Five individuals who made their mark in five different sports have been selected as 2014 Gold Key recipients by the Connecticut Sports Writers’ Alliance.
West Haven High School head football coach Ed McCarthy, Branford High School field hockey coach Cathy McGuirk, UConn men’s soccer coach Ray Reid, former Boston Marathon winner Amby Burfoot, and one-time New Britain Rock Cats President and General Manager Bill Dowling will be honored at the 73rd Gold Key Dinner on April 27 at the Aqua Turf Club in Southington.
Since 1940 the Connecticut Sports Writers’ Alliance has recognized individuals from the Nutmeg State who have achieved excellence on the youth, high school, college and professional levels. Past recipients of the Gold Key include Connie Mack (1940), Willie Pep (1961), Walt Dropo (1975), George H.W. Bush (1991), Gordie Howe (1992), Geno Auriemma (2001), Jim Calhoun (2003), and Kristine Lilly (2012).
The Class of 2014 recipients will continue that proud and rich tradition.
Ed McCarthy became the all-time winningest football coach in state history on Oct. 25 when West Haven beat Hamden 49-7. It was his 322nd victory, surpassing the mark held by Bill Mignault, who coached at Ledyard from 1959-63 and 1966-2007.
McCarthy recorded the first 92 wins of his career at St. Joseph High School in Trumbull, where, after one year as an assistant, he served as head coach from 1971-82. During his 12 seasons there, McCarthy compiled a record of 92-34-2, including three consecutive state titles in 1980, ’81 and ’82.
He moved over to West Haven in 1983 and has been on sidelines there for the last 31 seasons, going 234-80-7 and winning four state crowns (all in Class LL) in 1986, ’87, ’89 and 2002. His career record through the 2013 season is 326-114-9, a winning percentage of .736. The Westies advanced to the LL state semifinals this season before losing to Fairfield Prep 29-28.
In addition to his seven state titles in football, McCarthy won two more as head baseball coach at St. Joe’s in 1976 and ’80. A 1964 graduate of Notre Dame High School in West Haven, McCarthy was inducted into the Connecticut High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1986. He is also a member of the New Haven Gridiron Hall of Fame and both the West Haven High and St. Joseph hall of fames.
Cathy McGuirk recently completed her 37th season in a hall of fame field hockey coaching career, all at Branford High School, where she’s built the Hornets into a perennial state power. In fact, the first victory she records in her 38th season will be the 500th of her career as she takes a 499-111-62 record and an .818 winning percentage into next fall.
Under her watch, Branford has won 10 state championships, including four straight Class M titles from 1988-91. The Hornets have made the state tournament 35 consecutive years, reached the semifinals 27 times, and the state finals 14 times, including eight straight appearances from 1984-91 (winning six times). In addition, McGuirk has led Branford to 16 conference championships with seven coming in the old Housatonic League and the next nine in the Southern Connecticut Conference.
Growing up in Westport, McGuirk was a field hockey goalie at Central Catholic High School in Norwalk for four years, and then played four more years at Southern Connecticut State College. She became only the second head field hockey coach at Branford High in the fall of 1977, replacing legendary coach Virginia Moesmang when she retired. It was McGuirk’s husband, John, who urged her to go for the head coaching job and he’s been his wife’s assistant coach for the last 34 seasons.
McGuirk was named the Connecticut Field Hockey Association Coach of the Year four times, in Class M in 1984 and 2003 and in Class L in 1987 and ’95. She was also selected as the Connecticut High School Coaches Association Coach of the Years in 1987, the National High School Athletic Coaches Association Region I Coach of the Year in 1993, and the NHSACA Coach of the Year in 1994 in the “Special Sports” category. She was also named the Connecticut Sports Writers Alliance Doc McInerney Coach of the Year in a female sport at the 2002 Gold Key Dinner.
