Sequim Gazette staff
A key member of the college athletic staff, a former president and the first champion in the college's history: The first inductees into the newly formed Peninsula College Athletics Hall of Fame hardly need any introduction for those familiar to Pirate sports.
The 1970 Peninsula College men’s basketball team, led by future NBA player and referee Bernie Fryer, headlines the induction ceremony set for 6 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 17, at the Bushwhacker Restaurant, 1527 E. First St., Port Angeles.
In addition to that Washington Athletic Association of Community Colleges championship team, the first round of inductees also includes the late Arthur Feiro, the late Dr. Wally Sigmar and two surprise guests yet to be announced.
“This is something we’ve been talking about for some time,” said Rick Ross, director of athletics at Peninsula College. “We haven’t had a facility before where we could properly house a Hall of Fame, but our new gymnasium foyer lends itself perfectly to that. I’m honored and thrilled that this is finally happening.”
Peninsula College also is collaborating with the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges to dually induct the 1970 basketball team. Fryer was inducted into the NWAACC Hall of Fame as an individual in 1992 but the entire team will be inducted Friday.
Feiro previously was inducted into the NWAACC Hall of Fame in 1989 and Sigmar in 1995.
“This is a unique opportunity to start our own Hall of Fame and also to work with the NWAACC to bring in the 1970 team at the same time,” Ross said. “There are many deserving candidates to go into our Hall, but we’re starting with five and will build that over the coming years.”
Jerry Allen, CEO of Seven Cedars Casino who is part of the organizing committee for the Hall of Fame event, called the Pirates' 1970 state championship the first major sports accomplishment in Port Angeles’ history.
“That was a big deal,” Allen said. “We had the 1966 Port Angeles team place second and some minor sports championships, but that was the first major championship in this community’s history.”
Fryer, who stepped down from his position as vice president and director of officials for the NBA two years ago, continues to work for the NBA as an advisor and video specialist for its officials. He said he is looking forward to the event.
“It is very rewarding to have our team be remembered for the success we had,” Fryer said. “For me personally, my experience at Peninsula was, and still is, one of the best of my basketball career.”
Fryer scored 57 points in Peninsula’s come-from-behind, double-overtime 132-130 win over Lower Columbia in the championship game. That still stands as the single game scoring record for an NWAACC playoff game.
What made the win even more memorable was that it was a Cinderella story and a team effort that won them the championship, according to head coach Jack Estes, who now resides in Manhattan, N.Y.
“Bernie was clearly the star, but he wasn't alone. This was really a team, a group of young men who worked together. They passed, and they pressed, and they shared the victory," Estes said.
“I had a dream mid-season that we won the championship,” he said. “This was a magical season. A small-sized team from a small town representing the smallest college in the state went up against big budgets and big players from big schools. I still can't believe it. When we were down by a score of 100-81 with only six minutes remaining, playing at our opponent's home court and having been beaten badly by that same team only two weeks earlier, 129-91, how did we pull it out? Unbelievable still, all these years later.”
According to Peninsula College records, members of that team included Larry Baker, Mitch Blore, Rocky Brecht, Bernie Fryer, Bob Jones, Keith Lingvall, Brad Maier, Bud O’Meara, Harley Robinson, Art Ruud, Dan Ruud, Darrl Sanford, Dan Schleiffers, Jack Werkau and manager Mark Bowes.
He was instrumental in the success of the 1970 championship basketball team and he helped found the NWAACC in the early 1970s, transitioning from the WAACC. He also hired Kathy Murphy-Carey in 1975 to coach the first NWAACC women’s sports teams. He died the same year Peninsula College dropped its athletic program in 1982.
“Art was such a big part of Peninsula’s history, it was a slam dunk that he would be among the first wave of inductees into our Hall of Fame,” Ross said. “He was everybody’s favorite teacher, he was a ferocious competitor, he was an innovator and he was an outstanding leader. No one talks about our history without sharing stories about Art.”
Feiro was the secretary-treasurer of the WAACC executive board in 1970 and the first executive secretary of the NWAACC. He also was a member of the NWAACC executive board.
The Art Feiro award is given annually to the NWAACC's top administrator.
The late Dr. Sigmar became president of Peninsula College in 1995 and was instrumental in bringing athletics back to Peninsula College in 1997 and improving the college’s athletic facility with new bleachers, a new gym floor surface, scoreboards and a field reconstruction to support soccer and softball. The college fielded men’s and women’s basketball teams starting in the fall of 1997 and added men’s soccer and women’s softball in the fall of 2000.
Sigmar was inducted into the NWAACC Hall of Fame in 1995 for winning five NWAACC championships during an 11-year coaching career at Skagit Valley College (1974-1982).
Peninsula’s fourth president died in 2000, just two months before the first Pirate soccer team took the field.
“Wally was the people’s president,” Ross said. “He made every employee, every community member, and I’m sure his colleagues across the region, all feel like close personal friends.
"His passion for athletics and his leadership with our committee changed the face of our college,” said Ross, who served with Sigmar, Jim Lunt, the late Roger Reidel, who was board of trustees chairman, and several community members during the 1996-1997 academic year when the NWAACC approved Peninsula’s request to join the conference. “Athletics is one small piece of what makes this college a destination college, but Sigmar set the bar pretty high and we’ve strived all these years to run the kind of program he would have been proud of.”
Peninsula College also will induct two other members into its inaugural Athletics Hall of Fame, to be announced the night of the event.
“We have two more very deserving inductees that we wanted to surprise at the event,” Ross said. “This is a very big night in the storied history of Peninsula College athletics and I’m very pleased with the first group we’re bringing in.”
Rob Sorensen, former owner of Sorensen’s Sports and long-time Port Angeles sports advocate and historian, serves as emcee for the event, which begins with a social hour at 6 p.m. and the induction ceremony to follow at 7 p.m.
Tickets for the event are $20 and include appetizers and an open beer and wine bar. Get tickets by contacting P.C. men’s head basketball coach Mitch Freeman at email@example.com or 417-6467.
The event carries over to Jan. 18, where the college’s first Athletics Hall of Fame inductees will be recognized in front of the home fans and where Fryer’s jersey will be retired during halftime of the men’s game.
The Pirate women play Olympic at 5 p.m. and the men tip off at 7 p.m. Port Angeles’ radio and print media personality Scooter Chapman serves as emcee for that event.