NATIONAL FEDERATION OF STATE HIGH SCHOOL ASSOCIATIONS
NFHS Learning Center Unveils School Honor Roll Program
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Dan Schuster
INDIANAPOLIS, IN (April 1, 2020) — The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) has created the NFHS School Honor Roll, a national recognition program designed to promote professional development for high school coaches through the completion of specific courses through the NFHS Learning Center at www.NFHSLearn.com.
“Education-based programs provide ongoing learning for participating students, and the NFHS School Honor Roll program provides a pathway for coaches within schools to be honored for their involvement in professional development,” said Dan Schuster, NFHS Director of Educational Services.
After filling out an online application, schools can achieve three levels of merit within the NFHS School Honor Roll, which are obtained once 90 percent of a school’s coaches – excluding volunteer coaches – complete various course combinations. Participating institutions that earn Level 1, 2 or 3 distinctions receive a large display banner commemorating their accomplishments and their dedication to professional development and education-based athletics.
Three free offerings from the Learning Center – “Concussion in Sports,” “Sudden Cardiac Arrest” and “Protecting Students from Abuse” – as well as “Fundamentals of Coaching” comprise the required courses for Level 1. To earn the Level 2 title, coaches must navigate the courses that pertain specifically to their sports, as well as “First Aid, Health and Safety,” “Heat Illness Prevention” and “Student Mental Health and Suicide Prevention.” Finally, a Level 3 banner can be attained for schools that reach 90-percent completion for the “Sportsmanship,” “Strength and Conditioning,” “Teaching and Modeling Behavior,” “Engaging Effectively with Parents” and “Bullying, Hazing, and Inappropriate Behaviors” courses.
“We all strive to hang banners in our schools for achievements,” said Schuster. “Earning this banner is a symbol that your school and your coaches are committed to providing a great experience for young people, and it’s something that everyone can be proud of within their communities.”
For more information on the NFHS School Honor Roll and to apply for participation in the program during the 2020-21 school year, please visit https://nfhslearn.com/home/administrators.
Promotional Video: https://nfhslearn.com/library/videos/nfhs-school-honor-roll.
Direct link to application page: https://nfhsschoolhonorroll.formstack.com/forms/application.
About the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS)
The NFHS, based in Indianapolis, Indiana, is the national leadership organization for high school sports and performing arts activities. Since 1920, the NFHS has led the development of education-based interscholastic sports and performing arts activities that help students succeed in their lives. The NFHS sets direction for the future by building awareness and support, improving the participation experience, establishing consistent standards and rules for competition, and helping those who oversee high school sports and activities. The NFHS writes playing rules for 17 sports for boys and girls at the high school level. Through its 50 member state associations and the District of Columbia, the NFHS reaches more than 19,500 high schools and 12 million participants in high school activity programs, including more than 7.9 million in high school sports. As the recognized national authority on interscholastic activity programs, the NFHS conducts national meetings; sanctions interstate events; offers online publications and services for high school coaches and officials; sponsors professional organizations for high school coaches, officials, speech and debate coaches, and music adjudicators; serves as the national source for interscholastic coach training; and serves as a national information resource of interscholastic athletics and activities. For more information, visit the NFHS website at www.nfhs.org.
MEDIA CONTACTS: Bruce Howard, 317-972-6900
Director of Publications and Communications
National Federation of State High School Associations
Chris Boone, 317-972-6900
Assistant Director of Publications and Communications
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF STATE
HIGH SCHOOL ASSOCIATIONS
Officiating Courses Available for Free Through July 1
on the NFHS Learning Center
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Dan Schuster
INDIANAPOLIS, IN (March 24, 2020) — Current high school sports officials, as well as individuals interested in joining the officiating ranks, will be able to access online education courses on the NFHS Learning Center for free through July 1.
Since many individuals are at home for an indefinite period of time due to the current worldwide health crisis, the NFHS has decided to make its 11 sports officiating courses available for free on the Learning Center at www.NFHSLearn.com.
“Everyone is looking for positive things to do at home during this difficult period of time, so we thought it would be a good opportunity for officials to take courses on the Learning Center to brush up on their skills,” said Dr. Karissa Niehoff, NFHS executive director. “As a means of encouraging more people to take advantage of this time at home, the NFHS is offering officiating courses for free until July 1.
“In addition to current officials, those individuals interested in pursuing officiating can access these courses. We know that a number of high school seniors will be unable to participate in spring sports this year due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Officiating could provide an opportunity for high school seniors to stay involved in sports and taking some of these courses during this down time for free could help to determine their interest level.“
After taking any of these courses, individuals interested in becoming an official could access the website at www.HighSchoolOfficials.com for more information. In the past three years, more than 35,000 individuals have signed up to become officials through the NFHS’ #BecomeAnOfficial campaign to recruit high school officials.
Officiating courses are available on the Learning Center in the sports of basketball, football, soccer, swimming and diving, volleyball, wrestling and softball, in addition to a general course titled “Interscholastic Officiating.” Multiple courses are offered in basketball, soccer and volleyball, and all these courses are available free of charge through July 1.
