ST. LOUIS (USBWA) – A past president of the USBWA, a veteran sportswriter of nearly 40 years, and a former sports information director are the newest members of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association's Hall of Fame.
The USBWA announced today that Kansas City Star college columnist Blair Kerkhoff, sportswriter Bob Pille and retired Notre Dame publicist Roger Valdiserri have been elected to the USBWA Hall of Fame.
The three will be inducted during ceremonies at the USBWA's annual awards luncheon at the NCAA Men's Final Four in Houston on April 4, 2016. Pille will be enshrined posthumously.
Kerkhoff has been covering college sports for the Kansas City Star since 1989. He started his career 35 years ago at the Roanoke Times & World News under the late Bill Brill, a past president of the USBWA and a member of the USBWA Hall of Fame.
"College basketball was the first thing I covered when I started," said Kerkhoff, who later served as president of the USBWA in 2000-01. "I got to cover a lot of conference tournaments. Eventually, it became my favorite sport.
"Actually, it was David Thompson who pulled me into basketball big time. I was one of his biggest fans. I don't think I ever missed seeing him play at home in the early 70s."
Kerkhoff will be attending his 26th NCAA Final Four in April. Along the way, he's covered some 30 regional finals and semifinals.
In addition, he's written five books, including a biography on former Kansas coach Phog Allen.
Pille, a long-time USBWA member, began covering sports in high school and later in college at Bradley for the Peoria Journal Star. In 1950, he embarked on a 38-year professional career that included 22 years with the Chicago Sun-Times. He also worked for the Times Herald in Washington D. C., the Cincinnati Post and the Detroit Free Press.
"Bob was the consummate journalist," said former St. Louis Post-Dispatch sportswriter Dave Dorr, a past president of the USBWA and a member of the USBWA Hall of Fame. Dorr got to know Pille when the two covered many of the same Illinois and Wisconsin games on the Big Ten beat.
"Bob knew basketball and football and the Big Ten and wrote his game stories with a depth of expertise and candor. He was quick to criticize when needed, but also had a humorous touch. Bob didn't take his job as a sportswriter for granted. He had fun. He enjoyed what he was doing and enjoyed the energy of the press box at big games."
Pille was 80 when he passed away in 2006. He never fully recovered from a tragic automobile accident that occurred a year earlier.
His collection of sports books and articles is housed in the Department of Communications at Bradley.
Valdiserri helped define the role of sports information director while he was SID at Notre Dame for 22 years. He is considered by many to be the gold standard in the field of media relations. He retired in 1995 as associate athletic director after 33 years in athletic administration at Notre Dame.
Valdiserri is a member of the College Sports Information Directors of America Hall of Fame and is a past recipient of the USBWA's Katha Quinn Award for extraordinary service to the media. His publications at Notre Dame earned more than 50 national awards.
"Roger always saw to it that reporters got the access they needed whenever they were in South Bend," said Washington Post sportswriter John Feinstein, a USBWA past president and Hall of Fame member. "Roger was to being an SID what Babe Ruth was to hitting home runs."
Valdiserri served 22 years on the NCAA's Final Four media coordination committee that assisted the media covering the Final Four. "He was always a voice of reason, finding ways to help writers get their jobs done," Feinstein said.
The U.S. Basketball Writers Association was formed in 1956 at the urging of then-NCAA Executive Director Walter Byers. With some 900 members worldwide, it is one of the most influential organizations in college basketball. It has selected a women's All-America team since the 1996-97 season. For more information on the USBWA and its award programs, contact executive director Joe Mitch at 314-795-6821.
• USBWA Hall of Fame