Thursday, December 05, 2019






Coaching Baseball Was Inevitable for Mark Mincher, Son of Former Major Leaguer

Sixth of an 11-Part Series on the HOF Class of 2019


            It was almost a given that Mark Mincher would someday be a baseball coach.  The pedigree was there as the son of former major leaguer Don Mincher. And quite a baseball coach he became.
             Mincher is being enshrined as a member of the Class of 2019 into the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame. The annual banquet is March 18 at the Montgomery Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center. The AHSAA and AHSADCA founded the Hall of Fame in 1991.
            A native of Huntsville, Coach Mincher graduated from Hazel Green High School in 1975 and from Memphis State (now Memphis University) in 1980. He also holds a master’s degree in administration from Alabama A&M.          At Hazel Green, he played football, baseball and basketball for four years, earning All-County honors in each sport.
            At Memphis, he was a four-year starter on the baseball team, compiling a career batting average of .270 and. The Tigers had a 131-49 record during his tenure. They won the Metro Conference championship in 1978 and made two NCAA regional tournament appearances. 

            He began his teaching and coaching career in 1980 at Monrovia Middle School in Madison County. His first duties were coaching football, baseball and both and boys’ and girls’ basketball. The boys won a junior high county championship.

            In 1982 he moved to Sparkman High School as junior varsity baseball and basketball coach. He also was a football assistant. He was elevated to head baseball coach in 1983. His Senators had one appearance in the state playoffs, and Mincher was named Madison County Baseball Coach of the Year in 1984.

            He moved to Huntsville High School as an assistant in varsity football and head coach in freshman football. He was also varsity baseball coach, a position he held until 2012. From 1995-2012, he was also HHS athletic director.
            While compiling a record of 576-353, his baseball teams won 12 city championships, eight area championships and one state championship (2011). They were in the state playoffs 18 times. He was named National Federation of High Schools and Alabama Baseball Coaches Association state Coach of the Year in 2011.

            He was named Huntsville city Coach of the Year eight times and metro Coach of the Year four times. He was named AHSAA/AHSADCA Athletic Director of the Year for 2005-06 and was inducted into the Madison County Sports Hall of Fame in 2011.

            Gregory L. Hicks, director of behavioral learning for Huntsville City Schools, wrote of Mincher: “I first met Coach Mincher in the summer of 2003. I had just joined the Huntsville High School faculty and coaching staff. At that time, Coach Mincher was the head freshman football coach, head baseball coach, athletic director and math teacher. While at Huntsville High, I learned a great deal from Coach Mincher. Most of all, I learned to be a leader, a gentleman and a winner! He is an outstanding coach, family man and educator. I am proud to have served alongside this great person.”

            Huntsville High School Principal and Freshman Academy Coordinator Leslie Esneault wrote: “With 32 years of coaching, 27 of those at Huntsville High School, Coach Mark Mincher is one of the most well-respected coaches in Alabama. Having had a remarkable mentor in his father, Don Mincher, and known for his integrity and dedication to his school and his players, Coach Mincher is an outstanding example of an exemplary leader in the athletic community.”

            “In addition to coaching, Mark was a valuable member of the HHS math department, and in 2009 entered the administration arena to become an assistant principal. During this time, Mark provided thoughtful guidance and direction on important decisions that affected our students and school. I put complete faith in his knowledge, and I value his recommendations. He is a highly reliable authority on eligibility and AHSAA rules. With his years and experience on the field and in the classroom, he is a mentor/leader for our novice coaches and teachers.
            “Even with all these awards and accolades, Mark will tell you that his most rewarding coaching experience came in May of 2011, when after 30 years of coaching, he led the Huntsville High School Panther varsity baseball team to the school’s first Alabama 6A state championship, a title that took over a century to claim! Coach Mincher was able to demonstrate that high expectations, commitment, dedication and a ‘can do’ attitude can achieve even the most difficult of accomplishments. Mark’s determination and perseverance should be examples for us all.”

            A former player, Kevin J. Wieseman, who later served as Huntsville City Schools’ athletic director and principal at Lee High School, wrote: “As a young man I was honored to play for a young energetic coach at Sparkman High School who showed a true commitment to the players and a commitment to developing them as productive members of society. Since those days I have gone on to serve with him on his baseball staff and work under his leadership as Huntsville High’s athletic director.
            “He assisted my coaching career by serving as an assistant on the football staff while I was head coach at Huntsville High. We continued our collaboration after I became Huntsville City Schools Athletic Director, working together to organize athletic programs and promote student-athletes. I consider it a blessing to be associated with this man and his distinguished career. Mark Mincher was first my trusted coach, then a peer that I respected and learned from, and most importantly a friend with whom I share common values and beliefs.”
             Mincher currently is serving as athletic director at Madison Academy.
COMING TUESDAY: Installment 7 – Basketball Coach Schuessler Ware, Anniston.


