RIO GRANDE, Ohio — Three of the most successful coaches in school history and another men’s soccer standout headline the University of Rio Grande’s Athletic Hall of Fame Class of 2016.
Men’s soccer head coach Scott Morrissey, men’s and women’s track and field/cross country head coach Bob Willey, women’s basketball head coach David Smalley and 2008 NAIA men’s soccer All-American Paul Nicholson comprise the quarter of honorees announced Tuesday by school officials.
The foursome will be formally inducted during the school’s annual Hall of Fame banquet on Saturday, Nov. 19 at 7 p.m., in the Davis University Center.
The banquet follows the conclusion of the Bevo Francis Invitational Tournament, scheduled for Friday and Saturday, Nov. 18-19 at the Newt Oliver Arena.
The Class of 2016 — and all Hall of Fame members in attendance — will be recognized prior to the tournament’s final game at approximately 4:30 p.m. on the 19th.
The banquet begins with a 6:30 p.m. reception, with the formal program to follow at the top of the hour.
Morrissey, who guided the Rio men’s soccer team to the second national title in school history last December, was named the 2015 NAIA Men’s Soccer National Coach of the Year by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.
He has amassed 425 wins during his tenure and has guided the school to 15 consecutive NAIA National Tournaments, five semifinal appearances, three national title-game appearances and two NAIA national championships.
“I’m honored to receive such a prestigious award and to be inducted into the Hall of Fame here at the University of Rio Grande. My career has been a fairly long one here and, every step of the way, (former Rio men’s soccer assistant coach and new Rio women’s soccer head coach) Tony Daniels has been a part of the process. It goes without saying that he is equally responsible for the success of our program as anybody else,” said Morrissey, who enters his 28th season as the program’s head coach this fall. “We’ve been very blessed along the way to have outstanding players, outstanding support from the institution and outstanding support from Evan and Elizabeth Davis. There are a number of things which come to mind when you start talking about receiving an honor like this, but Tony, the institution and the Davis family have knocked it out of the park and have all been instrumental in giving me the opportunity to enjoy any success that I’ve had as a head coach.”
Rio Grande has won 14 conference titles and seven NAIA region championships during Morrissey’s tenure.
He was named America Mideast Conference Coach of the Year four times, while also winning the same award in the Mid-South Conference on three occasions and taking the same honor in the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference last season.
Morrissey is also a two-time NAIA National Coach of the Year.
“You have to have players, too, to be successful and we’ve had, over the 28 years, some unbelievable players — both on and off the field,” he said. “I’m maybe more proud of that, of the individuals who have come through the doors and given us four or five years of their lives and committed to the cause. It started early with the guys who helped build the program and has come all the way back around to the guys who’ve won national championships. It’s been a lot of fun and it certainly beats working for a living.”
Willey, who earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Health & Physical Education from Rio Grande College in 1973 before receiving his Masters in Health Education from Union College in 1975, began his current stint as the head coach of Rio’s men’s and women’s cross country/track & field squads in 1986.
Willey’s first coaching assignment at Rio Grande College was from 1975 to 1979.
He then left for a similar position at Morehead State University, and was there from 1979 to 1985 before returning to Rio Grande.
“When you look at the people who are already in there — between the athletes, coaches and administrators — and you realize that you’re going to be a part of that same fraternity, it’s quite overwhelming,” said Willey. “I can remember my first thoughts of attending Rio Grande and the first name which was said was ‘Bevo Francis’. To think about being in the same Hall of Fame that he’s in is very humbling, to say the least.”
During his tenure, Willey has guided his teams to 15 conference championships, while winning 14 conference Coach of the Year awards, two District 22 Coach of the Year awards and one regional Coach of the Year honor.
Willey’s athletes have tallied 112 All-American finishes and his pupils include Matt Boyles, who won two silver medals in the Olympic trials and Paul Babits, who went on to set 11 world records in the pole vault.
Willey has also coached 120 scholar-athletes.
“To go in as a coach, you know you’ve had to have some outstanding athletes — they’re the reason that you get in,” he said. “The thanks goes to them, for sure, for all of their hard work and accomplishments.”
