‘Small, Special and Family’ – Barton Celebrates 90-Year Affiliation With Conference Carolinas


Story Links

WILSON, N.C. – As the only remaining original member of Conference Carolinas, Barton College serves as the shining beacon on the athletic hill as the league celebrates its 90-year anniversary on Dec. 6, 2020.

Founded as Atlantic Christian College in 1902, the school did not field an intercollegiate sports team for the first five years of its existence. Then in 1907, a rag-tag group of baseball student-athletes, under the auspices of first-year coach James (J.J.) Walker, became the first team to represent the college on the athletic field of competition.  

In what amounted to a half cup of coffee, Atlantic Christian posted a 0-2 season record. So much for grand openings.    

Yet, the school continued to add sports to its modest athletic program over the next two decades, including men’s basketball (1914), football (1920), boxing and men’s tennis (1928).

According to unofficial sports historian C.J. Holliday, the football team unveiled a first-ever Bulldog mascot in 1928. Named “Mutt,” it should be noted that the dog was not an English Bulldog full breed but, indeed, a mutt.

Then at the height of the Great Depression, the school joined its first-and only-athletic conference. Atlantic Christian College President Howard Stevens Hilley, a Rhodes scholar and Oxford graduate who would preside over the college for 29 years (1920-49), attended a meeting of school Presidents from Appalachian State, Catawba, Guilford, Elon, High Point and Lenoir-Rhyne at the Washington Duke Hotel in Durham, N.C. on Dec. 6, 1930. When the meeting adjourned, the North State Intercollegiate Conference (the forerunner to Conference Carolinas) was born.

For Barton College (renamed in 1990), it’s a marriage that has lasted 90 years. To put that into proper perspective, Duke and North Carolina have belonged to the Atlantic Coast Conference for 67 years (ACC was founded on May 8, 1953), while South Carolina accepted the invitation to join the Southeastern Conference on Sept. 25, 1990.

Beyond being the elder statesmen of Conference Carolinas, Barton continues to thrive in league competition. The Bulldogs captured the conference’s coveted Joby Hawn All-Sports Cup three straight years from 2002-03 through 2004-05, and claimed national championships in tennis (1979 and 1984 NAIA) and men’s basketball (2007 NCAA Division II).

A church-affiliated school with an enrollment of 1,200, former four-time NAIA Tennis Coach of the Year Tom Parham credits the school’s athletic prowess and longevity to two words: humility and pride.

We are such a small school with a limited budget compared to many of the other programs,” said Parham, who steered Barton to a pair of NAIA National Championships and 11 consecutive conference crowns during his tenure (1964-83). “Wilson was a nice little tobacco town filled with teachers and preachers. Not a lot of big money folks. But we still managed to be successful. It was the quality people at Barton that made the difference.”  

Parham, who also served as Barton’s athletic director from 1983-85, was the architect behind the school’s first national championship in any sport when his 1979 men’s tennis team ran the table in the NAIA Tournament.

In many ways, that national title opened the door for many Barton athletic teams to bust down barriers and flourish.

I think we made a real statement to the other sports on campus,” said Parham. “We showed our kids that you can be as good as anybody in America. Of all the legacies I left at Barton, this one is the one I’m most proud of.”

And unlike most college tennis programs, that 1979 squad was composed primarily of American-born players. One of those student-athletes was Tom Morris, a two-time All-American and the No. 1 singles player for the Bulldogs for four straight seasons.  

Morris, who was inducted into the North Carolina Tennis Hall of Fame in 2010, later enjoyed a sterling coaching career. He was a four-time Conference Carolinas Coach of the Year in leading Barton’s men’s team to six conference championships and women’s squad to four league crowns. He later coached East Carolina’s women’s tennis team to the most victories (320) in school history over 22 seasons and also guided the men’s team for the Pirates to 68 wins in six years.

Parham said Barton’s culture in athletics began to turn in the early 1970’s with the hiring of David Atkins as Athletic Director in 1972.

