Cumbie headlines the list of Class of 2016 in the Big Country Athletic Hall of Fame
The 15th annual Big Country Athletic Hall of Fame banquet is set for Monday, May 2 at the Abilene Civic Center, and former Snyder and Texas Tech quarterback Sonny Cumbie, who is now the co-offensive coordinator at Texas Christian University, headlines the Class of 2016.
Joining Cumbie as the newest inductees into the Big Country Athletic Hall of Fame are former Albany and Texas Tech running back Johnny Agan, former Albany and Abilene Christian University track star Kim Bartee Neece, former all-American girls basketball player Bonnie Buchanan Gray from May and Abilene Christian University, former Clyde and University of Texas all-American tennis player Brandon Hawk, and former Coleman and University of Texas basketball star Kenneth Cleveland (deceased), one of the nation’s most successful high school basketball coaches during his career at Dimmitt.
The Berry family of Abilene will be this year’s Legacy Award recipients. The late Powell Berry, who played football at Snyder, and his sons Greg and Dean Berry all served as team captains at Texas A&M, while a third son Ray Berry played football at Baylor and seven years in the National Football League with the Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks.
For only the sixth time in the history of the Big Country Athletic Hall of Fame, the selection committee has also chosen a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Media Award. This year’s recipient is Abilene writer/sportscaster Al Pickett, who has covered Big Country sports for 30 years and was instrumental in starting the Big Country Athletic Hall of Fame.
For the third straight year, the Hall of Fame board of directors will recognize two Bill Hart Memorial Legend Award recipients, Dr. William “Dub” Sibley and legendary girls track coach Margaret Ellison, both of whom are deceased. The Legend Award has been renamed in honor of Hart, the long-time Abilene Reporter-News sports writer who passed away last year and is a member of the Big Country Athletic Hall of Fame.
Tickets for the banquet are now on sale. Individual tickets are $60 each. Tables of 10 can be purchased for $750 and include the VIP reception prior to the banquet. Tickets can be purchased online at bigcountryhalloffame.org or by calling (325) 668-3685. Twelve $1,000 college scholarships will also be awarded again this year at the banquet to graduating student-athletes from the 19 counties in the Big Country.
The Big Country Athletic Hall of Fame is open to the public free of charge during business hours at the Abilene ISD administration building at 241 Pine in Abilene. The newest inductees will bring the list of former athletes and coaches from the 19-country Big Country area to more than 140 who have been inducted into the Big Country Athletic Hall of Fame.
Here is a brief profile of this year Hall of Fame inductees:
Johnny Agan of Albany was a two-time all-state running back as he led the Lions to back-to-back Class A state football championships and a 29-1 record in 1960 and 1961. He was a three-year starter on both offense and defense at Texas Tech. Agan and all-American Donnie Anderson played the left and right halfback positions, respectively, leading the Red Raiders to a 6-4 record and an appearance in the Sun Bowl as juniors and an 8-2 record and an appearance in the Gator Bowl as seniors.
Bonnie Buchanan Gray of May became an all-American in basketball at Abilene Christian University. When she played at tiny May at the end of the six-on-six girls basketball era in Texas, she set some of amazing scoring records. In fact, she has 10 of the top individual scoring games in the UIL history of six-on-six girls basketball. In 1976 and 1977, she scored 74, 69, 67, 63, 59 three times, 58 twice and 56 points in individual games.
Kenneth Cleveland was a standout basketball player at Coleman and the University of Texas. He compiled an 887-227 record coaching basketball, the last 32 years at Dimmitt where he won 27 district championships, 10 regional titles and three state championships. When he was killed by lightning in 1993, he was ninth among high school basketball coaches in the nation for most wins. He is a member of the Texas High School Basketball Hall of Fame and the Texas High School Coaches Association Hall of Honor.
Sonny Cumbie was a three-sport standout in high school at Snyder. He walked on at Texas Tech and became the Red Raiders’ starting quarterback as a senior in 2004. He led the nation in passing that year, completing 65.6 percent of his passes for 4,742 yards and 32 touchdowns in leading Red Raiders to a 7-4 record. He threw for 520 yards and three touchdowns as Texas Tech upset Aaron Rodgers and No. 4-ranked California in the Holiday Bowl. Cumbie is now the co-offensive coordinator at TCU.
