Doug Huff: A National Prep Sports Pioneer
WHEELING — Doug Huff is firmly affixed on the Mount Rushmore of Ohio Valley sports-writing scribes, taking his rightful place alongside Cal Pokas, Bill Van Horne and Nick Bedway.
The OVAC and National High School Sports Hall of Famer came to the The Wheeling Intelligencer in 1967 and became the newspaper’s sports editor in 1978, a position he held until his retirement in 1999. During that time, he gained national acclaim for his prep writing contributions.
Huff has been a popular contributing editor for Street & Smith’s preseason football magazine, selecting the preseason All-American teams. He also published his own national football and basketball record books while also running the National Prep Poll for football and was part of ESPN’s coverage of high school sports.
For that impressive work, along with his expert and incisive coverage of Ohio Valley sports, Huff recently received yet another prestigious honor.
The 1961 Magnolia High School graduate has been tagged as one of the 25 High School Sports Media Pioneers as chosen by Max Preps, a California-based prep sports information engine.
Max Preps “aspires to cover every team, every game and every player. We do this in partnership with nearly 100,000 varsity coaches throughout the United States,” as stated on its website. “When the National Federation of High Schools decided to put together a national record book, the person they asked to help with the project was already considered the nation’s authority on high school sports records. Huff had been compiling national sports records since his high school days in the early 1960s and continued to put together national records during his time as a sports editor in West Virginia.”
Huff began writing sports at the tender age of 12 with the Wetzel Democrat , a weekly paper in his hometown. Before joining The Intelligencer, Huff was sports editor of the Fairmont Times and also worked on the sports staff of the Dominion News in Morgantown.
At The Intelligencer, Huff originated All-Valley boys’ basketball and baseball selections in 1968, plus the OV All-Sports School and Athlete Awards and the All-OV Scholar-Athlete selections. Since 1979, he has been the Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the W.Va. Sports Writers Association after having previously served as the president and football all-state board chairman. Huff is also on the Board of Directors of the Football Writers Association of America and the National Sportscasters & Sports Writers Association.
“It’s rather overwhelming. Anytime you’re tagged with a “pioneer” label on the national level, you have to feel humbled but honored. Being a sports historian, I know many of the names on the list and have had contacts with several of them over the years,” Huff said about his Max Preps honor.
“All of them made major contributions to sports media and that’s what makes it so special to be included on the list. When USA Today started in 1982, Dave Krider (LaPorte, Ind.) and I were offered the prep editor positions but I rejected it because it was a contract, no-benefit job at the time. Dave accepted and it worked out for him.
“That was one of 12 offers I turned down to remain in Wheeling, and it worked out for me.”
Among Huff’s countless honors are: Induction into the National High School Sports Hall of Fame (1999); state sports writer of the year nine times; West Virginia University School of Journalism P.I. Reed Life Achievement Award (1999); Magnolia High School Athletic Boosters Life Achievement Award (1990); W.Va. Sports Writers Association Gene Morehouse Award (1992) and the Upper Ohio Valley Dapper Dan Club’s Robert McKelvey Award (1994).
When asked what were some of the highlights of his sports writing career, Huff recalled an impressive list.
1. Prep Sports: I’ve witnessed every W.Va. boys basketball tournament since 1961 (my senior year at Magnolia when it won the school’s first state title-AA, and seen every title game; The two best players were Weir’s Fritz Williams (1962-64) and Huntington’s O. J. Mayo (2006), the state’s best-ever prep team (two NBA players — Patrick Patterson, also) which ranked No. 3 nationally.
2. WVU football: I’ve only missed five home Mountaineer games since 1961 — all because of conflicting prep games I covered. I also saw every WVU-Pitt game at both sites since 1961.The two best WVU players were Pat White and Major Harris. WVU has never had a Heisman Trophy winner but I covered TEN on other teams — Tony Dorsett, Roger Staubach, Doug Flutie (0-3 vs. WVU), Ernie Davis, John Cappelletti, Terry Baker, Vinny Testaverde, Gino Torretta, Barry Sanders and Archie Griffin (covered his 1st OSU start vs. NC in 1972).
3. WVU bowls: I covered 13 starting with the 1964 Liberty Bowl indoor game at Convention Hall in Atlantic City when I was sports editor of the WVU newspaper (Daily Athenaeum) and served as WVU spotter for Hall of Fame broadcaster Curt Gowdy (TV). Also covered 1989 Fiesta Bowl loss to Notre Dame, etc.
4. WVU basketball: While not a regular beat writer, I’ve seen every WVU men’s team play since 1959 and covered 1981 NIT in Madison Square Garden. Attended five events retiring only WVU football/basketball jersey numbers plus bronze statues outside Coliseum for Jerry West and Hot Rod Hundley.
5. I covered three World Series and two All-Star baseball games; five major national Hall of Fame inductions (Baseball-Maz & Phil Niekro), Pro Football (Lou Groza, etc.); and attended the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal.