We were overmatched for a long period of time,” said the legendary tennis coach. “I think we were eighth out of the eight conference teams in overall sports success for 20 straight years. We went through the tough Vietnam era, where our previous Athletic Director wouldn’t let the student-athletes wear long hair or even jeans. When Atkins came in, he supported women’s athletics and the recruiting of minority and international athletes to the school. Before long, we went from eighth to first in the conference.”

Barton, which has held the mantle of last surviving charter member of Conference Carolinas for the past 31 years when Catawba departed in 1989, also benefited greatly from the unswerving leadership of former Athletic Director Gary Hall, who assumed the reins the same year Catawba left the conference. Hall is  the longest-tenured AD in school history (1989-2015) and still holds the title of Emeritus Athletic Director.

Also serving as chair of the physical education department and head men’s soccer coach, Hall oversaw the expansion of intercollegiate sports from nine to 23 (including cheer and dance) that are offered today. His experience at Barton actually started in 1978 when he enrolled as a student, so he has been a keen observer of the growth of Bulldogs athletics for 42 years.

One of the real pivotal moments at Barton was when we and Conference Carolinas changed our affiliation from NAIA to NCAA Division II in 1995,” said Hall. “I was chairing the league’s AD Committee at the time and I’m very proud of the fact that all of the schools wanted to move as a unit because it was in our best interest to seek Division II affiliation.”

Hall harkens back to the 2002-05 period as a seminal time in Barton’s athletic history.

Years earlier, we decided that we wanted to be competitively successful, not only gender equitable but sport equitable across the board,” he added. “We set the goal of winning the conference’s all-sports award. When we won the Hawn Cup three years in a row, I remember us taking a photo in front of the Bell Tower on campus featuring all our student-athletes, support staff and coaches. That photo became a banner that hung in the gymnasium for quite some time. It was very rewarding because everyone pulled for each other, fulfilling a very unifying goal.”

Hall credits coaching continuity as key to consistent success for Barton’s sports programs.

Another goal that emerged significantly during those years was finding stability in head coaching positions,” said Hall. “We began to have people serve for longer periods of time. They stayed and produced results. And we hired and retained good support staff as well.”

The other catalyst for Barton was when its men’s basketball team won the 2007 NCAA Division II Championship in Cinderella fashion, erasing a seven-point deficit in the final 39 seconds in the title game to beat Winona State, 77-75.

Hall remembers the incredible swell of support for the team upon their return to the Wilson campus.

Our mayor, Bruce Rose, called me up right after the game. He said the city had just purchased an automated phone notification system and asked if I was okay with him testing it by notifying the community of the team’s itinerary coming home. I said yes, but little did I know that thousands of residents would respond by lining the highway and gathering on campus!

Another person with long ties to Barton athletics is Russell Rawlings, whose first memories of the school’s teams came during childhood.   

I grew up in Wilson and first started going to basketball games in the mid-60’s when Wilson Gymnasium first opened,” said Rawlings. “I‘ve had an affinity for Barton athletics ever since.”

It’s no wonder Rawlings is such a Barton fan. His life has been intertwined with the college for seven decades. He attended then Atlantic Christian College from 1974-78 while also covering its sports teams for the local Wilson Daily Times. Then he joined the school as Alumni Director in 1984, serving in that position for four years. Later, he moved to Barton’s public relations and development offices for a 10-year stint from 1990-94. Since then, Rawlings has served as an athletic board member and volunteer alumnus, and has filled the master of ceremonies role at the school’s annual Athletic Hall of Fame banquet for the past 35 years.

With that breadth of institutional knowledge, Rawlings is eminently qualified to make comparisons of Barton athletic teams over several generations and eras.

I think the growth and visibility of the athletic program has been the biggest change,” said Rawlings. “And beneath that are individuals and teams that bookmarked that transition over the years. I credit the administrators for their awareness, dedication and importance placed on athletics, which has made it all possible.”

The former sports writer expressed a particular fondness for the 1979 Bulldogs’ men’s tennis team that won the NAIA National Championship and its colorful coach, Tom Parham.

