National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) founder Timothy Nugent has died at the age of 92, the organisation have announced.
Nugent is credited with being a major contributor to boosting opportunities for disabled people in the United Stateshaving created the created the first comprehensive programme of higher education for individuals with disabilities at the University of Illinois, as well as having established the collegiate wheelchair basketball team.
He then organised the first National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament in 1948, before founding the NWBA later that year in order to provide a year-round structure to wheelchair basketball.
While serving as the first Commissioner of the NWBA, a post he held for 25 years, Nugent modified the rules of the game to make them more similar to able-bodied basketball making it easier for the fans to follow, helping the sport’s popularity grow.
“It is with profound sadness that we have learned of the death of Dr. Timothy Nugent, the founder of the National Wheelchair Basketball Association,” said Sarah Castle, President of the NWBA.
“We are thankful for his vision that ultimately touched so many lives on and off the basketball courts.
“His legacy with the National Wheelchair Basketball Association is remarkable and he has touched so many great athletes, coaches, officials and leaders.
“My life is richer for all of his contributions as are those of countless other athletes and we will cherish all you have done for those with disabilities.
“You will always be fondly remembered in the wheelchair basketball community.”
In addition to his work with wheelchair basketball, Nugent was involved in the creation of other wheelchair sports, including football, track and field, archery, and square dancing.
Nugent also served as the President of the National Paraplegia Foundation for four terms and was the Professor of Rehabilitation Education and Director of the Rehabilitation Education Center and the Division of Rehabilitation Education Services at the University of Illinois until his retirement in 1985.
United States Olympic Committee (USOC) chief executive Scott Blackmun and Jim Benson, a member of the USOC Board of Directors and the University of Illinois Foundation, joined the tributes to Nugent, who was also credited with developing public transportation, adaptive equipment and recreational activities for people with disabilities.
“Dr. Nugent was a true pioneer of the disability sports movement in the United States,” their joint statement read.
“Because of his vision and tireless efforts, a legacy of opportunities have been created for people with physical disabilities to pursue educational, professional and athletic excellence.
“We extend our condolences to Dr. Nugent’s family, as well as the many athletes for whom he was not only a positive influence, but also an inspiration throughout his life.”
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