Toney Pugh, builder of local athletic programs to be enshrined in AHSAA Hall of Fame

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Toney Pugh, Executive Director at the Birmingham Athletic Partnership. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

“He is a builder.”

That’s how colleagues describe Toney Pugh, longtime director of the Birmingham Athletic Partnership (BAP), legendary wrestling coach and official and the athletic director who successfully established two high school athletic programs from scratch at Clay-Chalkville and Oak Mountain High Schools.

On March 16, Pugh will be enshrined along with 11 fellow inductees into the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame at a banquet held at the Montgomery Renaissance Hotel and Spa Convention Center.

The event is open to the public. Reserve your tickets – HERE.

Can’t make it? The AHSAA TV Network will televise the banquet live over the NFHS Network (livestream) and over its cable affiliates.

Builder of Partnerships—Birmingham City Schools

Toney Pugh with Huffman High School head coach Stephen Ward. Huffman won their first state basketball championship on February 29, 2020. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

Over the past decade, Pugh has directed the Birmingham Athletic Partnership (BAP). Every day he seeks ways to “build up” athletics and fine arts in Birmingham City Schools

The brainchild of another state High School Hall of Famer Edgar Welden, BAP has been supporting city high schools: Carver, Huffman, Jackson-Olin, Parker, Ramsay, Wenonah and Woodlawn, along with 18 middle schools, since 2002.

According to Pugh, BAP provides local schools with all kinds of support.

“We help buy uniforms and equipment for teams. We also help send students to camps in the summer—not just athletic camps but also leadership training seminars. Academically we provide ACT prep courses and give out scholarships to up to 17 seniors every year.”

The organization also provides support and professional development for Birmingham City coaches and teams.

In total, BAP has purchased over $4 million of equipment and supplies.

Builder of a Sport—Wrestling

Toney Pugh introduced to the crowd as a wrestling official. Photo courtesy of Toney Pugh

When you talk to Toney Pugh about all the sports he coached, you can tell wrestling is very important to him personally.

The Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame is not Pugh’s first Hall of Fame honor. In 2017, he was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame representing Alabama for his lifetime of service to the sport.

Toney Pugh coaching Hewitt-Trussville wrestling team. Photo courtesy of Toney Pugh

He has excelled in all aspects of the sport, including coaching and officiating. For 10 years, in the late 1980s and early 1990s Pugh’s teams at Hewitt-Trussville finished no less than third at the state championships, winning the state title twice.

After he retired from coaching high school wrestling, Pugh started officiating. He is simply one of the best wrestling officials in the state. This is the category under which he is entering Alabama’s Hall of Fame.

Photo from Toney Pugh for Bham Now

The secret to his success? He loves the sport and he wants the young men to win fairly.

“When I ref, I want to do the best job I can do every time I’m on that mat, to make sure those two guys can compete and be fair within the rules. I want them to win within the rules.”

That’s genuinely building up a sport.

Builder of two High School sports programs

Photo of Toney Pugh coaching the Clay-Chalkville High School Football team

In 1996 and 1999, Pugh built from scratch two high school athletic programs at Clay-Chalkville and Oak Mountain.

No one knows whether this has ever been done in Alabama. The Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) does not keep such records. But, what an accomplishment!

Pugh not only started two programs, but they were immediately successful. In three short years, Clay-Chalkville won the State 6A Football Championship in 1999. Not long after the Oak Mountain Athletic program was launched in 1999, the school was winning state titles in soccer.

Toney Pugh coaching at Oak Mountain High School. Photo from Toney Pugh for Bham Now

“I once had a mom say to me, Coach, all you care about is winning, and I guess she was right,” Pugh told us.

“I wanted students to know that winning is not just for this game or sport. I wanted to teach her child to win in life. If I can teach you to compete in a football game or wrestling match and become a winner, hopefully you can do that when you get out in the real world and compete for that job. I wanted your son or daughter to become the best they can be. I wanted them to be successful people in life. I cared about the players. For me, I wanted to win for them.”

An Evening of Builders

The entire Alabama High School Sports Hall Fame ceremony on Monday, March 16th in Montgomery will be filled with “builders” much like Toney Pugh.

From the Birmingham area, Vestavia Hills High School boys’ soccer coach Rick Grammer, longtime Jess Lanier High School head football coach Carrol Cox and Briarwood Christian High School’s legendary head football coach Fred Yancey will be honored.

Other inductees include: administrator Luke Hallmark, football coach Steve Mask; basketball coaches Tommy Lewis and Yvonne Simmons; track coaches Aaron Goode and Keith Wilemon; wrestling coach Joseph Dasaro and coach/administrator Samuel ‘Hamp’ Lyon, who was chosen in the old-timer category.

Register today! The Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame banquet at the Montgomery Renaissance Hotel and Spa Convention Center is on March 16, 6:30pm. Make your reservation—TODAY.

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  • Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.