When Will Driscoll made a recent stop in Roanoke, it was more than just a courtesy.
Driscoll, the executive director of the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame, plans to visit the area more regularly.
“Obviously, being the official hall of fame for the state of Virginia, I think it’s important that we get everybody involved,” he said.
And, that’s not saying Roanoke has been overlooked.
“We’re certainly heavy in the central and Hampton Roads regions,” Driscoll said. “There are population centers there. You look at the southside and southwest Virginia and places like that — and even up into the valley — there have been great athletes, coaches and contributors that have come from all over.
“I think it’s imperative, at the hall, that we have eyes and ears everywhere, making sure that we know about these people. They’re just as deserving as many of the Hampton Roads and central people.
“And people need to know about the hall of fame and how the process works. You can’t be selected if you haven’t been nominated. That’s the biggest thing right now, building up that pile of nominees. It only makes the conversation stronger.”
On a recent trip across the state, he expressed interest in addressing the Roanoke Valley Sports Club.
Driscoll succeeded Eddie Webb, who was the executive director of the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame for 24 years until his retirement in 2019.
Driscoll was the sales and marketing director under Webb, who had a background in coaching, having served as a player and coach under his father, Paul, who won more than 500 games in his tenure as the head coach at Randolph Macon and Old Dominion.
Selections began in 1972 after a sports hall of fame had been approved by the state’s General Assembly.
Driscoll was born and raised in Norfolk and went to college at Temple in Philadelphia, where he was a broadcast journalism major before finding his way to the hall.
On a recent trip across the state, he met with former Roanoke sportscaster Mike Stevens as well as Brad Bankston, the commissioner of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference, headquartered in the Lynchburg area.
Driscoll’s father went to Washington and Lee and Driscoll’s mother attended Hollins. He also has a cousin who currently is at VMI as well as family members who attended Virginia and Virginia Tech.
The last class to be inducted was in April, when former UVa and Jefferson Forest High School football player Anthony Poindexter was joined by Ferrum College standout and 11-year NFL player Chris Warren; former Old Dominion basketball coach Sonny Allen, and Oakton High School and UVa graduate Jon Lugbill, described as a “pioneer” of whitewater canoeing.
A screening committee will meet in October and will receive all nominations submitted in recent years but not judged at the time as the result of COVID and other matters.
“We’re back to treating everything as normal,” said Driscoll, noting that the “honors” court will meet in November and he hopes to have choices made by the end of that month, with inductions set for the weekend of April 21-22 in 2023.
“Typically, we do eight, but there can be opportunity to add a small number,” he said.
There is a Virginia Motorsports Hall of Fame, but that hasn’t eliminated the likes of driver Joseph Weatherly, named to the Virginia Sports Hall of in 1976; Others were Curtis “Pops” Turner in 1999; Wendell Scott in 2000; Paul Sawyer in 2002; Ricky Rudd in 2007, Ray Hendrick in 2012 and Jeff Burton in 2019.
“We could have some more representation,” Driscoll said, “but I think it comes down to, ‘You’ve got to look at where the sport’s most popular and to those people who have that fandom for auto racing.’ Do they know about our hall of fame? Do they know about our process?”
Twenty-three different sports are represented in the hall.
There have been occasions when a person has been selected for the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame and turned down the invitation, at which point they are given three years to reconsider.
“We have a very strong list of candidates,” Driscoll said. “I don’t think we’re missing out on anything right now.”