It was the first Barton team to win a national title,” he said. “I was particularly close to that team and the coach, as I covered it for the newspaper. Parham took a program from the ground and showed the school and the town what was possible. Beyond being a great coach, Tom was such an interesting person. He was a brilliant scholar who also loved music. He tried to hide his amazing competitive spirit, but I would get a glimpse during matches. We’re still good friends to this day, and as far as I’m concerned, the line for great Barton coaches will always form behind him.”

While he still cherishes those Bulldog teams of his childhood, Rawlings claims the school’s athletic prowess has made a quantum leap in the 21st Century.

Barton sports have grown exponentially in the last two decades,” he said. “The 2007 national basketball champions generated more enthusiasm in the community and on campus and there’s greater support now. I’m also very impressed with the current administration. We have the perfect president (Dr. Douglas N. Searcy) for the time we’re in. His enthusiasm, leadership and ability to get things done is tremendous. He and our Athletic Director (Todd Wilkinson) are a great combination.”

Rawlings also credits the school’s investment in improved facilities, more scholarships and notable coaches as a major part of the equation.

In those early years, we had no facilities. The teams played at the local high school or recreation center. I think our affiliation with the conference also spurred growth because the league provided a measuring stick for us. You could point to the other schools in the conference and say ‘this is where we want to get to.'”

Adding yet another veteran voice to the Barton conversation is C.J. Holliday, the unofficial sports historian whose 50th Graduation Reunion at the school was postponed this year due to COVID-19.

An avid researcher of Barton sports, Holliday has been known to dig deep into old newspaper files and game programs to unearth new findings about his beloved Bulldogs. He speaks fondly of his days as a student when he became a fan.

It was very exciting,” he said. “We played Appalachian State, Western Carolina, High Point and other good teams. Back in those days, there weren’t many NCAA Division I schools, so NAIA coaches had a chance to recruit some really quality players.”

Such future NBA stars like Lloyd “World B.” Free (Philadelphia 76ers) and M.L. Carr (Boston Celtics) played in the conference in those days.

When schools like Western Carolina came here, the gym was filled,” Holliday recalled. “We beat some good teams like Georgia Southern and Old Dominion. Atlantic Christian had a run-and-gun reputation and played an exciting brand of basketball.”

Now some 50 years later, Holliday continues his love affair with the Barton Bulldogs. He offers an explanation for his long-time affection and loyalty to the program.

For me, it’s just about being a fan,” he said. “I just love the college and the people there. It’s a small, special place. Even as a fan, you’re treated like a big fish in a small pond. You have an opportunity for so much access and recognition. You become part of the family.”

The same can be said for Barton’s 90-year affiliation with Conference Carolinas. Small, special and family. The Bulldogs have set the example as the conference’s patriarch member since 1930.

Bob Rose is a longtime sports public relations executive who has worked for the San Francisco Giants, Oakland Athletics, the NFL Cardinals, Cal, Stanford and other organizations. Conference Carolinas’ official storyteller, Rose will incorporate unique features through his “Body, Mind, and Soul” series into the 90th anniversary celebration.Print Friendly Version


“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone,” wrote the French philosopher Blaise Pascal.

I live on an island. It is about thirty miles long. We are one mile from the western end. Sunsets descend over Bear Island or Hammocks State Park, another barrier island. The beach at the end wasn’t a beach at all unless you count sandbags. Only a few years back you could safely dive off them into deep water. When we became permanent residents (retired ding batters according to local “hoi tide” knockoffs), little did we foresee the god send coming.

The channel between Emerald Isle and Bear Island connects the Atlantic to the inland waterway. Dredging the channel to provide deep water access caused a tremendous change in our neighborhood. Sand in huge volume created a whole new end of island. Now you can drive on our new beach with the shoreline hundreds of yards from where the sandbags were. Now four wheel drives can enter and navigate for 13 miles.

One sad fact is that former beach front properties are now “way back” from the now beach. Or the “our beach” as was staked out by boaters who quickly realized any number of fun possibilities dawned: Fishing, swimming, families cooking out, port-o-pots no less, BBQ, and boom boxes. Some weekends, 100 boaters. Shades of Jimmy Buffett.

