National Track and Field Hall of Fame

Charleston Daily Mail
June 10, 1983

Track Shrine's Founder Criticizes Jay, Gazette

By Bill Smith
Executive Sports Editor

Don Cohen, founder of the national Track and Field Hall of Fame, said today there were two reasons why the shrine was moved from Charleston to Indianapolis.

"Gov. Rockefeller and The Charleston Gazette," he said during a morning press conference at the Hall of Fame's former home at 1524 Kanawha Blvd. E.

It was announced Monday that the track hall had been moved to Indiana, where it will be housed in the Hoosier Dome stadium now under construction and scheduled for completion in late 1984. The shrine will be staffed and operated by The Athletic Congress, which has its national offices there.

At his news conference, Cohen held up a phony front page of a newspaper with a huge headline which read, "Rockefeller Does It Again," Cohen said. "That in a nutshell is what happened to the Hall of Fame here.

"And it was simply because of Rockefeller's political hate for former Go. Arch Moore."

In 1976, Moore succeeded in getting the legislature to appropriate $852,000 to the hall of fame. Also, the shrine was able to get an additional $1.2 million in matching federal funds.

Land was purchased in Putnam County for $330,000. In 1977 there was a ground-breaking ceremony with all seven bodies of amateur sports in the country represented. "Never before in the history of amateur sports have all those organizations been together on one single project," said Cohen.

"Then Rockefeller came into office and it was all over. He gave away the land to save his political face. He gave the $500,000 in state funds we had left to the Laidley Field project and said the Hall of Fame would be incorporated in that.

"Then he gave me the privilege of trying to raise $500,000 more. And he transferred the federal funds to another project in the state.

"I think his actions were unethical and probably illegal. I even discussed with legal counsel about taking him to court. But I was in a situation where even if I won in court, I would lose in the real world."

Randy Cline, the governor's director of communications, said Rockefeller was unavailable and would have no comment.

As to the Gazette, Cohen said the newspaper created an atmosphere that made it impossible for the shrine to succeed here.

"And I want to add those articles and investigations, which cast a stigma on my character and integrity and the intent and purpose of the project, were without merit," he said. "That newspaper did what is commonly known as a 'hatchet job.' And it did a great disservice to the people of West Virginia."

Asked about Cohen's remarks, Gazette Editor Don Marsh said: "I regret that Cohen feels he was personally attacked. We - I mean the Gazette, in this case - objected to the expenditure of public money for the hall of fame. At the time, as I recall, the hall of fame was tied up with the funding of the medical schools and the whole issue was political. It was not a personal thing.

"As a private citizen, I'd like to say that I'm sorry to see it leave Charleston. I wish it could have made it here," Marsh said.