Basketball Coach Carolyn Wright to Join Husband in High School HOF


            Carolyn Mae Wright’s induction into the AHSAA Sports Hall of Fame carries an historical distinction. She joins her husband, Bobby Wright, as the second husband-wife members of prestigious group of individuals enshrined. They follow Tom and Lenette Calvin who were inducted in 1991 and 1992, respectively.
              Wright is being inducted as a member of the Class of 2019 into the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame on March 18 at the Montgomery Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center. The AHSAA and AHSADCA founded the Hall of Fame in 1991.
            On Dec. 8, the Central-Phenix City Lady Red Devils presented Carolyn Wright with her 500th win. She finished the season reaching the Southeast Regional finals and now has a career 517-294 career record, Bobby Wright’s career slate is 645-202 – making the duo the winningest husband-wife basketball coaching tandem in state history with a combined 1,162 victories between them.
            A native of Tuskegee, Carolyn Wright graduated from Tuskegee Institute High School in 1974 and from Alabama State University in1978. She also holds a master’s degree in specific learning disability. She was first a teacher and later decided to also go into coaching. She began her career at St. Jude Home for Children in Montgomery. She also taught special education students in Georgia and at Stanhope Elmore High School. She spent her summers working with the Upward Bound Program and the National Sports Youth Program at Alabama State.

            In 1986 she accepted a position at McIntyre Jr. High School, where she added coaching basketball, softball, track, volleyball and bowling to her teaching duties. She held that position until 1991 when she moved to Phenix City  as chair of the Central High School Department of Health and Physical Education.

            At Central, she has coached girls track and basketball and was an assistant in boys track. She added volleyball to her duties in 2002. She gave up track in 2011 but continues to coach basketball and volleyball.

            She coached more than 30 individual boys’ and girls’ state track champions. In 16 years of volleyball, she has won more than 200 games. But it is basketball that she has had her greatest impact. In addition to her 517 wins, she has guided the Lady Red Devils to area championships and 15 state and sub-state tournament appearances. Three teams advanced to the state tournament semifinals. She has averaged 18 wins per season, won numerous Coach of the Year honors and has also coached the South team in All-Star Week.
            Former player Stephanie Pedersen wrote about her relationship with Coach Wright in the Columbus (GA) Ledger-Enquirer. In part, she said: “When I was in the 8th grade, I was scared to death to go to Central High School, and it wasn’t because the school scared me. The ladies’ basketball coach was my fear. I remember going to games in the late ‘90s and seeing Coach Carolyn Wright stomp around in her coach’s box with her fancy heels and nice outfits. She scared me to death. When she became agitated, she would take off her jewelry. You didn’t want to be the referee if she had to take of her suit jacket. Someone was getting chewed out if that happened.”

            “I played for Coach Wright for three years. She was strict when she needed to be, but she also stood up for her players when we needed it. During one lunch break, a boy at my table hit me with his folder. It  tore my top lip open. When I went to her office to get some ice, she did what any good coach would do. She forced me to tell her his name, went to the lunch room and blessed him out. She had my back when I needed it.”
            She said her coach always had the players’ best interest at heart.
            “She showed tough love when I needed it as well,” she said. “If one of us twisted an ankle, Coach Wright’s prescription always was a bucket of ice water. I’m certain that medicine hurt worse than the ankle rolling. And if we didn’t keep our foot in the bucket, she’d sit in our laps until it went numb. As you can imagine, we rarely complained about ankles after a few frozen buckets.”

            Pedersen explained that her beloved coach teaches the lessons the students need.
           “She taught me discipline, and she showed me how to be a leader. She made us better people.”

            Another former player, Jimecheia Banks, shared a letter she wrote to Coach Wright.
           She wrote:  “It has been four years of play with you as my coach. The years have been a great learning experience, Not only from your coaching and guidance but also from the different players and assistant coaches that you’ve mentored along the way. Your positive coaching, guidance, and convincing encouragement have made a larger and more sentimental impact on my life than any other teacher or administrator I know.   You’ve disciplined me with love and coached me with passion. At times you’ve had more faith in me on the floor than I’ve had in myself. You’ve always told me that God is the way to everything.
         “I want to thank you for allowing me to fulfill the role as the conductor and captain on the floor as a sophomore to a senior. It was one of the most influential acts that I could ever experience growing up. I want to say thank you for molding me into a confident, God-fearing, passionate young black woman. I love you and value your life in mine. The value of the influence you’ve given me is priceless. I plan to take it into the world ahead of me to go above and beyond my limitations and exceed abundantly through Christ.”
COMING MONDAY: Installment 6 – Baseball Coach Mark Mincher of Huntsville           

Phil Lazenby Combined Military Experience with Athletics to Teach Life Lessons to Kids

Fourth of an 11-Part Series on the HOF Class of 2019


         Phil Lazenby learned some valuable lessons playing sports and serving in the military. He has spent his entire life in education sharing those lessons with the students he has been entrusted to coach.
        Lazenby will be inducted as a member of the Class of 2019 into the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame on March 18 at the Montgomery Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center. The AHSAA and AHSADCA founded the Hall of Fame in 1991.
       Phil Lazenby graduated from Bessemer High school in 1968 and from Samford University in 1974 with a bachelor’s degree in history and psychology. He also earned a master’s degree in education administration from the University of Montevallo in 1979.

          He served his country in the United States Army, graduating first in his class from the Infantry School at Fort Benning (GA). During his service, he received two commendation medals and had tours of duty in Europe and Central America. He retired as a 1st Sergeant, the second highest non-commissioned officer rank.

          He began his teaching and coaching career at his old alma mater, which had been renamed Jess Lanier High School. He was an assistant football coach from 1976-80. He also coached varsity tennis and junior varsity basketball. He moved to Mountain Brook High School from 1981-90 where he served as an assistant football coach, defensive coordinator and assistant principal.

          His accepted his first head-coaching job at Guntersville in 1991 and compiled a 38-18 record and won three regional titles in five seasons. Included were three state playoff appearances, advancing to the second round each year. Also, during his tenure at Guntersville, he was head track coach and taught Spanish, U.S. and World history and psychology.