Smalley is preparing for his 25th season at the helm of the Rio Grande women’s basketball program and is 14 wins shy of 500 for his career.
He has guided the women’s team to six NAIA National Tournament appearances — four at the NAIA Division I level (1994, 1997, 1999, & 2000) and two at the NAIA Division II level (2008, 2015).
A 1982 graduate of Rio Grande, Smalley completed his graduate studies at Bowling Green State University, where he also served as an assistant coach on the women’s basketball staff before moving to Morehead State University — also in an assistant’s role.
He began his coaching career at Warren High School in Vincent as varsity girls head coach.
“I would like to thank the Athletic Hall of Fame committee for their heartfelt recognition of my coaching career at a place I dearly love — the University of Rio Grande. To be recognized as part of a class which includes Scott Morrissey, Paul Nicholson and Bob Willey is truly an honor and privilege,” Smalley said. “I’m moved beyond words to be associated with the more than 100 women and men currently in the Rio Grande Athletic Hall of Fame. To have the opportunity to walk the same sidewalks and endeavor to persevere through similar contestations and to revel in team and player accomplishments like coaches Newt Oliver, Art Lanham and Diane Lewis is humbling and a tremendous honor which will forever link me with this great institution.”
Since 1992, Smalley’s teams have won an average of 20 games per season, including a school record 27 wins twice.
During his tenure at the school, Rio Grande also claimed a pair of Mid-Ohio Conference (MOC) championships in 1993 and 1994, one Great Lakes Region crown, and back-to-back American Mideast Conference tournament titles in 1999 and 2000.
Smalley, who has coached 12 All-Americans and had just two sub-.500 seasons in his coaching career, also led his 2015 team to the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference regular-season crown.
“I’ve been blessed directing the women’s basketball program at Rio Grande over the past 24 years with awesome and talented players, extremely competent and energetic assistant coaches and supportive administrations,” said Smalley, who was also inducted into the Peebles High School Hall of Fame in 2014. “I’m very proud of the numerous success stories this program has produced over the years and the cradle of assistant and head college coaches that have matriculated to and from Rio Grande through the women’s basketball program. The players and staff are responsible for the programs’ tradition and I am proud to be a part of it.”
Nicholson — a native of Whitehaven, England and a 2009 Rio Grande graduate — played on four consecutive conference championship teams, four NAIA national tournament qualifiers, and was the only NAIA participant in the 2009 Major League Soccer combine.
Nicholson was a first-team NAIA All-American as a senior in 2008, while also earning All-America Mideast Conference and All-Region honors in helping Rio Grande to a national runner-up finish.
He was also an all-conference selection in each of his first three collegiate seasons, and was an all-region pick in his sophomore and junior seasons as well.
During Nicholson’s playing career, Rio’s men’s soccer program posted an overall record of 71-12-4.
He started all 87 games and was a team captain in each of his final two seasons.
“It’s a huge honor to be selected to the Rio Grande Hall of Fame. To even be considered a member of this prestigious group of Rio alumni is incredible and something my family and I are extremely proud of,” Nicholson said. “I can’t thank my coaches, Scott Morrissey and Tony Daniels, enough for taking a chance on me and changing my life both on and off the field forever.”
Nicholson is currently in his sixth season of playing professionally.
Prior to playing for FC Cincinnati of the United Soccer League in 2016, he spent the previous five seasons with the USL’s Wilmington (N.C.) Hammerheads and is the franchise’s all-time leader in games played.
Tickets for the banquet, which are $15 each, can be purchased through the Alumni Relations office at (740) 245-7431.
The University of Rio Grande takes great pride in awarding outstanding alumni, athletes and former faculty members with various recognition awards.
Nominations from alumni and former faculty and staff are encouraged.
Nomination forms for alumni awards, Athletic Hall of Fame and Educators Hall of Fame are available through the resources link on the Alumni Relations webpage at rio.edu/alumni.
Nominations are due by Feb. 1 of each year.
For more information, or questions, please e-mail a[email protected].