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Billy Reed: An obvious oversight, Hal Smith’s induction in NKY Sports Hall of Fame long overdue

I checked out the members of the Northern Kentucky Sports Hall of Fame recently and was both surprised and dismayed to learn that my friend Hal Smith hasn’t been inducted.

This is an obvious oversight, and we all make them, but the Hall of Fame needs to correct it if it cares about having any credibility with all of us who have known Hal for any length of time.

He was a good enough basketball player at Newport Public High to earn a scholarship to Centre College in 1960. In his four undergraduate years in Danville, he set several school records in a variety of categories. The Colonels also went to the NCAA Division III tournament for the first time.

Billy Reed is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Hall of Fame, the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame and the Transylvania University Hall of Fame. He has been named Kentucky Sports Writer of the Year eight times and has won the Eclipse Award three times. Reed has written about a multitude of sports events for over four decades and is perhaps one of the most knowledgeable writers on the Kentucky Derby. His book “Last of a BReed” is available on Amazon.

After graduation from Centre, Hal stayed in education. He worked 19 years at his alma mater, in admissions and other departments, and served as President of Pikeville College from 1997 through 2009. He left the Commonwealth for 14 years to work at Muskingum College in Ohio.

I met Hal when he was at Pikeville through Bill Malone, a mutual friend who was serving on Hal’s board of trustees. Bill also had graduated from Centre, but he left the same year Hal arrived from Newport as a freshman.

From the first time I met Hal, I knew I had found a soul brother. He loved and followed sports as much as I did, but he also believed that academics came before athletics and that breaking rules to win was not acceptable.

At both Centre and Pikeville, Hal pushed to have the strongest athletics teams possible, both for men and women. He always was a coach’s best friend, so long as the coach lived up to his standards.

Sadly, such leaders have dwindled in athletics, and every other part of our society, which is reason enough for Hal to be in the Northern Kentucky Sports Hall of Fame.

After leaving Pikeville, where he still is President Emeritus, Hal accepted the job of running the Governor’s Scholars program. Every summer, Kentucky’s best and brightest high-school juniors are invited to spend a couple of weeks at one of three college campuses. This year they were Bellarmine, Centre, and Morehead.

They hear from speakers who have been successful in various fields. But mostly they work together in relatively unstructured classes to study current social issues or other topics that might not be included in their regular classroom curriculums.

Once again, Hal Smith was working for a smarter and better Kentucky.

When you stop and think about how many young lives this proud son of Newport has touched both as an athlete and educator, the number is incomprehensible.

Hal Smith

Hal is modest and honest to a fault. The next lie he tells will be his first one. Maybe one reason he hasn’t gotten more recognition is that he hasn’t sought it. Once again, humility and truthfulness seem to be character traits that are not found in many of today’s leaders.

Sports are best enjoyed in the company of someone who shares your taste. Over the last 15 years or so, there’s no telling how many basketball, football, and baseball games Hal and I have attended together. Every one has been a delight.

I don’t see how any person could deserve more than Hal to be in the Northern Kentucky Sports Hall of Fame, or any Hall of Fame, for that matter.

I can’t ever remember seeing Hal play at either Newport Public or Centre. But I have it on good authority that his best shot is one seldom seen today – the hook shot.

I like that. The hook shot is old school. So am I and Hal.

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  1. Dick Maile says:

    Inductees into the NKSHOF have to be nominated by someone. Apparently no one has ever nominated Hal. I know him also and he is an outstanding person.

  2. Gary Barch says:

    Great piece Billy! Hope Hal gets his due! Sounds like my kind of guy; likes sports but academics first and does it by the rules. Based on your story, bet he would never mention even the possibility of it to anyone, unless someone else brought it up! Nice guy who should finish first, like you!

  3. david skeen says:

    Hal Smith was much more than just a BB player at Newport HIgh and Centre College, Hal was an outstanding track athlete. I played BB against Hal’s Newport team when a senior at Dixie Height in 1957-58 and Newport defeats on both occasions. Hal and I later worked at Muskingum College where recognized our common NKY ties years before. I can confirm Hal’s character traits of honesty and modesty. He clearly deserves induction to the NKY Hall of Fame for his athlete prowess and the contributions he has made throughout his professional career to young athletes at the high school and college.

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