In 1996 he became head football coach and assistant principal at Southside-Gadsden. He directed the Panthers to the state playoffs. He left the following year, however, and became head football coach at Benjamin Russell High School in Alexander City. Over the next four years, his teams made four consecutive state playoff appearances, including two trips to the state finals, and went 41-12 overall. The Wildcats were also 10-4 in the state playoffs.
          From Alexander City, he went to Mobile as an assistant football and strength coach under Hall of Fame Coach Terry Curtis at UMS-Wright. “I hired Phil to be the offensive line coach,” recalled Curtis. “We won three state championships in football while he served in this position.”

In 2007 he accepted the head football coach position at Bayside Academy in nearby Daphne, adding head golf coach in 2007 and athletic director duties in 2015. At Bayside he has compiled a record of 87-55. His teams have been in the playoffs nine times, including a runner-up in 2015. Lazenby’s overall head-coaching record is 172-91 – taking four different schools to the state playoffs and compiling a 27-17 playoff record in 17 trips over 23 years to the postseason.
      Lazenby is among the most respected in the profession. “Every year when I attend the AHSAA Summer Conference, it amazes me the number of people that gravitate over to embrace Phil,” wrote Bayside Athletic Director Jamie Ferguson. “Whether they are former players who have become coaches or just coaches that Phil has worked with or against, they all embrace Coach Lazenby with affection. I can truly say that I have seen the impact that he has had on football, coaches, and more importantly our state.

“It has been an eye-opening experience to work alongside such an incredible man and coach. I have seen firsthand his influence on the Bayside Academy football program. Phil requires student-athletes to demand more of themselves and their teammates, both on and off the field. This is a vital life-lesson as these students are our country’s next generation.  Phil is passionate about teaching respect – whether it is respecting one’s self, teammates, or opponents.”

Ferguson says Lazenby’s unselfishness makes a strong impact on others. “Phil does not carry out good deeds for any other reason than it is just the right thing to do,” he said. “Phil does not list his accomplishments on a resume as they are just ordinary aspects of his day-to-day life.  I think it is safe to say that every program in which Coach Lazenby has been involved is a better program because of his influence.”

For all his coaching successes, AHSAA Executive Director Steve Savarese said nothing compares to what happened one day at Bayside. “Phil’s legacy is not confined to his educational or military service only,” Savarese said. “Most importantly, his legacy involves saving someone’s life. One day at practice, Mark Lasseter, an assistant coach at Bayside Academy, had experienced cardiac arrest, and his heart had stopped. He was found lifeless by a student. Immediately after being notified of the situation, Phil began providing CPR and continued for over five minutes until an AED revived his heart. Because of his quick reaction, he saved Mark’s life! Phil epitomizes what every American should be, a servant to those he encounters, as well as, a professional in his craft.”

Bayside Head of School Michael Papa agrees.  “No matter whether you have played for Phil or been a member of his coaching staff, he will leave you with a number of life lessons that you can take with you for the rest of your life. He shows us that your role is a single piece of a much bigger thing. Mistakes are inevitable, but your response to them in the moments that follow are what truly matters.”
COMING SUNDAY: Installment 5 – Basketball Coach Carolyn Wright, Central-Phenix City High School       

Thru All His Travels, Trail-Blazing Willie Carl Martin Still Calls Alexander City Home

       The sport of football has taken Willie Carl Martin to places all around the world. However, the former college and pro standout still calls Alexander City home.
       Born and raised in Alexander City, Martin graduated from Laurel High School in 1969, just as integration was bringing about the merger of Alabama’s white and black high school athletic associations. He was one of three black players chosen for the 1969 North-South All-Star game, the first minorities to receive that honor. He would later return Alexander City to lead Benjamin Russell High School to its only state football title as the Wildcats’ head coach.
      Martin is being enshrined as a member of the Class of 2019 into the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame. The annual banquet is March 18 at the Montgomery Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center. The AHSAA and AHSADCA founded the Hall of Fame in 1991.
      Martin’s first move came after high school moving from Alexander City to Tahlequah (OK) where he was a four-year letterman as an offensive lineman at Northeastern Oklahoma State University. He had been offered a scholarship by Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant at the University of Alabama but instead, selected NESU, where he earned All-American and All-Oklahoma Collegiate Conference first team honors his senior year. Drafted by the Houston Oilers of the NFL after his senior year was completed, Martin chose instead to play in the Canadian Football League. His 10-year career included stops in Edmonton and Winnipeg. He was an All-Pro selection eight times and participated in six CFL championship Grey Cup games (CFL Super Bowl), playing on two championship teams.

     In 1983, after his professional career ended, he returned to his home town accepting a position as football, wrestling and track coach at Alexander City Middle School. Two years later, he moved over to Benjamin Russell High School as an assistant football coach, serving 15 years as defensive coordinator. Over those years, his defenses gave up an average of only 12.32 points per game. In 2001, he took over as head coach, compiling a 51-24 record, a 68% winning percentage. His team won the state crown in his first season as head coach (2001).
     University of Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban hired Martin for the position of Director of Player Development (Academics, Strength and Conditioning) in 2007. 
     “Coach Martin has been a successful high school coach in Alabama for well over 20 years and has a tremendous depth of knowledge and experience to relate to our student-athletes,” said Saban. “[He] will help our program continue to develop relationships in the state of Alabama.”

Martin remained in the UA position until he retired in 2015. That spring the Lake Martin Bama Club and Central Alabama Community College’s Betty Carol Graham Technology Center hosted Willie Carl Martin Day.

