WLU coach earns ‘Light of the Valley’ honor

WHEELING – For the Wheeling YMCA, it was a slam dunk decision to name West Liberty University’s men’s basketball coach Jim Crutchfield as the eighth annual recipient of the Y’s “Light of the Valley” honor.

Crutchfield will be presented The Dr. Lee Jones “Patron of Youth” award during a noontime luncheon on Aug. 13 at the White Palace in Wheeling Park. The award has been named in memory of the late Dr. Edmund “Lee” Jones, whose own contributions to youth were exemplary over the decades.

Mike Panas, YMCA executive director, said the award is a fitting tribute to both Jones and Crutchfield.

“The recipient should serve as a ‘shining light’ in our valley and their deeds as an inspiration for others to follow. Dr. Jones loved children and was a leader at the YMCA. We believe that, in his name, we made the correct selection to honor Coach Crutchfield because he has touched the lives of many youth through his selfless energy and enthusiasm in the coaching profession and has also ‘shined the light’ nationally on the Ohio Valley through his successes with the WLU basketball program.”

Light of the Valley Chairman Larry Williams said, “Over the years I have witnessed the accomplishments of Jim Crutchfield in his many endeavors at West Liberty University. He has touched the lives of many young people through his coaching of tennis and basketball.

“We are so fortunate to have a person of his stature in our valley to influence young people in a very positive way. Jim joins an elite group of individuals who have received the ‘Light of the Valley’ award from the Wheeling Young Men’s Christian Association. I personally am very lucky to know a person of Jim’s stature.”

The award is meant to honor someone whose life reflects his or her contributions and dedication to the quality of life for the youth and families of the local community.

Crutchfield began his coaching career at WLU as a men’s basketball assistant and head coach of the tennis team. Prior to that he spent 10 years at Cameron High School where he became the winningest coach in the high school’s history. He took the helm of the men’s basketball program at WLU at the start of the 2004-05 season.

At WLU, Crutchfield has set a school single-season record for victories with a 34-2 mark last winter and leads all active NCAA men’s basketball coaches in winning percentages (272-49 after guiding the Hilltoppers to an unprecedented fourth consecutive NCAA Division II Atlantic Region championship and NCAA Division II national championship game berth. He has achieved nine consecutive 20-win seasons with 30 wins or more in each of the last three campaigns.

He has been selected as the winner of the Furfari Award, given to the state’s top college coach each year as voted on by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association, for a record-tying fourth consecutive time. A native of Clarksburg, he resides in Wheeling with his wife, Diana, and their daughters, Caroline and Allison.

Crutchfield joins an impressive field of local “Lights” include Oglebay Foundation Chief Executive Officer G. Randolph “Randy” Worls, who was the first recipient, and the late Most Rev. Bernard W. Schmitt, bishop emeritus of Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.

More than 400 people attended each of the last five year’s award luncheons which honored local businessman Bob Robinson as the third recipient, president and chief executive officer of the Ogden Newspapers Inc. and chairman of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Pirates Charities Bob Nutting as the fourth honoree and businessman Gary West as the fifth.

The YMCA broke from tradition in 2012 as it honored several individuals for their efforts on the development of The Highlands shopping complex. Ohio County officials Tim McCormick, Randy Wharton, Greg Stewart and David Sims were group recipients of the sixth annual award. Businessman Robert C. Contraguerro Sr. was the seventh honoree.

Proceeds from the event will go to further the YMCA’s work with the less fortunate of our community. “The proceeds will ensure the Y’s future in the valley and enable us to continue to provide safe, wholesome youth and adult programming to those who cannot afford the costs,” Panas added.

For reservations or to purchase a congratulatory message for the luncheon brochure, call Panas at 304-242-8086,