The Learning Center was founded as the online Coach Education Program in 2007 with two courses – “Fundamentals of Coaching” and “First Aid, Health and Safety” – and now has more than 70 online courses. Earlier this year, the NFHS surpassed 10 million courses taken by coaches, officials, administrators, students, parents, performing arts educators and others.
“We all are trying to find the best ways possible to deal with this unprecedented crisis facing our country,” Niehoff said. “We are pleased to be able to make the Learning Center available to more people interested in officiating.”
The NFHS, based in Indianapolis, Indiana, is the national leadership organization for high school sports and performing arts activities. Since 1920, the NFHS has led the development of education-based interscholastic sports and performing arts activities that help students succeed in their lives. The NFHS sets direction for the future by building awareness and support, improving the participation experience, establishing consistent standards and rules for competition, and helping those who oversee high school sports and activities. The NFHS writes playing rules for 17 sports for boys and girls at the high school level. Through its 50-member state associations and the District of Columbia, the NFHS reaches more than 19,500 high schools and 12 million participants in high school activity programs, including more than 7.9 million in high school sports. As the recognized national authority on interscholastic activity programs, the NFHS conducts national meetings; sanctions interstate events; offers online publications and services for high school coaches and officials; sponsors professional organizations for high school coaches, officials, speech and debate coaches, and music adjudicators; serves as the national source for interscholastic coach training; and serves as a national information resource of interscholastic athletics and activities. For more information, visit the NFHS website at www.nfhs.org.
MEDIA CONTACTS: Bruce Howard, 317-972-6900
Chris Boone, 317-972-6900
35th Annual Banquet Canceled Due to COVID 19 Virus Crisis
MONTGOMERY – Due to the recent developments in the ongoing COVID 19 virus crisis, the Center of Disease Control (CDC) is recommending that all events of 50 or more people be cancelled for the next eight weeks. Unfortunately, these parameters include the 35th Bryant-Jordan Scholarship Awards Banquet scheduled for April 13 at the Birmingham Sheraton Hotel.
In lieu of a banquet, however, the Bryant-Jordan Foundation plans to produce a television and online event announcing the region, class and overall 2020 Bryant-Jordan scholarship recipients as well as a number of other special scholarships provided by various organizations.
The Bryant-Jordan Foundation has worked out an agreement with WOTM TV to produce a television show which and will be broadcast over the AHSAA TV Network and the NFHS Network. The feed will be made available free to all cable providers and will also be available at the following convenient links:
The show will air on April 13 beginning at 6 p.m., same time as the banquet’s original start time. The Bryant-Jordan Awards Banquet emcee Chris Stewart will serve as the host of the broadcast.
The AHSAA TV Network and NFHS Network had already planned to televise the banquet with WOTM TV Vincent Earley serving as executive producer.
“While we are very disappointed that our annual banquet must be canceled, we are very thankful that technology will allow us to still showcase these incredible student-athletes and announce the overall scholarship recipients via television and on-line viewing,” said Edgar Welden, Chairman and President of the Bryant-Jordan Foundation.
The Bryant-Jordan Program, named in honor of legendary coaches Paul “Bear” Bryant and Ralph “Shug” Jordan, has annually recognizes 52 senior student-athletes, one from each of the eight AHSAA districts in Classes 1A-6A and one from each of the four districts in Class 7A in the Bryant-Jordan Achievement Award category and the Bryant-Jordan Scholar-Athlete category.
Each regional winner is presented a $3,000 scholarship to the college of their choice from the Bryant-Jordan Foundation. During the broadcast, the seven Scholar-Athlete Class winners and seven Achievement Award Class winners will be announced. Each will receive an additional $3,500 scholarship. The Larry D. Striplin, Jr. Scholar-Athlete of the Year recipient and the Ken and Betty Joe Blankenship Achievement Award Student-Athlete of the Year recipient will also be announced. Each will each receive an additional $4,000 scholarship.
The Bryant-Jordan Awards Banquet has been held annually since 1986 with more than $10.8 million in scholarship funding distributed to 3,222 student recipients since its inception.
“We know this has been an emotional time for everyone,” said Welden. “We sincerely hope that everyone will tune in to this online/TV broadcast as we celebrate the achievements of some of the smartest and most courageous student-athletes in our state and nation.”
MONTGOMERY – The Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) and DragonFly Athletics announced today its new technology partner is making available online webinar training for member schools.
The AHSAA Central Board approved a transition from C2C Schools to DragonFly Content Management Software for member schools at its winter meeting last January. DragonFly will take over its role as the AHSAA’s technology partner to streamline administration of school sports and activities beginning June 1 for the upcoming 2020-2021 school year.
Member schools can sign up for online webinar training at the following link:
The AHSAA and member schools will use DragonFly's comprehensive management software for school and student eligibility and registration, medical records, communications, team rosters, team scheduling and credentialing for all interscholastic activities.