“I’m honored to write a recommendation for Coach Willie Carl Martin,” said retired Coach Dwight Buzbee. “I have known Carl for 50 years and had the opportunity to work with him for over 20 years. Throughout his impressive career, Coach Martin has always had the children’s best interest at heart. He developed relationships with young people who so often needed a positive role model in their lives.
            “He always taught his athletes and students to strive for excellence, to be respectful of others, not to embarrass themselves, team, or community, and to be humble winners. He didn’t just teach these traits, but he also displayed them in his actions.”

During his tenure at Benjamin Russell, Martin worked with current AHSAA Executive Director Steve Savarese, who was the Wildcats head football coach from 1985-96. Savarese has nothing but praise for his friend and former assistant coach.
     “Throughout my career in high school athletics, I have been privileged to work with some of the finest men and women in the field. This group includes coaches, officials, administrators, and AHSAA contributors who all have had one common trait – the desire to excel and to make a difference in the lives of those they serve. The epitome of those individuals is Willie Carl Martin, a standout high school, collegiate and CFL football player, a state champion high school coach, and national champion collegiate assistant coach.”
    Savarese said Martin’s contributions at every stop were immeasurable.
    “For over 20 years, Willie Carl served the AHSAA as a successful coach at Benjamin Russell High School before accepting a position with the University of Alabama in 2007,” he said. “Not only has Willie Carl always been an outstanding coach, but he has also been a dedicated professional, serving on the Legislative Council and Central Board of Control. Without question, he is a true credit to this Association. I can personally testify to his integrity because I was blessed to have him as part of my coaching staff at Benjamin Russell High School.  A native of Alexander City, Willie Carl has had numerous opportunities to travel and work in many different cities and organizations. Although he currently resides in Tuscaloosa, he still considers Alex city ‘home’. He hasn’t forgotten where his career started, nor the people who influenced him along the way.”

     “He is a great ambassador for the AHSAA and the entire Alabama high school sports community. Willie Carl is a true professional, and I am honored to have worked with him, but even more blessed to have him as a very close friend.”

Martin is a member of Great Bethel Baptist Church, Red Elephant Club, and the American Red Cross. He helped organize works for the Soup Bowl, which feeds the hungry. He has been a speaker at numerous high schools. He returned to Alexander City in 2017 to speak at the Bridge Builders Youth Football Camp.

COMING SATURDAY: Installment 4 - Football Coach Phil Lazenby, Bayside Academy

Brantley High School Coaching Legend David Lowery Could Do the Math

Second of an 11-Part Series on the HOF Class of 2019


       When Brantley High School hired David Lowery as a football coach and mathematics teacher, it quickly added up to be a successful formula. 
       Ten of his 14 teams at Brantley won 11 or more games. The 2012 state championship squad set a school record for wins, finishing the season 15-0 and scoring a near-state record 730 points. There were 14-win seasons in 1999 and 2009, 13-win seasons in 2005 and 2006. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to do the math. Lowery is being enshrined as a member of the Class of 2019 of the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame. The annual banquet is March 18 at the Montgomery Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center. The AHSAA and AHSADCA founded the Hall of Fame in 1991.
        Lowery graduated from near-by Georgiana High School in 1983. He played football at Troy University, earning a bachelor’s degree in math and social studies in 1988. He also earned a master’s degree in education administration from Auburn University in Montgomery in 1998.

        He began his teaching and coaching career at Evergreen High School in 1988, serving as assistant football, head baseball and junior varsity basketball coach. The following year, he went to Elba High School where he spent 10 years as assistant football coach, defensive coordinator and head baseball coach. He was also head football coach for two years, compiling a 12-10 record.

        He moved to Brantley High School in 1999 as athletic director and head football coach. Over 14 years he compiled a record of 156-27 overall, 88-3 in the region. His 2009 and 2012 teams were Class 1A State Champions. He had runner-up teams in 1999 and 2005. Every one of his teams made the state playoffs.  His overall career record was 168-37. Every team he coached reached the state playoffs and only two failed to win the region championship.

        Lowery was named Class 1A Coach of the Year in 1999 by the Alabama Sportswriters Association. In 2012 he was the Alabama Fellowship of Christian Athletes Coach of the Year. He was named an assistant coach for the 2000 North-South All-Star Football Game and for the 2010 Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game.

        In 2013 he retired from coaching, accepting a central office position as Director of Operations. On Sept. 6 of that year, the Brantley stadium was renamed David Lowery Stadium. Coach Lowery was inducted into the Wiregrass Sports Hall of Fame in 2014.
        Kathi H. Wallace, now executive coordinator of the School Superintendents of Alabama Association, recalled the day she recommended that Coach Lowery be hired at Brantley.
       “I was the principal at Brantley School in 1999 when I made the recommendation to our superintendent at that time, Dr. Craig Pouncey, to hire Coach Lowery. I thank God the day he walked in for the interview because I needed a math teacher/football coach combination. He fit that bill perfectly. But he made an impression on me that day that proved to be accurate. He was more than a math teacher and a coach. He was the kind of man every parent wanted his/her children to be around; not only in the classroom and on the playing field, but also for life.
       ”Speaking about him being the football coach, I said many times that he was a good man to have in charge of our young men. His demeanor on the field and in the classroom was the same. He was always in pursuit of excellence.”

