Pivotal Sports Moments and Memories 1959-1985
Symbols are important to athletes. In the early years I spent as a student , and later as a coach, the BOHUNK BUCKET was “…to die for!” As described in detail in BARTON COLLEGE—Our Century, historian Dr. Jerry McClean details this prize as “…a common wooden bucket”, retained by winners of contests between then Atlantic Christian College and East Carolina college. (AC HIGH SCHOOL vs ECTC). This symbol“…served as a strong incentive to players and fans of the schools. Resulting in hotly contested games and close scores”.
In the early 60’s our sister schools in the North State Conference included East Carolina, Appalachain, Western Carolina, Elon, High Point, Catawba, Lenoir Rhyne, Guilford and varying others. The then symbol of excellence was the Hawn Trophy, named after commissioner , Joby Hawn. A point system determined a league all sports winner.
Our school was low key in money and commitment Granted there were bright moments, but our 8th of 8 finishes in the Hawn race for more than ten years straight, pointed directly to the proverbial “cows-tail.” Two facilities built in the early 60’s changed this, and my life; the gym and the tennis courts.
In 1972 the college hired David Adkins as the Athletics Director. He also was to coach the newly added soccer team. David was a quiet leader and a hard worker. Still he took his licks too, early on. His first two teams were 1-22. Team three, however, was 7-5 , featuring a corner turning coach, and some players who had paid their dues. Adkins teams became the powerhouse of the conference and our district of the NAIA. Adkins and his players were influential ambassadors for soccer’s development in Wilson and eastern North Carolina.
There was a “bell cow” effect. Coach Carole Mckeel’s women’s basketball team won its first conference. title. Women’s volley team became a “tough out” in league play. The colorful Jack “Doc” Sanford finished his career coaching baseball, his first love. A delightful leader in his seventieth year, Doc led a special group of youngsters to another formerly rare conference title. During this period Men’s tennis won 11conference titles and two NAIA team tennis championships (1979 and 1984). The first in North Carolina history. “This proves to our students we can compete with anybody.”
Indeed a new culture was born in the 70’s , No more clear-cut evidence was there than the Hawn trophy finishes. Coach Adkins’ years featured a steady climb in the final standings, While Adkins later entered the private business world, the year after he resigned the college job, the Bulldogs finished a historical #2 Hawn finish.. The year after that they won the outright claim to top sports program in this highly competitive conference. Subsequently there was a three years stretch of Hawn winners.
Gyms and tennis courts and leaders are important. The college gym was named Wilson/Alumni Gymnasium. I am grateful to the town and alumni. And for David Adkins.