Hail to the (Hall of Fame) chief

An Indiana basketball legend, Sam Alford is well-known throughout the state for any number of reasons.

He was a standout player at Franklin College. He was a highly successful coach at New Castle High School for 20 years.

He’s in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.

And he’s the father of former IU basketball star Steve Alford, who’s now the head coach at UCLA.

But as of today, the elder Alford has another distinction: president of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.

A Nineveh resident, Alford has been heavily involved with the Hall for three decades — first as a board member, eventually as an inductee and most recently as an executive.

Elected in 2013 to a two-year term as executive vice president, Alford — whose wife, Sharan, is also an active member — begins a two-year term as president.

The Hall’s chief fundraiser in recent years, Alford, 72, has been a tireless advocate for the 14,000-square-foot shrine to Hoosier Hysteria since the 1980s. He has served on the board of directors; been chairman of the marketing committee; and devoted countless volunteer hours to fundraising, doing everything from soliciting advertisements for pamphlets and brochures to overseeing an annual golf outing near his hometown of Washington.

Alford was himself inducted into the Hall in 2002.

During a coaching career that included stops at Monroe City, South Knox and Martinsville, as well as New Castle, where he coached his sons Steve and Sean, Alford collected 452 wins and 242 losses. He won 17 sectionals, six regionals and one semistate before retiring as a varsity head coach.

Alford isn’t the only local figure who begins an executive position today at the Hall of Fame.

Steve Witty, a Center Grove and Franklin College graduate, starts a two-year term as executive vice president. He will become president in 2017.

Grizzlies drawing attention

Training camp is more than a month away, and the season doesn’t start until September.

But already, a host of Franklin College football players have drawn national attention.

Whether a harbinger of things to come, time will tell. But the Grizzlies head into the 2015 campaign with seven players singled out, to varying degrees, for special recognition.

Topping the list are senior linebacker Jeremiah Windell and senior offensive lineman Austin Carlton, who are both first-team selections to the USA Football Preseason All-American Team.

Senior defensive lineman Nate Bryan and junior defensive back Taylor Christensen were named to the second team, and sophomore kicker Stephen Colligan was selected to the third team.

Senior wide receiver Mason Deal and senior punter Cody Beeks were named honorable mention.

Although All-American tallies guarantee nothing, the Grizzlies appear to have the manpower to maintain their dominance of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference.

Winners of five straight league titles and seven in the past eight years, the Grizzlies have become adept at reloading instead of rebuilding.

Despite cycles of heavy graduation losses, Franklin has seldom been challenged in the conference the past decade. It has been to the national playoffs seven times in eight years, has boasted numerous All-HCAC performers and has seen some of its players become finalists for the Gagliardi Trophy, Division III’s equivalent of the Heisman Trophy.

Yet even with the Grizzlies’ impressive history for producing All-American-caliber players, seven preseason candidates is a stunning total — made even more so by the fact that it is spread across the board, offense, defense and special teams.

Although preseason accolades don’t guarantee success, it certainly bodes well for it.

Rick Morwick is sports editor of the Daily Journal. He can be reached at rmorwick@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2715.