The Touchdown Club Foundation of Greater Akron continued its objective Monday night at Guy’s Party Center — recognize athletic and academic achievements by high school students.
James E. Sovacool Jr. serves as president of the organization, which is in its 73rd year.
“This is for the athletes,” said Sovacool, 61. “It is a real nice program and a real nice dinner.”
Sovacool, a 1972 Archbishop Hoban High School graduate, said the event highlights athletes and coaches from 43 schools in the Summit County and Portage County area.
Monday’s banquet celebrated winter sports athletes and coaches, coming on the heels of the fall awards banquet earlier in the school year.
“This is the oldest sports organization in town, and in the county for that matter,” executive committee member Ed Kalail said.
“It has been around since 1941 and it is the only one to my knowledge that recognizes high school sports exclusively. There is the hall of fame, which recognizes post high school, and the Dapper Dan sort of has a mixture of high school and college and pro people.”
The event allows athletes, coaches and parents from different communities to mingle, talk, laugh and share a meal. Rivals sat at the same table and socialized.
Kalail, who is a 1951 Buchtel High School graduate and a 1956 University of Akron graduate, said the organization is run by membership.
“This is a great organization and we appreciate the help we get from the schools,” he said. “All of the outstanding sports from the area in fall and winter sports have been honored here.”
Kalail, 81, rattled off the names of St. V-M graduates LeBron James and Frank Stams, Stow graduate Larry Csonka, Buchtel graduate Ricky Powers and Firestone graduates Katie Miller and Mark Gangloff as some of the top athletes to earn Touchdown Club honors over the years.
“The purpose is to recognize outstanding athletic achievement, and we also have four scholarship athletes a year that are awarded $1,000 scholarships each, which recognizes the scholastic end of it too,” Kalail said. “Years ago we used to have guest speakers, but we have done away with that for reasons such as it added another 30 minutes to the program. There were some top names. Notre Dame’s Ara Parseghian from Akron, Penn State’s Joe Paterno and Michigan’s Bo Schembechler from Barberton spoke here. So did Indiana’s Bobby Knight from Orrville and Ohio State’s Woody Hayes.”
Dick Lang, 76, is an executive committee member who has been involved with the Touchdown Club for 35 years. Lang and Kalail both served as president and enjoy interacting with the area’s best in athletics.
“I have seen a big change,” said Lang, a graduate of St. Vincent High School (1956) and the University of Akron (1970).
“We used to have only one banquet, and that was the football banquet, and it was held at the University of Akron in Memorial Hall. Consequently, it was right around Christmas all the time. We would have 900 to 1,000 people. We moved it over to the Hilltop Room, then over to Tangier and from there we came over to here. It is quite different. When we were first established, we were able to have a football coach from one of the leading colleges. That was done away with 15 to 20 years. The NCAA made a ruling that speaking at an event like this counted as a visit.”
Ellet girls volleyball and girls basketball coach Tina Wallace was recognized as the Clem Caraboolad Memorial Coach of the Year for her work on the sidelines and as a teacher.
Hoban boys basketball coach-teacher T.K. Griffith won the Caraboolad Award last year, which honors the well-respected and deceased former coach and teacher at Walsh Jesuit and Hoban.