Marion Dunn has enjoyed front-row seats or press-box views of the state's sporting events and its athletes as a sports reporter, columnist or editor for several of the state's major newspapers for the past four-plus decades. Dunn now steps up to the same level of the state's standout athletes and sports figures - as one of the newest members of the Utah Sports Hall of Fame.

"It's exciting - a lot of my heroes are there," said Dunn. "They are people I've read about all my life and some whom I've written about myself."A Utah-based sports writer for most of his 42 years in the profession, Dunn is one of four individuals - along with basketball player Jeff Judkins, football player George Melinkovich and skier Marvin Melville - being inducted in tonight's Utah Sports Hall of Fame banquet. He joins Hack Miller and John Mooney as the only sports writers to be inducted.

Growing up in a baseball-oriented family, Dunn started in journalism as his involvement in athletics was winding down. He was a Bingham High pitcher on the 1940 state championship team - about the same time he signed on as a Tribune correspondent to report local events, such as election returns.

It was his way to break into the business, having poured over the sports pages as a youngster. "I was as much interested in the people who wrote the stories as much as the people who they were writing about," said Dunn.

After World War II service in the Army (when he remembers playing "big time basketball in the backwaters of the war in New Guinea - the peak of my athletics"), Dunn attended first Utah State University and then the University of Utah - the same time that the latter started up its journalism program. After a stint with the university's Daily Chronical, Dunn started his professional sports-journalism career in 1948 with the Deseret News.

Dunn has sinced worked at the Tribune, the Salt Lake Telegram, and the Provo Daily Herald - as well as with United Press in San Francisco. Currently the Tribune's golf correspondent, Dunn remains active with the PGA, the Utah Golf Association and the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA); he's also co-authoring a book on Utah golf history.

Ranking among Dunn's memorable highlights are the Utah State's '61 football team, which went 9-1-1 with the likes of Merlin Olsen and Bill Munson; BYU's emergence as a football power in the '80s, what with late-game Holiday Bowl comebacks and the 1984 national-championship season; the Danny Ainge era of BYU basketball, with postseason wins over UCLA and Notre Dame; BYU's 1981 NCAA golf championship; and numerous NCAA basketball tournament games - DePaul over UCLA in the '79 Western Finals, Michigan State over Indiana State in the '79 NCAA Finals, and dunk-happy Houston over Louisville in the '83 NCAA semifinals.

Next month, he'll preside at the 1990 Outland Trophy ceremonies in Los Angeles - the first time they've been held outside of New York City. As past president of the FWAA, Dunn was instrumental in move of locations - in fact, only a few years ago the trophy was merely mailed out to the winner.

Dunn's roots run deep. Besides his prestigous post as 1989 FWAA president and national writing awards in golf, bowling and basketball, Dunn says he equally relishes his local honors - a previous recognition from the Utah High School Activities Association and now the Hall of Fame award. And despite covering national events ranging from the World Series to national golf and tennis tournaments, Dunn admits to always being drawn back to Utah.

"I'm a small-town guy," he said of his writing and reporting preferences. "I prefer that the stories involve local college teams or local pro athletes. I'd much rather cover a Utah Open than a U.S. Open - you're writing about people who you live with all year round, people you know."