In 1988 and 1989, the Abilene Independent School District started a sports Hall of Fame, inducting 10 inaugural members. The AISD Hall of Fame was disbanded after two years. Then, in 2002, the Big Country Athletic Hall of Fame began as an effort to honor the outstanding high school athletes and coaches from a nineteen-county area surrounding Abilene. With the blessing of the AISD, the original 10 members of the AISD were included in the new Big Country Hall of Fame.
Texas State Technical College-West Texas was the sponsor of the event from 2002-09, using the Hall of Fame banquet as a way to raise more than $150,000 in scholarships for its students. TSTC dropped its sponsorship of the Hall of Fame following the 2009 banquet, and a non-profit Big Country Athletic Hall of Fame board of directors was formed and began raising money for a permanent Hall of Fame. It is located in theOne AISD Center, 241 Pine Street in downtown Abilene. A grand opening of the museum was held May 10, 2010.
The members of the Big Country Athletic Hall of Fame are an impressive group that includes four members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, several members of the College Football Hall of Fame, a number of Olympians, a Masters champion, former and some current NFL, NBA and major league baseball players, numerous state champion athletes and coaches and the most decorated athlete in the history of the University Interscholastic League – all of whom called the Big Country their home growing up.
The Big Country Athletic Hall of Fame, working through the Abilene Community Foundation, at the end of 2010 established two scholarship endowments available for the first awards in 2011. The first Endowment, The Nancy and Ted Paup Big Country Athletic Hall of Fame Scholarship, was established with a gift from these former Abilenians for scholarships for Abilene High, Cooper or Albany High seniors. This inspired the Board of Directors for the Big Country Athletic Hall of Fame to match the Paup endowment with their own to include the rest of the area, enlarging the number of recipients to be chosen each spring. Again this year, scholarships will be presented at this year’s banquet to graduating seniors from one of the high schools in the Big Country area.