Brandon Hawk of Clyde is one of the top tennis players to come out of the Big Country. He reached a No. 1 ranking in Texas in both singles and doubles and a No. 1 ranking in doubles and No. 5 in singles nationally as a junior tennis player. Although his national tennis schedule prevented him from playing high school tennis, he still played basketball at Clyde and was named all-state as a senior. He earned all-American honors in tennis at the University of Texas as a freshman before turning professional following his sophomore season. Hawk reached a world ranking of 230 during his three years as a professional tennis player.
Kim Bartee Neece of Albany was the Big Country Female Athlete of the Year in 1991. She won the high jump, took second as a member of the 800 and 1,600-meter relay teams and fourth on the 400 relay team to lead Albany to 1991 state track championship. She was all-district in volleyball and basketball and was valedictorian of her class. Bartee Neece was a two-time NCAA Division II indoor champion in the high jump at ACU. She also took second in the NCAA Division II outdoor high jump in 1993. She was a two-time Lone Star Conference champion in the high jump and a five-time NCAA all-American. She graduated magna cum laude in 1995 from ACU with 3.8 GPA and was one of three athletes from Texas to receive a NCAA Post Graduate Scholarship in 1995.
Lifetime Achievement Media Recipient
Al Pickett has been covering sports in the Big Country for 30 years. He spent 15 years as sports editor of the Abilene Reporter-News, and since 2002 he has been a freelance writer and sports broadcaster. He broadcasts Abilene High football and Cooper basketball and baseball, is the play-by-play voice for Hardin-Simmons football and is host of Let’s Talk Sports, a daily sports talk show on KWKC 1340 AM. Besides owning his own oil and gas reporting service, Pickett writes for three national and regional oil and gas publications, and he is regular contributor to Dave Campbell’s Texas Football and Red Raider Sports magazines. He is also the author of four books about sports in Abilene and Texas. Pickett was the founder of the Big Country Athletic Hall of Fame and has served as its chairman since the Hall of Fame’s inception in 2002.
Legacy Award Recipients
The late Powell Berry was an all-district quarterback at Snyder. He is a member of the Snyder Hall of Honor and was a three-year letterman for Bear Bryant at Texas A&M where he was a team co-captain as a senior. All three sons played football at Abilene Cooper. Middle son Ray is already member of the Big Country Athletic Hall of Fame. He played football at Baylor and for the Minnesota Vikings. He was the Southwest Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 1986. MVP of 1986 Bluebonnet Bowl and 1987 Senior Bowl and is second in career tackles in Baylor history. Ray played seven seasons in NFL for the Vikings and Seattle Seahawks. Oldest son Greg was an all-state linebacker at Cooper in 1979 and was a four-year letterman at Texas A&M. He was team captain for the Aggies in 1983. Youngest son Dean also played linebacker at Cooper. As a sophomore at Texas A&M, he walked on and was selected to be a member of the 12th Man Kickoff Team, which was started by Jackie Sherrill in 1983. Through his participation as a 12th Man Kickoff Team member, Dean played for three Southwest Conference championship teams at A&M as a special teams starter and reserve linebacker. He was awarded three letters and was selected team captain his senior year. Continuing the tradition, several members of the third generation of the Berry family have earned all-district honors in both football and volleyball at Abilene High.
Bill Hart Memorial Legend Award Recipients
Dr. William (Dub) Sibley played football at Abilene High and Texas A&M. He was an all-Southwest Conference linebacker and center in 1941 and still holds the conference record for interceptions by a linebacker. As a Marine, he fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II. A highly respected Abilene physician, he served as the Abilene High football team doctor in the 1950s and helped establish the West Texas Rehabilitation Center.
Margaret Ellison, who was born in Eastland, was the founder and coach of a women’s track and field club in Abilene in the early 1960s that revolutionized the sport. Her Texas Track Club became nationally famous with members of the team appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1964. The team included talented girls from the Big Country and across Texas who wore distinctive bouffant hairdos. The Texas Track Club competed in major meets through the U.S., and Ellison helped coach several American national teams in Russia and Europe.
For more information, contact Al Pickett at (325) 691-5474 or (325) 668-3014.