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Spotlighting a lesser-known WSU Hall of Famer

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Did you know that WSU used to have a gymnastics team? Yeah, me neither.

WSU Athletics

Good morning, Cougar fans. As Mark noted yesterday, WSU announced that it will induct a whopping 25 former coaches and athletes into its Hall of Fame this year. Anyone who has followed the Cougars for any length of time knows about the football stars such as Lamont Thompson, Marcus Trufant, Jerome Harrison and the like. However, there are several names on that list that most of us likely do not know. Today, we'll highlight one of those folks.

The first name that stood out was Rex Davis, Gymnastics and Tennis coach from 1966-1994. Why did his name stand out? I had no idea that WSU used to have a gymnastics team. Davis only coached the gymnastics team for a few years before moving over to tennis, where he coached for more than two decades. He learned the game in an odd way as well. Stationed in Korea in the Army, he was an assistant at the gym, where a tennis court had been built for the commanding general. The guy in charge of the gym was a great tennis player (who almost certainly let the general beat him on purpose), and he taught Davis to play.

When Davis left the Army, he took a job teaching at Richland High School, coaching Gymnastics and Tennis. After 11 seasons, he headed to WSU to do the same. Davis knew WSU was at a decided disadvantage to the southern conference schools in terms of talent, budget and facilities (sounds familiar), but still relished taking on the powers, along with rival Washington. When interviewed in 1990, he could still vividly recall the time his WSU teams came the closest to defeating UW. "We came within one point in 1978. It was tied 4-4 and we lost in the final match in a third set tiebreaker. One of the players on that doubles team...told me that he still thinks about the match."

Funny how the losses always seem to stick with you far longer than the wins do. One outstanding accomplishment of the Rex Davis era was the academic performance of his players, of which Davis was exceedingly proud. "Of all the kids that have gone through the program in four years, all but one have received their degree. I'm pretty proud of that." Congratulations to Rex Davis and all of the new WSU Hall of Fame inductees.

Aside: While looking up information for this story, I was reminded that WSU lost a game to BYU 50-36, in which it led 29-7 at halftime. Ahh, memories.

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