'Gift To Kids' To Be Honored At Memorial

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Memorial services for Arizona Interscholastic Association media relations director Barry Sollenberger will be held at 1 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 13 at McClintock High School in Tempe.

Sollenberger, 60, was found dead from an apparent heart attack June 23 in his apartment near Papago Park in Scottsdale.

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Memorial services for Arizona Interscholastic Association media relations director Barry Sollenberger will be held at 1 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 13 at McClintock High School in Tempe.

Following his death, AIA executive director Harold Slemmer called Sollenberger a "a gift to kids" for what he contributed to the state's high school athletes as both an AIA director and publisher of Barry Sollenberger's Football magazine.

Slemmer also said, "Barry's contribution has been beyond measure. His life has been a gift to the state's high school athletes."

Friends and relatives of Sollenberger decided to delay memorial services until closer to the start of the school year so the many coaches and athletes who knew him would have returned from summer vacations and be able to attend.

Among longtime coaches and fans, Sollenberger was considered the state's No. 1 high school sports historian and one of the most influential persons in prep athletics.

For the past 30 years, Sollenberger put together his prep football magazine and published high school record books in football, basketball and track and field.

For high school football players, the arrival of Sollenberger's football magazine on store shelves each August signaled a mad rush to see which athletes had been tagged as "Friday Night Heroes," or all-region picks.

Payson's John Harris, formerly of Phoenix, remembers well the ritualistic scamper for the magazines.

"I was one of those kids who would run to the Circle K down the street in August to read about what was happening around the state for the upcoming football season," he said. "I was pretty excited to eventually see my name in the magazine when I was a senior."

Harris' fascination with the magazine continued as an adult.

"Even when I moved to New Mexico and lived there for 11 years, I would make a point to try to find his magazine.

"Reading the great articles, seeing if someone broke my teammates' records, and to anticipate the up-and-coming teams for the new season was worth the cost of the magazine and then some."

In putting together sports publications, Sollenberger was careful to acknowledge those who often go unheralded. He included previews of small 1A, 2A and 3A schools and annually honored the state's best linemen.

He also made it a focus of his life to try and take in as many football games during a Friday night as possible.

He'd take in one quarter of a game, travel to another for a quarter and finish up the evening seeing as many as four games.

Frequently, he was on the sidelines of Payson High School games and was familiar with the accomplishments of many former Longhorn players.

As the AIA media relations director, it was Sollenberger who organized the tribute to honor the 25th anniversary of Payson High School's 1979 boys state champion basketball team.

The ceremony, which drew most of the former team members, was held during the 2004 state basketball tournament held in Phoenix's America West Arena.

Sollenberger harbored an amazing curiosity about small-town sports history and spent years researching a book he was going to write about the past 100 years of Arizona high school football.

Although he never completed the book, plans are under way to complete it in his memory, Slemmer said.

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