WHEELING-Another Hall of Fame door is being swung open to honor the late Jim Foti, one of the Ohio Valley's legendary high school coaches.
Previously inducted into the City of Wheeling, West Virginia Sports Writers Association, Ohio Valley Athletic Conference, John Carroll University and Upper Ohio Valley Dapper Dan Club halls of fame, Foti will next be honored by the folks in his birth city of Jamestown, N.Y.
On Monday night, Feb. 18, he will be officially become a member of the Chautauqua County Sports Hall of Fame.
The dinner is scheduled at the nearby Lakewood (N.Y.) Rod & Gun Club. Committed to serve as the guest speaker that evening is former Buffalo Bills all-pro wide receiver Andre Reed.
Foti will be one of six Jamestown area sports figures to be inducted, bringing the number of past luminaries installed in the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame to 145. Probably the most famous national athlete to be enshrined to date is former Chicago White Sox great Nellie Fox, a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
''Coach Foti should have been inducted into our Hall of Fame years ago," said Randy Anderson, the president of the CSHOF. ''I'm sorry this didn't happen until after he passed away but the only way you can be selected is if you are nominated by a resident of Jamestown. It finally happened this summer and Jim was an easy selection by our committee.''
Although just 5-foot-6 and weighing 160 pounds, Foti was a stellar athlete in both high school and college. He served as captain of the 1930 Jamestown High squad, one year after turning in an incredible performance the previous season when Foti recovered seven fumbles in one game against Olean (N.Y.) High School.
According to Anderson, a frustrated Olean player reportedly snorted after the game that, ''You should get them (when) you're built close enough to the ground."
At John Carroll University, he lettered in football, basketball and hockey.
When the goaltender of the hockey team was injured during the 1938 season, Jim was recruited to guard the cage for the Blue Streaks. In those days, no one wore masks in hockey.
After graduating from college, Foti spent one year at John Carroll as a freshman coach before being being named the basketball coach at Erie (Pa.) Prep where his teams compiled a record of 26-8.
He came to the Ohio Valley in 1942 and made Warwood his permanent home. Foti coached basketball for 36 years at Warwood, Wheeling Central Catholic and Bellaire. Including his two seasons at Erie Prep, he collected 466 varsity basketball victories. Foti coached Warwood High to 11 West Virginia sectional crowns, seven regional championships and his 1967 team won the state title.
In 1976, his final year as a head coach and the last season prior to the Ohio County Consolidation that merged Triadelphia, Warwood and Wheeling into Wheeling Park High School, Foti's Vikings advanced to the state semifinals. The previous year, they were Class AA finalists, losing to a juggernaut squad from Northfork High School.
Also, he had five W.Va. Catholic title-winning teams at Wheeling Central and guided his squads to OVAC championships in three different divisions. Foti's 1943 Wheeling Central club team turned in a 24-3 record and lost by a point while playing in the Eastern Catholic championships held at Newport, R.I.
Foti's football coaching career produced another 124 victories, including a 90-106-3 record at Warwood, where the Class A school annually played a schedule loaded with big school opponents. In 1943, Foti's Wheeling Central football team went 9-1 and gained a Steel Bowl Berth, losing a 20-19 decision to Rochester, Pa. in a game played at Harding Stadium in Steubenville.
He also coached semi-pro basketball for two years (1947 and 1948) when he guided the Wheeling Puritans.
The little general as he was also called during his lengthy coaching career had the opportunity to tutor some of the Ohio Valley's most famous athletes.
While at Wheeling Central, he tutored James ''Dubie" Dailer and Billy Gompers, both of whom went to play at Notre Dame; Jack McConville, Alabama, Pete Schuetz, Duquesne and Paul Schuetz, Northwestern.
During his Warwood career, he had a role in the development of Chuck Howley, a former West Virginia University and Dallas Cowboys' great. He coached Howley in basketball and was the line coach in football when the future Super Bowl MVP played his high school ball.
Other Warwood greats who were coached by Foti included Bob Dunlevy (WVU football standout and Dallas Cowboys' draft choice) and basketball standouts Bob Ayers (VMI), Billy Kennedy (Arizona State) and Greg Church (Army). Kennedy and Church were teammates on the Vikings' 1967 state championship hoop squad.