FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. – Six new members of the Fairfield County Sports Hall of Fame and sports persons of the year from 15 county towns were honored Monday at the seventh annual SportsNight at the Hyatt Regency Greenwich.
The family of Stamford native Brian Bill, a U.S. Navy SEAL who was killed in action on Aug. 6 in Aghanistan, accepted the Chelsea Cohen Courage Award.
The Hall of Fame classes included Stamford’s Bennett Salvatore, an NBA referee, and former NBA star John Bagley, of Bridgeport, in the Jackie Robinson Professional Wing. Joe DeSantis, a former college basketball standout at Fairfield, and distance runner Ceci Hopp St. Geme were inducted into the James O’Rourke Amateur Wing. Former Staples soccer coach Albie Loeffler and Bridgeport’s Charlie Bentley, a longtime basketball coach at Harding High School, joined the J. Walter Kennedy Community Service Wing.
Staples' boys soccer team was honored as the Westport sports person of the year.
Loeffler coached the Staples boys soccer team from 1958-198 and retried with 314 wins, which was then a national record. His teams won 13 Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference championships and seven state titles. He also coached basketball, baseball and track at Staples, and was regarded as one of the top soccer officials in the country. He was a referee at the first NCAA Division I championship.
Loeffler died in September 2009 in North Carolina. Jeff Lea, who succeeded Loeffler as coach of the Wreckers, accepted the award on Loeffler’s behalf. His impact is still felt at Staples, where one of his former players, Dan Woog, guided the Wreckers to the Class LL championship game last year. The Wreckers won their 27th league championship and finished the year 20-3-1.
The highlight of the evening was a tribute to Bill by Greenwich native Steve Young. The NFL Hall of Famer delivered his message via video. Bill graduated from Trinity Catholic where he played soccer and hockey. The Forever Young Foundation, the charitable entity of the former NFL quarterback, sponsors the Cohen Award. It is named after a former Norwalk High girls soccer star who died in 2006 after battling a rare form of cancer of the nervous system.
The Fairfield County Sports Commission presented the dinner. The commission is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting fitness and active, healthy lifestyles as well as personal development through sports. The group introduced the Chelsea Cohen Fitness Academy this year. The academy supplements and complements existing sports and fitness programs.