Wallace said the longer she knew Lowery, the more she learned about this special man.
       “After leaving Brantley School, which by the way, is my alma mater, I became school superintendent of Crenshaw County,” she. “As superintendent, I gained a greater appreciation for Coach Lowery. He was an exemplar for other employees for always doing what was right. His integrity in this area was impeccable. It still is. David Lowery is a wonderful family man and community leader. He continues to make this world a better place because of the positive impact he has on those with whom he comes into contact.”

She said she still cherishes hiring Lowery at Brantley.
       “I retired as superintendent in December of 2010, and I now work with SSA. I consider his hiring to be one of the best decisions I ever made in my life as an administrator. I have not personally memorized Coach Lowery’s win-loss record. I believe whatever it is will speak volumes for his skill of coaching football and leading young men to do their very best. But the impact David Lowery made at Brantley School and in our community is just as important as his wins on the field. I worked with Coach Glenn Daniel while I was a teacher at Luverne High School. Coach David Lowery affected Brantley School in the same positive manner as Coach Daniel did at Luverne School. There are no finer two men in Alabama football history for us in Crenshaw County.”
      Coach Daniel, 93, was inducted into the first AHSAA Hall of Fame class in 1991.

      Tony Stallworth, former Associate Executive Director of the AHSAA and administrative assistant for Crenshaw County Public Schools, worked with Coach Lowery as a principal and assistant principal. He observed: “Coach Lowery served as head coach and athletic director for many years. He also served as a classroom instructor and system administrator. He has provided leadership and character throughout his tenure at Brantley High School and the Crenshaw County Board of Education.  Coach David Lowery exemplifies all qualities and leaderships deserving for this outstanding and prestigious award.”
           Coach Lowery is an active member of Mt. Zion Baptist Church and is a Woodman Life Insurance representative.
COMING FRIDAY: Installment 2 - Football Coach Willie Carl Martin, Benjamin Russell High School.

Track Provided Claborn Campbell the Path to Make a Difference in Students’ Lives

First of an 11-Part Series on the Class of 2019

          Little did Claborn M. Campbell realize that something as simple as track and field could have such a resounding impact on others’ lives.
          The veteran Cold Springs High School track coach did just that over the course of 31 years – leaving a lasting and positive impression on all who crossed his path along the way.  His impact did not go unnoticed. Campbell is being enshrined as a member of the Class of 2019 in the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame at the annual banquet March 18 at the Montgomery Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center. The AHSAA and AHSADCA founded  the Hall of Fame in 1991.
          A native of Cullman, graduated from Cold Springs High School in 1971 and Southern Benedictine College (formerly St. Bernard College) in 1977. Born to be a teacher and coach, he began his teaching and coaching career at Winston County High School in 1978, compiling a 30-22 record in varsity basketball.

          In 1979 he returned to his alma mater, Cold Springs as varsity basketball coach. Over the next four years, he won several county championships. Next, he went to West Point High School for seven years, coaching boys’ and girls’ junior varsity basketball. He won county championships with each team. Although quite successful as a basketball coach, Campbell’s real calling was in track and field, where his girls won 12 county championships.

In 1990 he returned home to Cold Springs, accepting the job of varsity track and cross-country coach, a position he continued until recently. His success has been extraordinary. In track, his boys have won two state championships, five sectional titles and 10 county championships. His girls have won three sectional and 12 county championships. In cross country, the girls won one state championship, five sectional and 12 county championships. The boys won two state, nine sectional and 14 county championships. He also served as athletic director. He retired in 2016.

His Coach of the Year awards include the National Federation of High School Association (NFHS) in girls’ cross-country in 2007 and boys’ cross country in 2016. He was U.S. Track and Field Coach of the Year in boys’ cross country in 2014.

          Keith Wilemon, retired track and field coach at Falkville High School, had this to say about Campbell: “I can honestly say that Coach Campbell is the most outstanding coach and rival that I have faced in my 31-year coaching career. His coaching talents go beyond track and field and cross country. He has always stressed doing what is right and exhibiting great sportsmanship, regardless of the outcome of a race or game. His core values of faith, family, academics and athletics are what makes him so successful.
     “I know that he had a tremendous influence on myself as well as many other coaches and athletes in North Alabama. I have had the privilege to work with Coach Campbell for many years as section track directors, and he has always done an outstanding job. His teams have always shown class and great sportsmanship.”

          Like most outstanding coaches, Campbell’s career produced not only successful seasons but also successful and productive citizens.  Dr. Palee Myrex wrote a letter supporting the Hall of Fame nomination. She said: “I’ve known Clay Campbell my entire life, but it was not until I entered the 7th grade that he became my coach. Showing up for my first cross-country practice as a timid, unconfident, overweight adolescent, I had no idea how much the man in the

Wide brimmed hat would alter the course of my life and become one of my most influential mentors, even to this day.”

          “Throughout the course of the next six years, Coach Campbell coached me to 14 Alabama high school state championships in track and cross country and campaigned for me to college coaches, allowing me to get a scholarship [at] the University of Alabama. I am a first-generation college student and that athletic scholarship opened doors for me that would have never been possible. My college career catapulted me into medical school, and now, as a physician. I cannot help but to think he indirectly helps every single one of my patients…for that I am eternally grateful.”