Too far to walk grandma and the inflatable shark to shore, “the point” became mostly the boater’s haven, with exception of labor day to memorial day. Driving time!! For 100$ and a 4wheeler you can get a sticker. 60$ for residents and zip for us 65 and older property owners. Picnic day for teddy bears.

Once Margaret (wife-type) had ridden on the beach it was pretty clear I had to find a 4wheeler… I knew where to look. Joe Robinson sold me “Joebelle”, a classic jeep Wagoneer popularized by The Big Chill. What an engine. Even though it smelled like Joe’s lab, it was a work horse. Which leads to one of the more interesting facts of beach driving. People get stuck. We got stuck. People do crazy things that get them stuck. Many don’t understand the tide and the wind. Bad mistake (s). Double bad is to get stuck in exit/entrance. Double that if the red drum are biting and Billy Bob can’t get to em. Here are several scenarios about getting stuck:

A. Once Margaret realized what a tow stud Joebelle was, she looked for stuck ones. We bought all the shovels and boards and tow ropes it would carry. One fundamental about getting stuck is that” they” are always there. You may not see “them” at first, but like throwing bread to invisible seagulls, it won’t be long before “they” appear. “What’s wrong there? See you got hung up a little. Roy–go get the tow rope. Here–let me driove er .”(hio tide for drive her.)

Only once were “they” stumped. A pickup up to her axle in the exit. Nothing budged it. Dark approaches. Margaret volunteers for the third time. Same answer- “-little lady we’ll have er out in minute.” Not so, and finally she is up.

With Joebelle already outside, and spotting a grid of thin boards on the top of the exit, Margaret got the wagoneer’s back tires on these boards. She made a good first try but still a tough mire to conquer. I noticed an older man approach Margaret. She nodded and together they located Joeballe with an added ten yards of slack in the tow rope. Margaret revved up dropped her into ultra low, and put the pedal to the metal.

It sounded like the bottom frame was being yanked off and for a moment I feared the jeep would pull the pickup over itself and Margaret. She did a Nascar like peel off, and acknowledged the applause of of grateful gathering of off/on waiters. The old guys shook her hand and she hugged them. I don’t think I’ve seen her happier.

***If you get stuck and don’t know what to do, or don’t have a needed piece of gear, don’t panic. just walk around the vehicle, look puzzelled, scratch you head.”They” will wander out of the dunes. Hey fellow, need some help?

B. Last week a youngster drove through a tidal pool too fast. Took an hour to get him out. Drew a crowd of 100.

C. A yankee knew not the tide . A Red jeep totally under.

D. One caught on fire. No way. Black frame all that remained.

E. Two personals to admit. Watched a deep sunset. Newer red 97 Jeep Sport (Joebelle fizzled) would not crank. Had to get beach wrecker to get to exit, another to get to repair.(250$)

Last week we over worked Red at high tide. Overheated, she quit right in the Black Skimmer exit. Let er cool and she will go again, but we are blocking the exit. Performed the wander around method mentioned above and sure enough a young marine drove up and volunteered ” I’ll get you out” and he did. Margaret tipped 15$. ” He said it was his birthday.”

*Local tip that worked on Joebelle. If your radiator leaks try this: Pour 4 oz. of ground black pepper in the radiator. Start the vehicle and let it run a while. Pepper will rise to the leak and plug. I swear it worked. For a while.

One elderly couple drove their Chevy in to the sand. No sticker, 4wheel drive, nothing. Only us there, the glow kicked on in Margaret’s eyes. Hi Oh Silver. I knew it was bad and wistfully watched as another Jeep with a young couple rounding the dune. I could quickly see and recognize the “I want no part of this look” on the driver’s face. But then his conscience got him and he drove over. Neither of the couple exited the Chev. We three approached them to volunteer when it became apparent they were both deaf and stunned. Communication limited at best. Nothing worked. Plus a game plan was difficult. We finally decided to rope the two vehicles with the young ones dragging seniors backwards. We convinced the old man the Jeep would drive as hard as he could. As the lead jeep gunned off Margaret and I began to scream as loud as we could. This, of course, did no good and in horror we watched the Jeep tear out south as the confused Chevy took off due North. As the rope distance ran out of slack both vehicles bounced straight up about a foot. Both of the old ones were crying when we got there.

