Foti Named to W. Va. Sports Hall of Fame

A basketball coach for 38 years and a football coach for 20 year, Jim Foti can look back on a record of distinction.

Now he can also look forward to being inducted into the West Virginia Sports Hall of Fame. He will be enshrined at the Victory Awards Dinner, sponsored by the West Virginia Sportswriters Association, in Morgantown on Sunday, May 6.

Now 73 years old and retired from coaching but still residing in Warwood, where he piloted the Viking basketball teams for 27 years, the fiery half-pint of a coach has compiled a record that is staggering in quantity and luminous in quality.

The Jamestown, NY native, who has called the Ohio Valley "home" since coming to Wheeling to coach football and basketball at Central Catholic High in 1942, has given coaches present and future something to shoot at with 466 varsity high school basketball victories, all but 26 of them at valley schools, and a total surpassed in the area by only one coach, Dick Potts at River High.

Foti has been an old hand at state basketball tournaments. His Warwood teams won 11 sectionals and 7 regionals, and thus appeared in the West Virginia state tourney 7 times. Moreover, in six years at Central, he had his basketeers in the state Catholic tournament five times and compiled an over-all mark of 117 victories against 28 defeats. His 1943 football team at Central also engaged in post-season action as its 9-1 record earned it a berth in the Steel Bowl at Steubenville, Ohio where it lost a thriller to Rochester, PA, 20-19.

At Warwood, the little general experienced 14 winning basketball seasons and three campaigns in which his Vikings won 20 or more games. His 1967 aggregation, led by all-staters Bill Kennedy and Greg Church, won the West Virginia double-A crown at Morgantown and his 1975 team was runner-up to Northfork in action at Charleston Civic Center.

Foti, who retired in 1976 after taking the Vikes to the state tourney in Warwood's last year of existence as a high school before the Wheeling Park consolidation, holds the unusual distinction of having coached championship clubs in three divisions of the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference. He has also coached West Virginia teams in Ohio Valley all-star basketball and football games.

Also, he coached the professional Wheeling Puritans, forerunners to the Wheeling Blues, in 1947-48.

Foti actually had two tours of duty at Wheeling Central. After coaching there from the time of his arrival in the Ohio Valley through the basketball season of 1944, he moved across the river to Bellaire High, where he coached for two years. Then he returned to Central to pilot the Maroon Knights through 1949.

When he first went to Warwood in 1950, he was not head coach in football, but took over that post in 1957 following the departure of the late Howard Lewellen. He piloted the Viking gridders for ten years before giving up the reins. His over-all record in football shows 90 victories, 106 losses and three ties, but Warwood often played a schedule in which it was overmatched.

Foti was line coach at Warwood when the great Chuck Howley, later to become an all-pro linebacker with the Dallas Cowboys, played for the Vikings. Howley, three-time All-Southern Conference and an All-American at WVU, is already a member of the West Virginia Sports Hall of Fame and soon will be joined in that shrine by his former coach. Both Foti and Howley are members of the Upper Ohio Valley Dapper Dan Sports Hall of Fame.

Bob Dunlevy, who went on to star as an end at WVU was also one of Foti's pupils.

From his war-time powerhouses at Central, Foti sent football stars Jim Dailer and Bill Gompers to Notre Dame, Jack McConville to Alabama, Pete Schuetz to Duquesne, Bill McCreary to West Liberty, and Paul Schuetz to Northwestern. A number of his basketball players also performed collegiately.

Foti won an OVAC basketball championship with his 1943 Central team and his '44 club bowed by only a point in the Eastern Catholic championship at Newport, R.I.

His 1962 Warwood club, led by Bob Ayers, later a star at VMI, and his 1967 state championship team were also conference titlists. With Kennedy, who went on to star at Arizona State, and Church, who went to West Point, leading the way, the Vikes won 24 and lost 3 in '66 and were 24-2 when they copped the state crown in '67. Foti's '75 aggregation, led by Craig Riedel, won 21 and lost just 6.

Old-timers in Jamestown remember Foti well. He was a stellar high school athlete there and was captain of the 1930 football team. One of a family that included nine boys and one girl, he started college at St. Bonaventure but later transferred to John Carroll University at Cleveland, where he played football, basketball and hockey. At 5 ft. 6, 160 pounds, he was a watch charm guard in football and basketball. Late in the '60s, he was selected as a member of John Carroll's all-time football team.

After graduation in 1938 from John Carroll, Foti remained there for a year as freshman coach and then moved on to Erie (PA) Prep School where in two years, his basketball teams won 26 and lost eight. Then he took the Wheeling Central job.

The additional financial assistance of the community is critical to the success of the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame.
We gratefully acknowledge these individuals and organizations for their generous support.