         She credits her high school coach for teaching her how to set goals and work to accomplish them.
          “You see, I learned how to be a champion, not by the workouts Coach Campbell told me to do, but by watching him live the principles that he taught of dedication, integrity, hard work and refusing to give up,” she said. “Prior to Coach Campbell, there was no cross country program at Cold Springs, and the track program was struggling just to field an entire team. Through his determination and commitment to high school athletics, he turned Cold Springs into a household name for track and cross country, especially the realm of long-distance running. During my short six years, I saw our team go from running loops around the parking lot to being able to train on one of the state’s top cross country courses, which he designed and built himself because he wanted what was best for his athletes. The course is such a phenomenal race venue that while I was an athlete there, we hosted the largest cross country meet held on a high school campus in the entire state.

          “Not only did he invest himself in coaching state championship teams and athletes, but he also went above and beyond, putting in the extra hours and humbling himself to do unnoticed things such as mow the cross country course, stock the concession stand, time all of the home cross country and track meets as well as fundraise money to resurface our track.”

          Coach Campbell, who also served as athletic director at Cold Springs, was inducted into the Cullman County Sports Hall of Fame in 2005.  He has been a music director for 30 years at his church and has served as a deacon and youth director.
COMING THURSDAY: David Lowery, Brantley High School.

AHSAA Director Savarese Announces Retirement of AHSAA Director of Officials Mark Jones

    MONTGOMERY – Mark Jones, an assistant director with the Alabama High School Athletic Association since 2016, has announced his plans to retire, AHSAA Executive Director Steve Savarese said Monday. Jones’ retirement will be effective at the end of this school year.
     Jones has served as the AHSAA Director of Officials for the last three years, replacing long-time veteran Greg Brewer, who had been in that position for more than 30 years. Jones made his presence known quickly, helping the AHSAA introduce instant replay for football and a pitch count for baseball among his many contributions.
     The Guntersville native spent 32 years at Jacksonville State University teaching sports officiating as part of his administrative duties before joining the AHSAA staff. He initiated arbiter pay for post-season payment for AHSAA contest officials as one of his first major contributions, and he also introduced a weekly quiz for officials to enhance their training in the rules and administration of officiating contests.
     “Mark has been an invaluable member of our AHSAA family,” Savarese said. “We wish him the very best in the next chapter of his life. He has made so many contributions to the success of the AHSAA, especially in the area of officiating. Mr. Jones has been a leader in the development of training for contest officials. He has dedicated himself to raising the competence across the board with
contest officials in all sports. A man of strong character, he proved to be an outstanding mentor for our more than 7,000 officials. He leaves some big shoes to be filled.”
     Jones, who served on the NFHS Football Rules Committee, said the decision was a difficult one.
     “I am blessed to have had the opportunity to work with the great people of the AHSAA, which include the AHSAA staff, member schools, administrators, coaches, athletes and especially the officials,” Jones said. “It has been an honor to be a part of such a great organization and to be so closely involved with education-based athletics at the high school level.”
     Jones credited his predecessor’s leadership in making his own transition to the AHSAA much smoother.
     “Greg Brewer provided a great foundation for officiating in Alabama, and I enjoyed working with others to build on that foundation.  However, after 40 years of service in the Alabama Education system, I will be retiring as of June 1.  I look forward to playing golf and spending time with family and friends as well as watching some high school contests in a more leisurely fashion.”

AHSAA Central Board Approves Boys’ & Girls’ Summer Basketball Showcases

   MONTGOMERY – The Alabama High School Athletic Association Central Board of Control approved two Summer Basketball Showcases, one for boys and one for girls, to be held on June 22, 2019, and also approved the financial reports for all fall sports except football at Tuesday’s annual Winter Central Board meeting at the AHSAA Office.
   The Central Board moved its winter meeting, originally scheduled for January 30, was moved to Tuesday due to scheduling conflicts.
   The Central Board approved reports for state and regional/sectional volleyball, cheer, cross country and swimming playoffs and also approved the 2018 Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Football Game financial report as well.
       The Summer Showcase for boys will be held at Hoover High School and the Showcase for girls will be held at Spain Park High School.
       “We are always excited to provide opportunities for our student-athletes to showcase their talents,” said Steve Savarese, AHSAA Executive Director. 
         AHSADCA Director Jamie Lee agreed. Lee said he is excited about the partnership the Summer Showcase will provide for high school coaches in Alabama.
       “The showcase is a result of a combined effort of the NCAA, NFHS and member state high school associations,” Lee said. “Due to the new NCAA (basketball) recruiting changes, the AHSAA will do our part to provide a quality event for the high school players in our state.
       “Last November, a group of coaches from around the state met at the AHSAA office to discuss the new rules and what we could do to take advantage of the new changes.  In that meeting, it was decided we would host a showcase for the top 100 players in our state.  The one-day event will be open to college coaches, at all levels.”
       In order to hold one of those events, they must be hosted by state athletic associations, or state basketball coaches’ associations, and must be sanctioned through the NFHS.  No third parties may be involved. Only certified AHSAA high school coaches can work the Summer Showcase event, and only student-athletes from Alabama may participate in the event.
        The Central Board reviewed legislative proposals that were submitted in January by member schools prior to the board meeting.  The AHSAA Legislative Council will vote on the proposals at April’s Legislative Council meeting. Schools are being surveyed this month for their input.
       In other Central Board action:

·              Reviewed a football playoff comparison (for the first four rounds).

·              Approved expenses for the State Basketball Tournament

·              Approved increasing Coaches Championship Banquet tickets from $35 to $40.

·              Heard an NFHS E-Sports Update.

·              Was updated about Content Management software

·              Heard a report from AHSAA Director of Officials Mark Jones concerning an    NFHS survey comparing Contest Officials’ compensation.