Finally we found a solid path. Jeep driver told them just to sit still and put the car in neutral. He turned to us and whispered “…I am going to drag them to the exit as hard as I can and just maybe I can pop them to the top”. I told him he needn’t whisper.

By god it worked. As the Chevy crested the exit top it wobbled down to asphalt. The old man gave the young man some money. All drove off. Margaret said “…you know he gave him a 100$ bill!” I said —twenty minutes ago he would have paid a thousand to get back to New Jersey.

A big moment last week was taking Bubba John McClean riding on the point for the first time. While his granddad, W.B. McClean, was the ramrod that led seven piedmonters to buy from Salter Path to the point, Bubba said he was afraid to drive on the beach. Surprising, as Bubba is a master deep sea diver and a diver at the local aquarium. Bubba, two weeks from having the dreaded bends, liked the tour and hopefully he’ll beach ride now.

**Locals will think I dissed W. B. He was a trip. Get Bubba or his Dad to tell you about Mr. McClean. The one I liked was when he bought the lion from the Hoke County Carnival.

Bubba is like all of us. We know we’ve got some dangers nearby. “If you can see the ocean, it can see you.” Think they call it Bear Island for nothing? Just wander around the nearby Croatan National Forest. Alligators? A 17 and 1/2 footer got hit by a car near Camp Lejuene. Had to get a forklift to get him off Highway 17. One man asked a garden store worker if that alligator yard ornament was for sale? The clerk jumped over the customer when the 7 footer blinked at them. (“probably came up out of the white oak river”)

When you go in the ocean you are no longer at the top of the food chain. Sharks are showing up more, But still rarely. Sting rays are real. Nothing compares to rip tides. Sadly our area has its victims. Still, dolphin are abundant. One lady calls them daily, Swears she can communicate. Once in a while a whale is spotted. The birds are the stars of the show. Pelicans, Seagulls, Geese, All kinds of patterns and migrations are delightful.

When I first got down here, before beach driving, I wandered around on Bogue Banks Pier. Nothing beats seeing young girl or boy catch their first fish. When a school of Red Drum come through, it is close.

One morning at 11am I walked up the pier and the Mullett were running. Forty yards across the green sea was black. They came down the shore line but would not swim under the pier. Around the end, back down the other side of the pier and on down the shore line. I asked how long they had been running and a man said “I’ve been here since 8am. They were coming then”.

An old technique of the local fishers is to put a large net (100yds?) out offshore. Leave it overnight. When the mullett run comes they loop one end around them, attach both ends to tractors and pull the net, loaded, to those who shovel the fish into truck loads. I’ve seen it once. They don’t advertise.

Back to the point and the points. Nature provides blessings and burdens. We have a new, free playground. It is beautiful and fun. Kite surfers do flips and bust the speed limit (20 mph.) Fishing, or looking like you are fishing. Bocce Ball, bait fishermen from the north with coolers and nets. Kites, Lakes formed by high tides. Tidal pools when they subside. One five year grandson started in the shallow pools and now body surfs with his Dad. He has his his own wetsuit and goes in through now (Late November). True, it scares me.

I suggested earlier that there are some more points. True the virus has made us look for ways to wait it out. I believe I contact local owls. I am dough popping the dog ass online Pokerstars free game. We housed a ton of carpenter bees that I fought daily with a badminton racket. Deadly backhand got a lot of them. Then, there is and I bought the last carpenter bee trap from Ace Hardware. Kept a daily tally and watched the battles in the trap jar.

The most important point is this: We are witnessing two opposite meteors. as the virus spirals out of control, the best scientists in history are predicting a cure. Soon.

Hopefully the vaccine will be a reality.

Sit tight.

