waskey did so in back-to-back softball seasons of 2005 and 2006.
Josh Miller – The season of 2007 was a banner one for this former Ravenswood Red Devil three-sport standout. During that spring, Miller's bat and glove in the outfield earned him three outstanding honors as a player at West Virginia State. Miller was First Team All-Conference, Hitter of the Year and Player of the Year.
Jackson County connections to the WV Conference
Sadly, the West Virginia Conference is a thing of the past.