·              Heard a report from Daniel Smith and Michael McGreevey of Knight-Eady concerning the upcoming 2019 State Basketball Tournament.

Winfield High School’s Sandra Seals Selected 2017-18 NFHS National Spirit Coach of the Year

INDIANAPOLIS, IN — Winfield High School Spirit Coach Sandra Seals is one of 23 high school coaches from across the country that have been selected as 2018 National Coaches of the Year by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Coaches Association.

The NFHS, which has been recognizing coaches through an awards program since 1982, honors coaches in the top 10 girls sports and top 10 boys sports (by participation numbers), and in two “other” sports – one for boys and one for girls – that are not included in the top 10 listings. The NFHS also recognizes a spirit coach as a separate award category. Winners of NFHS awards must be active coaches during the year for which they receive their award. This year’s awards recognize coaches for the 2017-18 school year.

, a dedicated high school teacher and coach who been a clinician in much demand at various cheer functions, including the AHSAA Summer Conference Coaches School, has built the Winfield cheer program into one of the best in the nation – winning the national title in 2017 at the National Championships held at the Disney World Complex in Orlando (FL) as well as numerous state and regional titles.  She has also been a key volunteer for the AHSAA coordinating the many cheer squads that attend the AHSAA State Basketball Championships at the BJCC. She was selected the AHSAA Spirit Coach of the Year and NFHS Section III Coach of the Year as well. Two other AHSAA coaches were also selected Section III Coaches of the Year for 2017-18: Samson High School girls’ basketball coach Chad McKnight and Thompson High School wrestling coach Shawn Weltzin.

Recipients of the NFHS 2017-18 national awards for boys’ sports are: Randy Allen, football (11-player), Dallas (Texas) Highland Park High School; Alan Arata, swimming and diving, Monument (Colorado) Lewis-Palmer High School; Leon Braisted III, golf, Birmingham (Michigan) Brother Rice High School; Scott Brown, baseball, St. Louis (Missouri) St. John Vianney High School; Alan Clinton, wrestling, Anaheim (California) Servite High School; Fred Lorensen, basketball, Monroe (Iowa) PCM High School; James Paccia, outdoor track and field, Tully (New York) Junior-Senior High School; Jason Pendleton, soccer, Overland Park (Kansas) Blue Valley Southwest High School; Terry Schwartzkopf, tennis, Midland (Michigan) H.H. Dow High School; and Lee Sternberg, cross country, East Canton (Ohio) High School.

The recipients of the 2018 NFHS national awards for girls’ sports are: Clinton Caldwell, swimming and diving, Santa Fe (New Mexico) Prep School; Richard DeSomma, lacrosse, South Riding (Virginia) Freedom High School; Amy Dunlap, soccer, Cincinnati (Ohio) Indian Hill High School; Janet Glaser, tennis, Andover (Kansas) Central High School; Stanley Goodell, cross country, Grants Pass (Oregon) High School; Phyllis Hicks, fast-pitch softball, Southaven (Mississippi) DeSoto Central High School; George Maya, basketball, Las Cruces (New Mexico) Mayfield High School; Richard Smith, golf, Allendale (New Jersey) Northern Highlands Regional High School; Roger Whittaker, outdoor track and field, Gahanna (Ohio) Lincoln High School; and Betty Wroubel, volleyball, Pontiac (Michigan) Notre Dame Preparatory School.

Jack Henderson
, an 8-player football coach at Dufur (Oregon) High School, was chosen in the “other” category for boys’ sports, and Anne Horton, a field hockey coach at Columbus (Ohio) Academy was chosen in the “other” category for girls sports. 

The NFHS has a contact in each state who is responsible for selecting deserving coach award recipients. This person often works with the state coaches’ association in his or her respective state. He or she contacts the potential state award recipients to complete a coach profile form that requests information regarding the coach’s record, membership in and affiliation with coaching and other professional organizations, involvement with other school and community activities and programs, and coaching philosophy. To be approved as an award recipient and considered for sectional and national coach of the year consideration, this profile form must be completed by the coach or designee and then approved by the executive director (or designee) of the state athletic/activities association.

The next award level after state coach of the year is sectional coach of the year. The NFHS is divided into eight geographical sections. They are as follows: Section 1 – Northeast (CT, ME, MA, NH, NJ, NY, RI, VT); Section 2 – Mideast (DE, DC, KY, MD, OH, PA, VA, WV); Section 3 – South (AL, FL, GA, LA, MS, NC, SC, TN); Section 4 – Central (IL, IN, IA, MI, WI); Section 5 – Midwest (KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, SD); Section 6 – Southwest (AR, CO, NM, OK, TX); Section 7 – West (AZ, CA, HI, NV, UT); and Section 8 – Northwest (AK, ID, MT, OR, WA, WY).

The NFHS Coaches Association has an advisory committee composed of a chair and eight sectional representatives. The sectional committee representatives evaluate the state award recipients from the states in their respective sections and select the best candidates for the sectional award in each sport category. The NFHS Coaches Association Advisory Committee then considers the sectional candidates in each sport, ranks them according to a point system, and determines a national winner for each of the 20 sport categories, the spirit category and two “other” categories.

A total of 806 coaches will be recognized this year with state, sectional and national awards.