One fisherman’s tee shirt read “I really like fishing, and maybe three people!”


“…the wicked witch is dead.”

Nightmare over.

Fog lifted


Never should we have been happier. Our soul, spirit.

Got God back.

Look at black friends again

Can sincerely smile at my grand children

Hire good Republicans or those who stood up. And Faucci ,and Steele of RNC.

Flush trump swamp.

Find out what really happened

People who I couldn’t understand, nor they me. (YOU SEE IT FROM YOUR WAY, AND I SEE IT FROM MINE. dylan–

Compromise. What will I give. What for?


Ding-dong! the merry-o sing it high, sing it low
Let them know the wicked witch is dead.

*********************TOP TEN TRUMPS













I might as well pee while I’m here.

its not coffee or whiskey or beer.

Doesn’t take sage to know its old age,

nope, the problem it is really quite clear.

I quit carrying a modern cell phone

Every one I carried got lost.

but maybe a similar case

not quite as small, for seniors a

to conceal a portable urinal.

Some friends are now in diapers.

They come in his or hers.

The name of brands when read,

simply advise , dear friends, “GO AHEAD”!

Never blest with great speed in youth,

things still get slower in truth.

To open my fly, find myself and let fly,

not only in haste, but target forsooth!

The midnight trips to the head,

filled with fear and the dreaded more “goes”,

I’ve worn out the carpet

rushing in darkness, I’ve broken both pinky toes.

Old age doesn’t mix well with hurry,

be sure a growler is near.

so just to head off the flurry—

I might as well pee while I’m here.



Tom Parham <>11:23 AM (0 minutes ago)
to me

The harm is still reversible.

The bad news is that if we have to endure four more years of Donald Trump, with him unrestrained by the need to be re-elected, our country will not be the America we grew up with, whose values, norms and institutions we had come to take for granted.                      

 Four more years of a president without shame, backed by a party without spine, amplified by a TV network without integrity, and the cancer will be in the bones of every institution that has made America America.


Tennis in 2020 has been “different”. The French Open was no exception, cold weather and no fans. Had to adapt to that tough wind.

Strategy—game plan. How you plan to win.

Tactics–the tools you use to carry out your strategy.

Jack Kramer said the fundamental strategy is to find what your opponent can’t handle. Drop shots have emerged as an evolving tennis tool. It follows that defending against drop shot has been taken to a new level. The Joker has mastered this. His extreme crosscourt off a dropshot may be the most improved shot of this year.

Dominic Theim gets the stamina award for recent play; (US Open) starts his marathon. Three backhand down the line passing shots were a tactic!

But he exhibited another passing tactic that impressed me more. When pressured by net play Theim has a low floating pass shot, not intended to win the point. but to make his opponent to volley up. Then comes the point winning pass. Not chip and charge, but chip and rip.

College players were allowed coaching between games about mid-career for me. Once I overhead an opposing player say about his coach, “…yeah, he talked but never gave me any help!”

I began to look harder for ways to help. The best person to know what needs to be done is the player on the court. Theim and Diego Schwartzman practice and play doubles. As defensive as clay is as a surface, Schwartzman’s tools at the net won the match for him. He knew of the chip and rip passing tactic of his friend, now opponent. With this knowledge and speed he closed in and took that away. Knowing also of the down the line bomb he used his speed cover that one too. Faultless volleying caused Theim to try a weak cross court to no avail. While these tools were few, they were flawlessly executed and timely. And kept the match go that long distance. In fairness to Dominic the final strategy may have been to use his fatigue to be a successful game plan. No one should have lost that one.

Did you get the real message? If you can outrun and outlast them, you have the best tools to win. Get in shape.

PS—Watch this shot emerge as the next emerging shot: THE TOPSPIN LOB.


James Michener wrote a book on writing. One tool he highly recommended was Rodale’s Synonym Finder. To help describe the recent debate you may find his synonyms for “rude” and/or “rudeness” useful.

“…I hate rudeness in a man. I won’t tolerate it.” Woodrow Call (LONESOME DOVE).