6. Sports banquets: 48 Victory Awards dinners; 30 Dapper Dan dinners; 30 Magnolia Life Achievement dinners; OVAC Hall of Fame and Banquet of Champions, etc., plus toastmaster for the largest sports banquet ever held at Glessner Auditorium — the 1985 Lansing Sports Great Banquet for the Niekro brothers, Havlicek and Jobko.
7. Many trips and venues/press box in 35 states with rare visits, besides the bowls and others mentioned, to the Los Angeles Coliseum, Aloha Stadium, Rucker Park in Harlem, AlamoDome, SuperDome, etc.
8. Prep All-America Basketball: I covered 22 Dapper Dan Roundball Classic events in Pittsburgh plus six McDonald’s All-America games. I covered Kobe Bryant in McDonald’s game and his father, Joe Bryant, in the Dapper Dan. Also saw Moses Malone, Patrick Ewing, Adrian Dantley, Wayman Tisdale, Sam Bowie, Tom McMillen, Dominique Wilkins, etc.
9. Wheeling/Ohio Valley Ironmen: I covered the team the final two years (1968-69) and traveled to all the road games (Orlando, Norfolk, Birmingham, Omaha, Indianapolis, etc.). That was a fun time for a young guy in the business in the OV.
10. National publications: I wrote for many but the one which gave me the most exposure was the oldest (1941 start), Street & Smith’s Sports Previews (1975-2008) which had a circulation of over 500,000 in every state plus overseas.”
While Huff’s sports writing became national in scope, his time and work at The Intelligencer still remain special to him.
“I grew up in New Martinsville reading The Intell sports section. I worked with the late Cliff McWilliams for 12 years before starting a 20-year run as sports editor, followed by 12 years as a weekly columnist to round out a 47-year daily newspaper career in the state. 1500 Main St. in Wheeling is where I made my reputation and everything branched out from there with free-lance magazine writing, the high school statistics and record keeping, national rankings, All-America selections, etc. Besides the estimated 4,700 Intell columns plus numerous story bylines, I had bylines in magazines I used to buy as a kid at Temple News in New Martinsville. That was kind of cool,” Huff noted. “At the Intell, I’m proud of starting the All-Valley selections for boys basketball and baseball in 1968 plus other honors and awards and being part of the team which produced the first annual pre-season Football Preview supplement in 1968. I covered state championship events for football, boys and girls basketball, baseball, softball, boys and girls track and golf.
“But the best part of working in The Intell sports department were the people I worked with. I always heard if you want to be successful, surround yourself with good people. Those included Alan Robinson, who went on to cover 10 summer and winter Olympic Games for The Associated Press; Bob Galbraith, who went to the West Coast and became an honored photographer for The AP and Reuters; Rick Ryan and Rich Stevens, who became assistant sports editors of the two Charleston newspapers; Jeff Gillespie, who became regional sports editor of multiple papers in Georgia; and Joe Myers, who continues to write good prose for websites. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the last two editorial bosses I had at the newspaper. Bob DeFrancis and the late Bob Kelly were very supportive of our efforts and we had a good relationship.”
∫ Drew Campbell authored a new school pitching record at Thornville Sheridan High School. He finished his mound career with a miniscule 1.05 ERA. This spring would have been Campbell’s fourth-year as a varsity performer for the Generals. He will continue his baseball and academic careers at Marietta College next year. Drew is the son of former Shadyside graduate Gayle Hall Campbell and Jon Campbell, a Wheeling Park grad. His grandparents are Dave and Darlene Hall of Shadyside.
∫ Thanks to everyone who responded to my request to contribute nominations for the best prep baseball players and teams in Ohio Valley history. A week from today we will highlight the best teams that have been submitted. The response has been impressive.
The Documentary “The Last Dance” has brought much-needed excitement to TV viewing during the coronavirus pandemic. It’s a shame there are only 10 segments.
∫ The OHSAA has released the all-time winningest programs in Ohio prep football history. Steubenville ranks third with 822 wins while Martins Ferry ranks fifth with 713. Massillon leads with 899 wins while Canton McKinley is second with 846. Dover is eighth with 703 triumphs.
∫ Kudos to Superintendent John Haswell and the Shadyside BOE on their plans to install artificial turf at Fleming Field. The Tigers of Coach Mark Holenka boast one of the premier football programs in the OVAC and deserving of a state-of-the-art facility. The field will be ready for the upcoming season.
∫ Our country has gone two months without live sporting events. Hopefully, we don’t have to wait another two months. Korea has resumed playing professional baseball.
∫ Although the May 11 WVU Coaches Caravan has been canceled because of the ongoing Covid 19 pandemic, the Mountaineer Athletic Club (MAC) is planning two virtual online caravan events for WVU fans on Tuesday, May 19 and Thursday, May 21. Two sessions are planned to allow as many people to take part as possible, with the format being similar to the regular caravan events, with coaches and athletic staff attending and Tony Caridi serving as emcee. When plans are complete, the MAC will send an email notice of particulars, including event times, format and sign on instructions. There is no charge for this event.