After a respite and dusting off the cobwebs of busy lives, the Dayton Sports Hall of Fame is moving forward. The board has met and, with a bit of urgency and resolve, has made headway with the necessary federal and state paperwork to formally organize. With that in hand, they are now armed with the tools to build a space dedicated to those who excelled in athletics and brought the small farm town considerable notoriety.
The idea was formed some 15 years ago, said Alan Conner, to recognize the athletic achievements of players and coaches, male and female, from Dayton and Colbert high schools.
“We had a number of meetings and actually drew up some by-laws but hadn’t quite approved them. Things kind of fell on the back burner as everyone’s lives got busy in one way or another,” he said.
“About midway through 2016, Larry Wadzeck and I got together and decided we needed to go ahead and push this forward and get this thing set up,” he said.
The first step was to organize a board. They applied for and received a federal ID and then filed their papers of incorporation with the state of Texas.
Conner said the group then applied for the 501(c)3 charity designation so that gifts and behests to the group could be considered tax exempt.
“We’ve done all of that and now we have a bank account. We’re now at the point for fundraising activities,” Conner said.
While it’s premature for donor levels, they are accepting donations of any amount to help foot the cost of expenses in laying out and designing the museum.
Early on, the museum will reside in two rooms designated at Nottingham Elementary, Conner said.
“Between the museum and the Bronco store where they open up during the football games and sell Bronco memorabilia, we’re going to sell bricks with athletes’ names on them and the years they played at Dayton,” he said.
Conner, who is the treasurer for the group, said they are close to the brick-selling aspect.
“There’s an old portable building that has to be moved first and the school’s going to move it anyway as part of their renovations,” he said.
“We do have a Dayton High School jersey donated by Coach [Jeff] Nations that is actually the same number of Aaron Ripkowski and he has signed it. We have it and we’ll use it to raise some money. We hope to get a Green Bay Packers jersey from him and have him sign it too,” Conner said.
The group is planning the first induction in early June at the high school in the new auditorium.
The first round of inductees, about 25-30, will mostly be made up of graduates before 1980.
“We’ll have a second induction in the fall during the football season with an additional four or five members,” he said.
The pool of inductees will come from both male and females, but Conner said they are having difficulty with female athletes.
“The real challenge is finding some of the old female athletes because back in the day. There was very little written about them [newspaper clippings] in the paper. That’s just the way it was back then,” he said.
One candidate excelled as a female at Dayton High School, went to college on a scholarship, served as an athletic director in a couple of top college programs and later she became a director at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
“She will be in the first round of inductees,” Conner said. “Her mom taught Junior Olympic swimming for a long time here.”
There are track and field, baseball and basketball stars that are under consideration as well.
“We’re trying to find diversity in all of the sports. A lot will be football because more of them went on to play college or pro, but there are also others who excelled in additional sports,” he said.
The board is seeking nominations and has a form for anyone to fill out and submit.
“I’m sure I’ll have someone walk up at the induction and tell me we forgot someone, and we probably will, but it won’t be intentional,” Conner said.
If the player is deceased, anyone in the family or community can fill out and submit a form.
“If they also have a bio on those folks telling us of their accomplishments, it will be helpful in our consideration process,” he said.
Players or the family of a deceased honoree inducted into the Dayton Sports Hall of Fame will receive a medallion, designed by the students at Dayton High School, and a plaque with their photo will be put on the wall in the museum.
One name that Connor was willing to announce from the first round of inductees is Dayton’s beloved manager, “Smitty” Smith. The long-time employee of the district drew immediate positive reaction.
“All you have to do is say ‘Smitty’ and everyone knows who you’re talking about,” Conner said.
The museum will not only feature the athletes, but Dayton sports memorabilia including signed footballs, jerseys, helmets and more. There will also be sports items for sale to visitors.
“We are also accepting old photos and clippings of athletes from Dayton,” he said.
They do not necessarily have to be of athletes inducted into the HOF, but had to play on a team from Colbert or Dayton High Schools.
Wadzeck found boxes of old trophies and plaques in the gymnasium at Wilson that will be housed in the display case at the museum.
“This is just as much a preservation effort as it is a museum,” he said.
For more information or to make a tax-deductible donation, please contact Conner at 936-258-2642. Please visit the Dayton Sports Hall of Fame Facebook site.