From its inception, the Colorado Springs Sports Hall of Fame has been all about variety.
The first eight classes of inductees covered the full spectrum of sports in this area, from figure skating and auto racing to former high school stars, resident Olympians, college athletes, coaches and administrators.
So it should be no surprise that the class of 2008, the ninth group of inductees since the Hall's beginnings in 2000, would provide more of the same.
The class, announced Wednesday afternoon with the annual induction banquet set for Oct. 28 at Colorado Springs World Arena, includes:
Chris Fowler, ESPN's longtime "College GameDay" host and college football announcer, who grew up here and graduated from Palmer High School in 1980;
Leonard Vahsholtz, the Woodland Park driver who has won more Pikes Peak International Hill Climb titles than anybody in the race's storied history;
Jim Scherr, one of the first athletes to utilize the Olympic Training Center here as a wrestler in the late 1970s, and now the first former Olympian to become the USOC's chief executive officer;
Erin Scholz, who led Doherty High School to the 1992 Class 6A girls state basketball championship, then went on to an illustrious career at the University of Colorado and professional success;
Jerry Carle, the Colorado College icon who was CC's head football coach for 33 seasons and athletic director from 1957-82, with stretches also coaching golf and basketball along the way;
Art Berglund, who came here to play Colorado College hockey and never left, moving on to a remarkable career helping run the old Broadmoor World Arena and then directing USA Hockey's international programs;
Palmer High School's 1965 baseball team, which rolled up an 18-1-1 record en route to winning the Class 3A state championship, coached by Jerry Hughes and led by catcher/captain Larry Williams as well as pitchers Phil Johnson and Tom Medlicott.
The reactions always are interesting, and this bunch was no exception. Vahsholtz was genuinely surprised, saying he assumed he had made too many enemies with his blunt, straight-shooting personality, particularly in his early years. Scholz, now an assistant coach at Utah State, had no idea she was the first female athlete from a District 11 school to be honored. Carle reportedly was in tears when told the news.
And Fowler, who works an incredibly full schedule for ESPN during every college football season, did not hesitate in committing to attend the induction dinner after learning that the Colorado Springs Sports Corp. organizers moved the event to a Tuesday night when he would be available.
Fowler has returned often to his hometown in recent years, even as his ESPN duties and prominence have increased. And he never has forgotten his roots. Numerous times through the years, when we happened to be at the same events, he enjoyed reminiscing about growing up here, including his years as statistician (and public-address announcer) for the high school City Hockey League at Sertich Ice Center and the old Broadmoor World Arena.
Through the years, many have wondered if the Hall of Fame candidate pool might thin out, since classes usually contain six individuals and one team every year. The answer is no. Having been involved as chairman of the selection committee (except for one year), I can assure any skeptics that the group of worthy candidates still numbers many more than 100.
Throughout these nine years, the intent has been simple. We've tried to come up with broad-based classes that span the decades as well as the many different sports entities around the Colorado Springs region. We've also tried to have a good balance of athletes and non-athletes, people who are natives and others who came here for college or pursuing the Olympic dream.
The result has been something special. Few cities of this size are capable of maintaining such a strong local Hall of Fame and filling it with so many recognizable names. Yet, the "waiting list" is still bulging, thanks to Colorado Springs' rich sports history.
Sure, it would be impossible to top the first class from 2000: Peggy Fleming, Bobby Unser, Rick "Goose" Gossage, William Thayer Tutt, Cullen Bryant, Ben Martin, Gib Funk, Bill Hybl and the 1950 Colorado College ice hockey team that won the school's first NCAA championship.
That group established a standard for the years since, as more have joined them. And when you see the inductees' engraved plaques on the World Arena's north wall, you appreciate why this Hall of Fame continues to produce an enjoyable induction night every year.
Something else that makes the event work: There is no head table, and inductees sit throughout the audience on the arena floor. So anybody in the crowd can personally congratulate any of the honorees.
Tickets for the Oct. 28 dinner start at $100 each, with 10-seat table packages ranging from $1,000 to $2,500. For information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-7333 ext. 1000.
Granted, that's not cheap. But every year brings a new history lesson, the video introductions often can be as good as the acceptance speeches and for sports collectors, the silent auction always has its share of jewels.