THE NEW CROMER AWARDS
From 1971 to 1976, a set of awards were given to the most outstanding Panther and Eagle of the Rivalry Game. These were known as the Cromer Awards, and they were presented with permission from the Flagstaff School Board. Winners of the award were based on performance and sportsmanship, and they were picked by a three-member committee from Northern Arizona University. They were named after Sturgeon Cromer, superintendent of schools from 1946 to 1971.
In 2013, Flagcoco, in cooperation with the two high schools, established the New Cromer Awards. These are awards given by the Flagstaff community at large; fans can participate through online voting, and between that vote and that of the two athletic directors, the recipients are chosen. Winners of the awards will be considered based on their exploits on the field and their exhibition of sportsmanship. When applicable, the awards will be given at the end of the Rivalry Game.
The New Cromer Awards: Sturgeon Cromer (for whom Cromer Stadium and Cromer Elementary School are named) was superintendent of Flagstaff Public Schools from 1946 to 1971. Perhaps his most enduring accomplishment was the integration of Flagstaff schools in 1952, two years before Brown v. Board. A highly community-minded man, Cromer was active in a variety of local endeavors, including the Pow-Wow committee, the Rotary Club, the Chamber of Commerce, and various NAU alumni activities. Cromer passed away in 1992.
The New Cromer Awards consist of two awards; the John Ply Memorial Award will be given to the outstanding Eagle in the Rivalry Game, while the Bill Epperson Award will honor the Outstanding Panther.
The John Ply Memorial Award: Born in Crockett, Texas, and stationed in the South Pacific during World War II, John Wesley Ply taught for over forty years in Texas, New Mexico, and beginning in 1957, at Flagstaff High. He coached football and track, and in 1960 he was named the Arizona High School Coach of the Year. Coach Ply was at the helm for the first two Rivalry Games, losing both to his former assistant, Bill Epperson. After a full life devoted to family, he passed on in March 2013.
The Bill Epperson Award: Coach Epperson was the first and greatest coach the Coconino Panthers have ever had. He learned the ropes as an assistant with Coach Ply and Coach Gilbert Corona (all three gentlemen are now in the Flagstaff Sports Foundation Hall of Fame), and in 1968, Coconino’s first full year of varsity play, he led the Panthers to the state championship, winning the last three games, including the title game, in miraculous fashion. He led the Panthers to two more championships, in ’73 and ’74. He coached in the first eleven Rivalry Games, winning seven of them.
(The Original and the New Cromer Awards)
Michael Becenti, Jr.
Last Updated: November 26, 2020