UVA’s Littlepage, Long, Wright Rogers selected to State Sports Hall of Fame ’24 Class

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Three UVA legends are among the new, nine-member state of Virginia Sports Hall of Fame inductees for the Class of 2024.

Former athletic director and assistant basketball coach Craig Littlepage, football All-American Chris Long and women’s basketball star Monica Wright Rogers will be inducted the weekend of April 19-20 in Henrico County, the first time in the induction’s 52-year history that it will be held outside of Hampton Roads.

The remainder of the class, all elected by the Hall of Fame’s board of directors and honors court committee, are: Randolph Macon men’s basketball coach Hal Nunnally, Olympic track and field standout LaShawn Merritt, former U.S. Women’s National Team soccer coach Jill Ellis, Rick Jeffrey, president of Special Olympics Virginia, longtime Virginia Tech sports information director Dave Smith and former Richmond Times-Dispatch sportswriter Paul Woody.

Littlepage, who still resides in Charlottesville, spent 45 years at UVA, including two stints as an assistant in Terry Holland’s basketball program (1976-1982 and 1988-1990), then as an assistant athletic director from 1990 to 2000, before taking over the athletic director role the final 16 years of his career and stepping down in 2017.

Littlepage’s goal was to make UVA’s athletic program the “Stanford of the East,” and during his time as AD, the school’s teams captured 13 national championships and 76 ACC titles (the most by any conference school during that span).

Littlepage also served as chairman of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Selection Committee in 2005-06, as a member of the USA Basketball board of directors (2005-08), and was selected for induction into the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics Hall of Fame in 2021.

Long grew up in Charlottesville after his Pro Football Hall of Fame father, Howie Long, moved the family here after his retirement from football. Chris (who played for three teams in the NFL), Kyle (retired from the Chicago Bears) and Howie Jr. (executive with the Las Vegas Raiders), all followed in their dad’s footsteps.

Chris was a unanimous first-team All-American defensive end for Al Groh’s Cavaliers, a two-time All-ACC pick, the 2007 ACC Defensive Player of the Year, and Dudley Award winner symbolizing the best college player in the state of Virginia.

He was selected the No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft by the St. Louis Rams. He played 11 seasons for the Rams, Patriots and Eagles, and played on two Super Bowl champions (New England and Philadelphia). For his career, Long posted 332 tackles, 70 sacks and forced 15 fumbles.

Long received the NFL Players Association Alan Page Community Award in 2018 and the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, also in ‘18. He has established the Chris Long Foundation to aid numerous charities locally, nationally and globally, including “Water Boys,” which creates water supplies to Africa.

Wright Rogers was a three-time All-American under Debbie Ryan. During her UVA career, she set program records in several categories: points (2,540), scoring average (19.1), field goals made (962), field goals attempted (2,207) and 25-point games (28). She also ranks fourth on the all-time steals list (372). She was a high school star in the state at Forest Park H.S. in Woodbridge before Ryan plucked her to become a Cavalier.

Wright Rogers was the 2006 Gatorade Virginia Player of the Year in girl’s basketball and was an WBCA All-American. She went on to become the 2010 ACC Player of the year, ACC Defensive Player of the Year and WBCA National Defensive Player of the Year. She played seven years in the WNBA, claiming two WNBA Championships and was a member of the 2010 All-Rookie Team.

Ellis, from Robinson Secondary school in Fairfax, scored 32 goals as forward for William & Mary women’s soccer in the 1980s before a stellar coaching career led her to the top of her profession. In 14 seasons as an NCAA Division-I head coach with The University of Illinois and UCLA, Ellis compiled a record of 248–63–14, and her teams made 8 appearances in the Women’s College Cup. Following her collegiate career, she spent the next 20 years with the U.S. Women’s National Team, including 7 years as head coach (2012, 2014-2019). During that time, Ellis would lead the USWNT to back-to-back Women’s World Cup Championships, in 2015 and 2019. In 132 matches as head coach, Ellis led the USWNT to a record of 106-7-19. Ellis has previously been inducted into the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame.

Jeffrey, a native of Richmond and graduate from Hampden-Sydney College, is the 2024 Virginia Sports Hall of Fame Distinguished Virginian Award recipient. Jeffrey’s impact on sports was felt across the Commonwealth during his 36 years with Special Olympics Virginia, the last 22 of those as President. The  longest serving President in SOVA history, Jeffrey continually grew the number of sports offerings and competition experiences in Virginia, while helping the organization reach never before seen financial milestones and community impact  measurements.

Merritt, from Manor High School in Portsmouth, (formerly  Woodrow Wilson High School), is one of Virginia’s most decorated track & field  athletes. After sweeping the 100, 200, and 400 meter sprints at the 2004 VHSL state championships, Merritt took his success global. Merritt appeared in three Summer Olympiads, 2008, 2012, and 2016 bringing home a total of 4 medals, 3 gold and a bronze in the 400m dash, and 4x400m relay. His success on the international stage went beyond the Olympic games. An 8x World Champion, Merritt won an additional 23 medals in international competitions, 19 gold.

Nunnally (posthumous), a native of Petersburg, led Randolph-Macon College men’s basketball for 24 seasons, with a 431-232 record. Nunnally led Randolph-Macon to 20 winning seasons, ten 20-win seasons, ten NCAA  tournament appearances, and an appearance in the 1977 NCAA Division-II National Championship game. He earned 11 coach of the year awards, including six from the National Association of Basketball Coaches in the South Atlantic District (1977, 1981, 1983, 1984, 1989, 1990). He has previously been inducted into the Randolph-Macon Athletics Hall of Fame.

Smith, from Roanoke, graduated from Virginia Tech and began his career in athletics as the first Sports Information Director in Ferrum College’s history. In 1975, he moved over to his alma mater where he would stay for the next 40 years. Beginning as an Assistant SID for the men’s basketball and baseball programs, he would work his way up to Associate Athletics Director, and become the primary  football communications contact in 1998. Following his retirement in 2015, the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) named Smith the recipient of a CoSIDA Lifetime Achievement Award and the Virginia Sports  Information Directors (VaSID) presented Smith with its Distinguished Service Award.

Woody, a native of Roanoke and a Virginia Commonwealth University alumnus, spent 40 years as a sportswriter and columnist for the Richmond News  Leader, and Richmond Times-Dispatch. Beginning in 1980, Woody served as the Richmond paper’s primary beat reporter for its Washington Redskins (now Commanders) coverage. For his coverage on the NFL and other events, Woody has been the recipient of 15 Pro Football Writers of America awards, 10 Virginia Press Association Awards, 3 Associated Press Sports Editors Awards, and 2 U.S. Basketball Writers Association Awards.