PVIL exhibit features Aycock

Preserving one’s history can take work, but the advantages of doing so can reap many benefits.

This is the sentiment that Edward Roby, former athletic director for Austin Independent School District, likes to convey when he discusses the historical exhibit housed at the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement‘s (DDCE) Community Engagement Center in east Austin.

The exhibit is a collection of papers, photos and memorabilia of the Prairie View Interscholastic League (PVIL).

This is great news for Rockdale sports fans as Aycock High School was one of the dominant forces in the PVIL, famously taking a state championship in football and basketball in the same school year, 1955-56.

The PVIL, which began in 1920, served as the governing body for Texas’ African American high schools until 1970 when the University Interscholastic League (UIL) assumed the role.

At its peak, the PVIL represented 500 schools.

Former PVIL high schools, athletic participants and coaches donated the exhibit items. “In a lot of past cases when a school closed down trophies and other items got discarded,” Roby said.

Prairie View Interscholastic League Coaches Association (PVILCA) President Robert Brown and board members started asking people statewide for their personal keepsakes. “We have stuff from all over the state,” Roby said. “This belongs to the state.”

The PVILCA members are glad that Dr. Gregory Vincent, the university’s vice president for diversity and community engagement, was receptive to housing the exhibit. Prairie View A&M University did not have the resources at the time.

“We thought it was important to preserve the PVIL memorabilia as a way to pay tribute to the great athletes who participated in PVIL and to honor the African American schools, many of which have closed,” Vincent said.

Viewing the exhibit is like a time capsule into the PVIL’s past. There are framed sweaters, team photographs and newspaper articles covering several walls. Highlights of the exhibit include old records highlighting the winning and losing coaches, and one wall that features the names of 80 lifetime members.

The PVILCA board tries to award at least 40 lifetime memberships each year. The youngest living participant is 57.

A lifetime membership only requires that an individual be a high school graduate and a former PVIL athlete or coach.

Another way that the group is sharing PVIL history is by showcasing part of the display at Lincoln High School in Dallas.

“Our kids need to know about the PVIL,” Roby said. “What we had was very good. Circumstances led us to have that, but since we got into UIL we have participated well. We strive to be better than we were.”

At Lincoln, still a predominantly African American school, students are learning “they had good role models from the past so they can build upon it in the future,” Brown noted. “One student said, ‘Oh my goodness, they didn’t have face masks then.’”

Some viewers are also surprised to see their relatives staring back at them. The school custodian said, “There’s my daddy. That’s my daddy right there. He’s on the football team.”

The exhibit is housed on the second floor of the Marvin C. Griffin building at 1009 E. 11th St., and is open to the public Monday through Friday during regular business hours.

The PVILCA is still accepting donated memorabilia and names of former participants.

Potential donors may e-mail Robert Brown at pvilcal940@yahoo.com for more information.

It would be great to see an entire Aycock wing in the building.

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