Thursday, February 22, 2024

Virginia Sports Hall of Fame Announces its 2024 Inductees

(Virginia Sports Hall of Fame)

VIRGINIA BEACH — The Virginia Sports Hall of Fame announced its Class of 2024 on Monday, including William & Mary women’s soccer alum and U.S. Women’s National Team head coach Jill Ellis.

The nine-person class will be celebrated as part of the hall’s 2024 Induction Weekend, slated for April 19-20 in Henrico County, the first in its 52-year history to be held outside of Hampton Roads.

“The Class of 2024 highlights everything that is great about sports in Virginia,” said Will Driscoll, Executive Director of the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame. “From their accomplishments on the field to the impact they have created in their communities through sports, this class embodies the Hall’s core values, Recognition, Impact, and Integrity.”

The class was selected by the hall’s board of directors and honors court committee.

The Class of 2024: 

  • Jill Ellis, from Robinson Secondary School in Fairfax, scored 32 goals as a forward for William & Mary women’s soccer in the 1980s before a stellar coaching career led her to the top of her profession. In 14 seasons as an NCAA Division-I head coach with The University of Illinois and UCLA, Ellis compiled a record of 248–63–14, and her teams made eight appearances in the Women’s College Cup. Following her collegiate career, she spent the next 20 years with the U.S. Women’s National Team, including seven as head coach (2012, 2014-19). During that time, Ellis would lead the USWNT to back-to back Women’s World Cup Championships, in 2015 and 2019. In 132 matches as head coach, Ellis led the USWNT to a record of 106-7-19. Ellis has previously been inducted into the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame.
  • Rick Jeffrey, a native of Richmond and graduate of Hampden-Sydney College, is the 2024 Virginia Sports Hall of Fame Distinguished Virginian Award recipient. Jeffrey’s impact on sports was felt across the commonwealth during his 36 years with Special Olympics Virginia, the last 22 of those as its president. The longest-serving president in SOVA history, Jeffrey continually grew the number of sports offerings and competition experiences in Virginia, while helping the organization reach never-before-seen financial milestones and community impact measurements.
  • Craig Littlepage, spent a total of 45 years on the grounds of the University of Virginia, first as an assistant coach on the men’s basketball team (1976-1982, and 1988-1990), and then in athletics administration from 1990-2017, the last 16 serving as Director of Athletics. During his time as AD, the Cavaliers were one of the most successful programs in the nation, winning 76 Atlantic Coast Conference Championships, and 13 National Championships. The 76 conference championships were the most by an ACC member school during that time. In addition to his role as AD, Littlepage chaired the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Selection Committee, 2005-06, and was a member of the USA Basketball Board of Directors, 200508. In 2021 he was selected for induction into the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics Hall of Fame.
  • Chris Long, from St. Anne’s-Belfield School in Charlottesville, was a 2x All-ACC selection, 2007 ACC Defensive Player of the Year, Dudley Award winner, and Unanimous First Team All-American for UVA Football. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft by the St. Louis Rams, Long would go on to play 11 seasons in the NFL with St. Louis, New England, and Philadelphia. Long would register 332 tackles, 70 sacks, and 15 forced fumbles during his career, while also being a part of two Super Bowl-winning teams in New England (LI) and Philadelphia (LII). His impact has extended well beyond the gridiron through his Chris Long Foundation. For his charitable efforts, Long has been the recipient of the NFL Players Association Alan Page Community Award (2018), and the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award (2018).
  • LaShawn Merritt, from Manor High School in Portsmouth (formerly Woodrow Wilson High School), is one of Virginia’s most decorated track & field athletes. After sweeping the 100, 200, and 400-meter sprints at the 2004 VHSL state championships, Merritt took his success global. Merritt appeared in three Summer Olympiads, 2008, 2012, and 2016, bringing home a total of four medals: three gold and one bronze in the 400m dash, and 4x400m relay. His success on the international stage went beyond the Olympic games. An eight-time World Champion, Merritt won an additional 23 medals in international competitions, 19 gold.
  • Hal Nunnally (posthumous), a native of Petersburg, led Randolph-Macon College men’s basketball for 24 seasons, with a 431-232 record. Nunnally led Randolph-Macon to 20 winning seasons, 10 20-win seasons, 10 NCAA tournament appearances, and an appearance in the 1977 NCAA Division-II National Championship game. He earned 11 Coach of the Year awards, including six from the National Association of Basketball Coaches in the South Atlantic District (1977, 1981, 1983, 1984, 1989, 1990). He has previously been inducted into the Randolph-Macon Athletics Hall of Fame.
  • Dave Smith, from Roanoke, graduated from Virginia Tech and began his career in athletics as the first Sports Information Director in Ferrum College’s history. In 1975 he moved over to his alma mater where he would stay for the next 40 years. Beginning as an Assistant SID for the men’s basketball and baseball programs, he would work his way up to Associate Athletics Director, and become the primary football communications contact in 1998. Following his retirement in 2015, the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) named Smith the recipient of a CoSIDA Lifetime Achievement Award and the Virginia Sports Information Directors (VaSID) presented Smith with its Distinguished Service Award.
  • Paul Woody, a native of Roanoke, and a Virginia Commonwealth University alumnus, spent 40 years as a sportswriter and columnist for the Richmond News Leader, and Richmond Times-Dispatch. Beginning in 1980, Woody served as the Richmond paper’s primary beat reporter for its Washington Redskins (now Commanders) coverage. For his coverage of the NFL and other events, Woody has been the recipient of 15 Pro Football Writers of America awards, 10 Virginia Press Association Awards, three Associated Press Sports Editors Awards, and two U.S. Basketball Writers Association Awards.
  • Monica Wright Rogers, from Forest Park High School in Woodbridge, was named the 2006 Gatorade Virginia Player of the Year for women’s basketball and was a McDonald’s High School and WBCA All-American. She is a two-time VHSL 3A State Champion. After committing to play collegiately for the University of Virginia, she would re-write the Cavaliers record books. During her four years at Virginia, Wright Rogers set program career records for total points (2,540), scoring average (19.1 ppg), field goals made (962), field goal attempts (2,207) and 25-point games (28), and ranks fourth on the all-time list with 372 steals. A three-time All-American, Wright Rogers was named the 2010 ACC Player of the Year, ACC Defensive Player of the Year and WBCA National Defensive Player of the Year. Following college she would play seven seasons in the WNBA, winning two WNBA Championships, and was named to the 2010 All-Rookie Team.

The Hall of Fame noted it is still accepting nominations for its newest award: Sportsperson of the Year. The award will be presented to an athlete, coach, team, administrator and/or individual who supports athletics, and who has distinguished themselves through outstanding athletic achievement during the 2023 calendar year. The award will be presented during the 2024 Induction Ceremony. Sportsperson of the Year award nominations are open to the public, and will be accepted through De. 31. More information can be found on the hall’s website.

Induction events will include a Sponsor Welcome Reception on Friday, April 19, Breakfast with Champions the morning of Saturday, April 20, and the Hall of Fame Reception and induction Ceremony later that evening. Induction Weekend sponsors include The Henrico Sports & Entertainment Authority, The Beck Foundation, Richmond Region Tourism, Optima Health, DAVCON Inc., White Claw Hard Seltzer, WTVR-TV, ESPN Radio Richmond 106.1 and the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Tickets, sponsorship, and advertising opportunities for Induction Weekend are available now. Event and ticket information can be found at the Hall of Fame’s website, vasportshof.com. Questions regarding Induction Weekend events can be directed to Will Driscoll, driscollw@VaSportsHOF.com 

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