MORGANTOWN — Former West Virginia University players, coaches and administrators paid tribute on Wednesday to Tony Constantine.

The legendary, longtime sports writer and historian died early Wednesday morning at Monongalia General Hospital after a lengthy illness.

He had turned 97 on Monday.

“Tony was a great Mountaineer and certainly covered WVU teams in football and basketball very well,” said Fred Schaus, former All-America basketball player, coach and athletic director.

“He was just a great, great human being and always tremendously good to WVU. He loved those Mountaineers.”

Don Nehlen, retired head football coach, was inducted into the WVU Hall of Fame in 2003 at the same time Constantine was.

“I didn’t know Tony that well from a personal standpoint,” he said. “But I knew him well enough to know that he was a walking history book of WVU athletics.”

Gene Corum, who knew him when both a football player and coach, recalled meeting Constantine in 1940 for the first time.

“I thought he was great when I came here as a freshman,” he said. “He was always very fair in his writings. And he was a happy man when turning out stories.”

Eddie Barrett, who had known him since 1945 and was WVU sports information director for 14 years, called him “a coach’s sports writer from Dr. Clarence Spears in the early 1920s forward.

“When I presented him for induction into the WVU Sports Hall of Fame, I said he was literate, informed, well-reasoned and non-critical.”

Ed Pastilong, current athletic director and former football quarterback, thought Constantine did “a beautiful job” reporting on Mountaineer sports.

He said, “One of the things that sticks out in my mind was his presence every day at Jackson’s Mill football camp when I played and his association with the players.

“Most recently, our department appreciated his assistance with the WVU Sports Hall of Fame selection process.”

Shelly Poe, WVU’s veteran sports information director, praised Constantine as “a treasure for history and traditions of Mountaineer sports, and we always relied on him.

“Even more than that, he was a smiling, happy person and a real gentleman. We have missed him in the press box since his failing eyesight. And now we’ll miss him even more.”

Born Aug. 29, 1908, in Morgantown, Constantine was regarded widely as the most knowledgeable authority ever on WVU athletics.

He graduated from Morgantown High School and served as sports editor of The Morgantown Post for 37 years, retiring in 1972. He continued to write for the local papers part-time into the 1980s.

His association with WVU sports dated back to 1919. That’s when members of early Mountaineer teams adopted him as their unofficial “mascot.”

Those players saw to it that he could attend road games as well as those at home.

Constantine sold newspapers when they cost just three cents, then worked at a local glass factory and as a construction helper. Eventually he kept statistics at WVU games, and that led to his job with the Post.

He wrote two books on WVU football: “Mountaineer Football 1891-1969” and “A Record of West Virginia University Football-The First 100 Years.”

Constantine also wrote numerous articles for the athletic department, WVU Alumni Association and other university publications.

Until a few years ago, he served on WVU’s Sports Hall of Fame, all-time and greatest wins selection committees.

He was extremely self-educated and a devoted reader of the classics. As a journalist, he wrote news as well as sports pieces and — for many years — even took his own photos.

“Tony was always fair to the coaches and fair to me and my teams,” Schaus said. “That’s a great attribute to a sports writer.”

Nehlen said, “This is a tremendous loss to the Morgantown area — a guy with that type of knowledge. And he was such a super person.”

In addition to his immigrant parents, Constantine was preceded in death by his wife, the former Winnie Dorrell, and son Marc.

Survivors include children Karen, Steve, Jane and Leah; 23 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held Friday at Hastings Funeral Home, with a visitation at 6 p.m. and celebration of life at 7 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Tony Constantine Legends Athletic Endowment Fund c/o the Mountaineer Athletic Club, P.O. Box 877, Morgantown, WV 26507. Condolences may be sent to the family in care of

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