In 1988 and 1989, the Abilene Independent School District started a sports Hall of Fame, inducting 10 inaugural members but disbanded after two years.
In 2002, the Big Country Athletic Hall of Fame began with the help of TSTC for seven years in an effort to honor the outstanding high school athletes and coaches from the 19-county area surrounding Abilene, plus honoring lifetime achievement awards for officials and media. They included the original 10 members from AISD with their blessing. Plaques were displayed at TSTC.
In 2009, Moving forward, the Hall of Fame applied for its 501c3 status and elected a Board of Directors.
A museum was established with the support of AISD, giving us use of a hallway in the AISD Administration Building at 241 Pine in downtown Abilene. A grand opening was held onMay 10, 2010. That year a ‘Legacy Award’ was added to recognize a family or group who has made a lasting contribution to sports in the Big Country.
In 2011 the Big Country Hall of Fame Board started an endowment and began offering scholarships to graduating senior high school athletes. They have now awarded $89,000 in scholarships
In 2014 the Board of Directors included recognition in a category called ‘Legends’, changing the name to the ‘Bill Hart Memorial Legends Award’ in 2016 for those who were accomplished athletes and are no longer living but played 50 or more years ago.
In 2019 one additional recognition award was added called the ‘Big Country Athletic Impact Award’. This award is for someone either living or deceased who doesn’t meet the usual criteria for induction, but who has greatly impacted and supported athletics in some manner in this area for many years. Not all categories are inducted or recognized each year.
In 2020, with a pandemic in our country, no induction banquet was held and the museum needed to be moved to a new location for access to the public. The museum was moved to the Mall of Abilene in October with a grand opening held on December 11, 2020.
The Big Country Athletic Hall of Fame celebrated 20 years in 2021.
New members are inducted each year. There are now over 200 members of the Big Country Athletic Hall of Fame, an impressive group that includes 5 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 NFL, NBA, Pro Golfers and major league baseball players, numerous state champion athletes, national skeet and roping champions, 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.