Nearly a year to the day of his sudden death while coaching at the state track and field championships, the Florida High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame announced it would immortalize former Estero High athletics director and coach Jeff Sommer.
Sommer, who died at age 58 on May 2, 2015 in Jacksonville, was named Tuesday as one of 10 inductees in the organization’s 26th annual hall of fame class. The induction ceremony will be held in Gainesville on Sept. 25.
Sue Sommer’s one wish is that her late husband had the chance to experience his induction.
“Jeff was a huge supporter of the FHSAA, and it’s such an honor to be inducted into the FHSAA Hall of Fame,” said Sue Sommer, who will accept the award for her husband. “One of my wishes would have been for Jeff to be able experience that excitement himself, in receiving that incredible honor along with the many other honors he has received in the last few months.”
The FHSAA Hall of Fame celebrates more than 90 years of interscholastic competition featuring former student-athletes, coaches, administrators and officials from the state.
“It would have been nice for him to experience this,” Sue Sommer said. “He never said these things were a big deal. He never would have showed that. It was all about the kids. Inside, it was a big deal. It’s about the coaches too. Estero had a coach who helped them get to where they were at.”
Sommer, a cross country and track and field coaching legend, served nine years as the school’s athletics director. He lead eight teams to state cross country championships and led athletes to 10 state championships in track and field. He received multiple Coach of the Year honors.
“I know it’s well deserved, that’s for sure,” Sommer’s son, Adam said. “It’s a huge honor to have my dad be a part of that.”
“We are honored to celebrate the careers of these 10 exceptional people who have spent their lives making the state of Florida and the people within it a better place,” FHSAA Executive Director Dr. Roger Dearing said in a release. “They are a shining example of excellence and we are proud to call them FHSAA Hall of Famers.”
Sommer, along with Naples High School football coach Bill Kramer, was inducted into the Florida Athletic Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame in January.
Losing Sommer: A story examining the toll of what losing a beloved coach and mentor for the four girls who were a part of that 3,200-meter relay team that won the state championship moments before Sommer died last May.
Other inductees into the FHSAA Hall are:
Bernard Arnette, a contest official who for more than 30 years epitomized professionalism and class in officiating. He worked 600-plus football games and 1,000-plus basketball games, including multiple appearances in the Final Four and the FHSAA Final Series.
Ronald Balazs, an administrator in Dade County who for more than 35 years improved schools and athletics in the Miami area. The FIAAA Executive Director is a member of the NIAAA Hall of Fame and is a former FIAAA Athletic Administrator of the Year.
Wallace Barnette, who served as the executive director of the Florida Athletic Coaches Association for 30 years and grew FACA membership from 1,200 to more than 6,000 active members. Known as “Wink,” Barnette helped emphasize coaching education in the state of Florida using FACA clinics which were attended by as many as 4,000 coaches annually.
Joy Becker, a pioneer for volleyball in the state who recorded a head coaching record of 645-273-1. Becker is a 2001 inductee of the FACA Hall of Fame and was the FACA Coach of the Year three times.
Raymond Bellamy, a trailblazer on the gridiron who in 1966 became the first African-American to sign a football scholarship with a major university in the Southeastern part of the United States. Bellamy is also a member of the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame.
Steve Hutchinson, a two-time high school football All-American in Coral Springs, as well as a two-time All-American offensive guard at the University of Michigan. Hutchinson played in the National Football League for 12 seasons, earning seven trips to the Pro Bowl and was voted All-Pro five times.
Alonzo Jefferson, one of the greatest speedsters in Florida prep football history who totaled 7,647 all-purpose yards. He earned All-State honors three times and was the Sporting News National Offensive Player of the Year his senior season at Cardinal Newman High School.
Bob West, one of the most successful baseball coaches and director of athletics in FHSAA history. West went 532-129 as a baseball coach at Bishop Kenny High School and since 1989 has won 25 state titles and added eight sports to his athletic program.
Floyd Williams, an official who for the past three decades has represented the highest level of officiating in both basketball and baseball. Williams worked 30 FHSAA Final Four events total.