Statement by AHSAA Central Board of Control President Johnny Hardin:

As President of the Alabama High School Athletic Association Central Board of Control, I would like to address the numerous stories being circulated regarding a recent eligibility ruling assessed to a student-athlete attending Charles Henderson High School (CHHS). Several facts involved in the ruling have either been misstated or ignored; therefore, I feel the need to provide the following details:


No one (including USA Basketball or CHHS) disputes the Amateur Rule was violated. On August 15, 2018, USA Basketball paid the student $857.20 for lost wages while participating with the USA Basketball team over the past summer. Neither USA Basketball, the student’s parents, the student’s coach, nor CHHS administration reported the student had received the check until three months later, (specifically 91 days). During this time, the student played in several games.  The AHSAA Amateur Rule states in part “A student cannot accept payment for loss of time or wages while participating in athletics as part of expenses . . . A student who has lost his/her amateur standing may be reinstated after the lapse of one high school season for the sport in which he/she has become professional . . .”


The check ($857.20) paid to the student was dated August 15, 2018, and endorsed by the student and posted to the student’s bank account on August 27, 2018.  The student’s mother sent USA Basketball a check in the same amount three months later on November 28, 2018.


The student’s mother is a certified AHSAA Basketball Coach; therefore, she is required to uphold current AHSAA bylaws and rules, including the Amateur Rule quoted above.  Furthermore, the Head Girls’ Basketball Coach at CHHS is a former member of the AHSAA Central Board of Control; thus, she should not only appreciate the importance of knowing and following the AHSAA bylaws and eligibility rules but also understand how imperative it is to consistently uphold the same rules.


Steve Savarese, as AHSAA Executive Director, made the eligibility ruling based upon the plain language of the Amateur Rule. As Executive Director, Mr. Savarese does not have the authority to change a rule.  Rather, as Executive Director, his job is to apply the rules as written.


Following Mr. Savarese’s ruling, the school appealed to both appellate levels for the AHSAA.  First, to the District 2 Board – affirmed by unanimous vote of the 4-member Board. Next, to the Central Board of Control - affirmed by unanimous vote of the 15-member Board which represents the entire State.  Thus, this ruling was affirmed by the Board that under the AHSAA Constitution has complete and final jurisdiction over all questions of the Constitution and Bylaws or other facts appealed to it by a member school. Mr. Savarese was not present at the District appeal or during deliberation at the Central Board hearing.  To be clear, this ruling was affirmed by the Central Board of Control and as Executive Director, Mr. Savarese does not have the authority to change or reverse a ruling made by the Central Board. 


Also, please remember, the AHSAA member schools, not Mr. Savarese nor the AHSAA staff, write and approve the AHSAA eligibility rules which include the Amateur Rule.


The AHSAA Legislative Council has the authority each year at the annual meeting to amend the AHSAA Constitution and Rules.  Meaning, each year the member schools (including Charles Henderson High School) have an opportunity to change a rule or create new ones.  The penalty for violating the Amateur Rule has not been amended in at least the past 10 years with Mr. Savarese as Executive Director.  Which, in turn, means each year Charles Henderson High School has agreed to the penalty for violating this Rule without comment or pursuing any kind of rule change within the legislative process.


Each year these Rules are reviewed multiple times during AHSAA sponsored and hosted seminars with the member schools and are available on the AHSAA website.  A review of all Summer Conference and Principals’ and Athletic Directors’ Conference attendees show the Principal for Charles Henderson High School has not attended the 2016, 2017, or 2018 Summer Conferences or the 2016, 2017 or 2018 Principals’ and Athletic Directors’ Conferences.


The stories and comments being circulated throughout the media and social networks are asking that an exception be made to the Amateur Rule because it was not the student’s fault; the fact the money was repaid, and that the student is an exceptional athlete and will miss her senior year.  However, if exceptions are made, there would no longer be a need for an Amateur Rule.  The Rules are applied equally to ALL athletes.  Furthermore, most eligibility violations are the result of adults failing to follow the rules.  Here, the student’s mother as a certified AHSAA Coach should know the rules; the School’s Principal should know the rules, the Head Basketball Coach, as not only a Coach but also as a former Central Board member, should know the rules. 


Another point not mentioned in the public stories being circulated is that creating an exception to this Rule would have provided an avenue to exploit student-athletes by providing an opportunity for students to receive money and prizes for athletic participation and if discovered, state they didn’t know the rule, thus allowing them to return the items and retain eligibility. This is why AHSAA stresses to the leadership of its member schools how important it is to know the rules and advise their students regarding all rules that affect eligibility. Informing student-athletes of the consequences for violating such rules is the responsibility of the adults supervising them.


It should be pointed out that a high school student from Illinois also received payment from USA Basketball.  However, that student called her high school once she received the check and then returned the check to USA Basketball without cashing or depositing it.  Here, the student received the check, endorsed it and it was posted to her bank account.  Three months later, AHSAA was notified and the monies returned to USA Basketball.


A high school student from Missouri has also been ruled ineligible for this basketball season for accepting the lost wages payment from USA Basketball.


USA Basketball never called Charles Henderson High School or AHSAA to ask if payment for lost wages violated AHSAA rules until November which was three months after payment was made and accepted by the student.  This was not a clerical error but a complete lack of administrative oversight on the part of USA Basketball, thus possibly rendering multiple student-athletes ineligible as most states have an Amateur Rule.


Lastly, misstated facts and placing Mr. Savarese’s email on social media has led to Mr. Savarese and the AHSAA staff receiving threatening, irresponsible, and vulgar communications.


We, as the Central Board of Control, stand by the staff of the AHSAA and thank them for their unwavering support of the AHSAA mission, educational athletics, as well as the AHSAA Constitution and Bylaws.