RGV Sports Hall delays induction banquet

In this file photo, Rio Grande Valley Sports Hall of Fame Board of Director Secretary Ronnie Zamora honors the 1965 Brownsville High School Golden Eagles baseball team. By Miguel Roberts, The Brownsville Herald

The Rio Grande Valley Sports Hall of Fame has staged a banquet in June to recognize its latest class of inductees every year since 1988.

This year, however, due to the COVID-19 coronavirus, things are different.

In a unanimous vote last month, the organization’s board of directors approved a motion to postpone the banquet from June 20 to Aug. 15.

The banquet site, Mission Events Center, remains the same.

Iris Iglesias, the former longtime Mission High softball coach and now president of the RGV Sports Hall of Fame, said the organization hopes that by pushing back the banquet date it will allow the current class of seven inductees to be honored just as previous classes have been recognized.

“The well-being of everyone who would be attending (the banquet) is our main concern,” said Iglesias, an RGV Sports Hall of Famer herself since 2012. “It was a difficult decision, but we went ahead and postponed it, and hopefully by Aug. 15, maybe then it will be more allowed to get crowds together. If at that time there are still restrictions involved (due to the coronavirus), then we would have to look at a ‘Plan C,’ I guess.

“It’s important for the inductees and families that are involved,” she added. “If at all possible, we’d like to have the banquet. Some of the inductees have friends and family coming from out of town, some of them from long distances, so it was important for us to make the (postponement) decision as soon as possible so they could revise their (travel) plans.”

Iglesias said this year’s class is just as deserving as previous ones as far as being recognized at the organization’s annual banquet.

“I think the group that’s being inducted this year is a pretty good, all-around selection of people from different sports,” she said. “I think it’s an excellent group, and well-deserving (of being honored), every one of them. Each inductee deserves to have his or her day and their time to be recognized. That’s why we’re going to try our best to have the banquet.”

This year’s seven inductees include:

Paul Alsbury of Edinburg: A football standout and four-sport letterman at Edinburg High before graduating in 1987, Alsbury played football at Southwest Texas State (now Texas State) and went on to the NFL and NFL Europe after being drafted in 1991 by the New England Patriots.

Paula Dodge of McAllen: She is a volleyball coach from Minnesota who came to the Valley in the mid-1980s to coach at Brownsville Hanna and Brownsville Lopez before moving over to McAllen High, where she has 573 wins in 24 years guiding the Lady Bulldogs in volleyball. Her McHi teams have won five district titles and gone to the playoffs 18 times, reaching the regional tournament five times, including the 2019 season.

Rolando Garza of San Isidro: He is a basketball coach who was all-state as a player in 1977 before graduating from San Isidro. Since 1992, he has coached boys and girls basketball at San Isidro with 12 district titles, 20 playoff appearances, six area championships and three trips to the regional semifinals. He was a 12-time all-district coach of the year before stepping down after the 2018-19 school year with a 607-256 coaching record.

Larry Howell of Mission: A native of Ohio who attended Purdue University, Howell, best known as a track coach, came to the Valley in 1978 after coaching in Minnesota, Ohio and Houston. He coached track at Mission High for 12 years and became a special education instructor for South Texas ISD besides having also coached at La Joya and Hidalgo. His specialty in track is the throwing events. He helped produce eight All-Americans from 2000-07 as a track coach at Texas A&M-Kingsville. He has instructed track athletes in South Texas for more than 40 years.

Bill Littleton of McAllen: A native of Sanderson, Texas, Littleton has coached football, track and basketball during his 44 years in coaching. A 1976 graduate of Angelo State, Littleton is best known in the Valley as the football coach at McAllen Memorial since 2003 with a 123-69 record of guiding the Mustangs for 17 seasons. His McAllen Memorial teams have captured eight district championships and made 13 playoff appearances. His overall football coaching record is 151-85.

Mario Reyna of San Juan: A Valley native, Reyna has officiated multiple sports for 42 years. A PSJA High and University of Texas-Pan American graduate, he may be the only one from the Valley who has officiated state title games in three sports. Those title contests were UIL baseball (1993 and 1994), UIL volleyball (2003), UIL basketball (2003 and 2005) and TAPPS basketball (2008). He continues to officiate and has more than 2,000 high school games and 200 college baseball games to his credit.

Greg Selber of Edinburg: A native of Austin, Selber came to the Valley in 1989 to work as a sports reporter at the Valley Morning Star in Harlingen. Selber attended TCU, earning an undergraduate degree in journalism and a master’s degree in media studies before earning a doctorate in communications from the University of Texas at Austin. He has written two books in addition to serving as a professor in the department of communications at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Selber’s books are “Border Ball: The History of High School Football in the Rio Grande Valley” and “Bronc Ball: The History of College Basketball at Pan American University.” In 2011, Selber won the Texas High School Coaches Association’s Putt Powell Award as the state’s sports writer of the year. He continues to cover Valley sports for the Edinburg Daily Review.

For updates regarding the induction banquet and ticket information, visit www.rgvshof.net.