Sylva native Joe Love is one of three former athletes selected for induction into the Western Carolina Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 2020.
He is joined by Beth Crisp and David Rathburn as the Hall of Fame celebrates its 30th anniversary since its inception in 1990. Due to the uncertainties associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, the in-person induction ceremony has been postponed indefinitely.
Love played football for the Catamounts from 1965-68 and helped break down racial barriers. He became the first minority to start a football game at Western and in the old Carolinas Conference after making the team as a walk-on in 1965. He was named conference defensive player of the week in just his second game as he had 15 tackles in a 7-0 victory at Appalachian State. He was named all-conference that year and earned all- district honors in 1965 and 1968. Love was a two-way player as he saw action at defensive end and tight end.
Love graduated from high school before Jackson County schools were integrated, so he attended and played football for Reynolds High, a small African-American school in Canton.
Love holds the distinction of being the first minority to graduate from Western with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. He was an employee of the Union Carbide Corporation, a chemical and polymers company that became Eveready Battery Company before becoming a subsidiary of The Dow Chemical Company. He progressed to become the first African-American in Union Carbide’s management group in the battery parts division. He and his wife, Betty, who is also from Sylva, reside in Fremont, Ohio, where he is a member of several professional organizations helping to educate African-American students and to promote black businesses.
He is the older brother of the late Tommy Love, a Sylva-Webster High School football star from 1964-66.
Crisp attended WCU from 1977-81 and played basketball and softball.
She finished her basketball career with 1,446 points and 648 field goals, with both marks ranking third in program history. She averaged double figures each of her four seasons and scored 20 or more points 27 times. The Asheville native is one of seven WCU players to eclipse 1,000 points and 700 rebounds. She had 22 career double-doubles.
Crisp earned all-state honors for the softball team as a catcher in 1980.
After college, Crisp had a 30-year teaching and coaching career at both the middle and high school level. She spent the 1989-90 season as an assistant women’s basketball coach at Wofford.
Rathburn became known as one of Western’s top defense backs ever while playing football from 1971-74. He was a four-year starter who never missed a game or a practice. His 23 career interceptions still stand as a school record. He tied the school record with nine interceptions in 1974. He also owns the school record with 12 career fumble recoveries.
Originally from Asheville, Rathburn was a graduate assistant coach on the WCU staff. He was an assistant high school coach in Georgia and North and South Carolina before returning to the Tar Heel State as head coach at Trinity and Bishop McGuinness in Kernersville.
Including this year’s induction class, the Western Carolina Athletics Hall of Fame has enshrined 125 individuals, six teams, 11 Patron Award recipients and two individuals recognized for career achievements.
To be considered for induction, nominations must be submitted to the Hall of Fame Committee, where they are kept on file for five years. Each spring, the committee votes on a list of nominees that are approved by the Hall’s executive committee. Nomination forms are available online at catamountsports.com.