She has also been inducted into six hall of fames, including the Connecticut High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1999, The Connecticut Field Hockey Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2009, the Branford Sports Hall of Fame in 1995, and the Southern Connecticut State University Alumni Association Sports Hall of Fame in 1995.
In his 25 seasons coaching men’s college soccer at Southern Connecticut State University and UConn, Ray Reid has become one of the most successful and well-respected coaches in the sport. He has a combined career record of 394-97-61, has won four national championships and is currently the NCAA’s winningest active Division I coach with a winning percentage of .769. After leading Southern to three Division II titles in an eight-year span as head coach, Reid led the Huskies to the Division I championship in 2000 with a 2-0 victory over Creighton.
Reid took over in Storrs in 1997 and has amassed a record of 248-80-46 in 17 seasons. He coached at Southern from 1989-1996 and had a record of 146-17-15, leading the Owls to the Division II national championship in 1990, 1992 and 1995. Reid’s teams have combined to advance to 23 NCAA tournaments in 25 seasons, including 16 straight at UConn. He is 34-13-10 in NCAA tournament games (12-3-3 at Southern and 22-10-7 at UConn) and has coached his teams to the quarterfinals in 13 different seasons.
Reid was honored as the NCAA Division I National Coach of the Year in 2000 with UConn and three times as the D-II Coach of the Year at Southern (1990, 1992 and 1994). Reid’s SCSU teams had a winning percentage of .891 and two unbeaten seasons, while advancing to five straight NCAA Division II final fours in his last five seasons.
A native of Brentwood, N.Y., Reid was a three-year starter and two-year captain for Southern (1980-82) and played in three national semifinals. He then served as an assistant for five years with the Owls before replacing Bob Dikranian as head coach in 1989.
Amby Burfoot started running as a junior at Fitch High School in 1962 and has become one of the state’s most beloved and decorated runners ever since. In 1968, Burfoot, a senior at Wesleyan, won the Boston Marathon with a time of 2 hours, 22 minutes and 17 seconds. He then went on to run 2:14.28.8 at the Fukuoka Marathon in Japan in December of 1968 to finish a second shy of the American marathon record at the time held by Buddy Edelen.
Overall, Burfoot has finished the Boston Marathon 18 times and was in the top 20 four times from 1967-76. He was a two-time All-American at Wesleyan and the college roommate of Bill Rodgers, who later went on to win the Boston Marathon and become influential in the rise of running in the 1970s and ’80s.
Burfoot also went on to have his own important role in the growth and popularity of running. In 1978, he became East Coast Editor at ‘Runner’s World’ and has been with the magazine ever since. He was named executive editor in 1985, and is currently an editor at large for the publication. His article “White Men Can’t Run” about the success of African athletes and athletes of African descent in professional running was published in The Best American Sports Writing.
Bill Dowling, perhaps more than anyone, was the No. 1 reason behind one of Connecticut’s most successful professional franchises for nearly the last decade and a half.
It was Dowling, in his role as president, CEO and general manager, who guided an ownership/management team that purchased the New Britain Rock Cats minor league baseball club in 2000. And it was Dowling, an attorney with a background in government law, who revived a moribund franchise that had been last in the Eastern League for five seasons and provided the leadership that made it an industry model.
He used an aggressive but measured marketing strategy, established the Rock Cats Foundation which continues to benefit a wide array of charitable organizations in the region, and endeared himself to businessmen, politicians and fans alike with a personality that has touched virtually everybody he’s met.
The team drew 177,026 in 1999, and despite only three months to prepare, attracted 220,127 in 2000. In 2001, Dowling was named the Eastern League Executive of the Year. The Rock Cats eclipsed 300,000 in 2004 and reached an apex of 368,523 in 2010, an average of 5,500 per opening, or 89 percent of New Britain Stadium’s capacity.
Tickets to the 2014 Gold Key Dinner, which begins at 3:30 p.m., will be available soon and can be purchased by contacting CSWA President George Albano of The (Norwalk) Hour at (203) 434-2320.