One of the core objectives of the partnership is to eliminate excessive paperwork and processes. DragonFly is a single, centralized platform to handle all the AHSAA’s administrative needs.
“We are excited to be able to make DragonFly technology available to AHSAA member schools,” said AHSAA Executive Director Steve Savarese. "This will create a one-stop portal for our member schools and our contest officials. We believe DragonFly is the perfect fit for the AHSAA and look forward to getting DragonFly up and running for our member schools. "
Dragonfly technology will provide a communication tool that will notify schools, officials, parents and fans when contests are scheduled or when necessary, the contests are changed or postponed. It will also provide schools the technology to pay contest officials online.
"DragonFly is much more than a technology company,” said Kirk Miller, chief executive officer of Dragonfly. “We’re invested in youth sports and want to help the AHSAA in every facet of communication. Our software will give administrators the data they need in a timely fashion so they may improve the safety and experience of students."
The new partnership is expected to be beneficial for everyone connected to sports and activities in Alabama.
“There are key people who make sports and activities possible, including administrators, teachers and coaches, healthcare providers, contest officials and parents,” said Miller. “Our software provides tools for all of them – while creating simplified and positive experience around previously mundane processes like paperwork. We’re especially proud that our technologies give athletic directors and coaches more of their time back to invest in students.”
To learn more about Dragonfly Athletics visit www.dragonflymax.com or download the Dragonfly Max App from the App Store or Google Play.
BY BILL PLOTT
Final segment in a 12-part series on the Alabama HOF Class of 2020
MONTGOMERY – Coach Hamp Lyon’s teams at Alexander City High School in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s learned how to win. But never did they learn to win at cost. In fact, winning was a result of his real passion – teaching young men how to be outstanding adults.
Tonight, Coach Lyon’s efforts will be recognized when he is inducted into the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2020. Lyon, now deceased, is going in as a selection from the “Old Timer” division. Also being inducted are: Carrol Cox, Joe Desaro, Aaron Goode, Rick Grammer, Luke Hallmark, Tommy Lewis, Steve Mask, Toney Pugh, Michelle Simmons, Keith Wilemon and Fred Yancey. Lyon’s daughter Elizabeth Burns, will represent Coach Lyon at the induction ceremony.
A press conference on Monday, June 22 will be held at 5:30 p.m., and the banquet will follow at 6:30 at the Montgomery Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center. Both events will be televised live over the AHSAA TV Network and live-streamed over the NFHS Network. WOTM TV’s Vince Earley will be producing the event for TV.
Lyon, who was born in Meridian (MS) and spent his high school years in Evansville (TN), graduated from Benjamin Bosse High School in 1932. He then attended the University of Alabama graduating in 1937. He was a tackle on the 1935 Crimson Tide team that beat Stanford 29-13 in the Rose Bowl and on the 1936 team that went 10-0 under Coach Frank Thomas.
After graduation from Alabama, he accepted the head football coach position at Alexander City High School (late renamed Benjamin Russell High School) in 1937 and served in that position two different times. The first was from 1937-41, the second from 1946-57. World War II interrupted his tenure.
During his first tenure, the team went 33-9-3 with back-to-back 8-1 seasons in 1938 and 1939. The only points given up by the 1938 team was a lone touchdown in a 6-0 loss to Tallassee. During those early years Coach Lyon organized a booster club that eventually became the Alexander City Quarterback Club.
When World War II broke out, he entered military service with the U. S. Army, serving in the Europe Theater from 1941-45. The proud soldier returned to Alex City after the war ended and picked up where he left off – with one exception. He threw out the Notre Dame Box offense he had used before the war and installed the more modern “T” formation. His first post-war team went 5-3-1. Over the next 12 years he had 10 winning season including the 9-0-1 squad in 1953. That team was recognized one of The Birmingham News’ District state championships.
When he retired from coaching after the 1957 season, his overall record was 107-47-10. But he was not retired from sports. Taking over as athletic director, he served in that position until 1971. The football stadium was later named in his honor.
He wasn’t just about football, however. In 1947, he developed a Red Cross water safety program that had served more than 30,000 people with swimming lessons, water safety instruction and other activities by the late 1970s.
When he died in 1973, sportswriter Ronald Weathers interviewed many who had worked with Coach Lyon and knew him best. One of those was I. I. Fox, chairman of the city’s Park and Recreation Board. He told Weathers, “Hamp succeeded me as coach in 1937. He coached everything here at one time or another or saw that the coaching was done. There is no way to describe Alexander City’s loss of Coach Lyon. He was as wonderful an influence on the young people of this town for 36 years as anyone I can think of.
“He had the kind of influence and leadership of the young people that you would want for your own children. His coaching philosophy was wonderful. He wanted to win – yes, but never at the risk of harming any boy involved.”
Bettye Britton, wife of Gene Britton, a former Lyon player and later Benjamin Russell wrestling coach, recalled growing up around Coach Lyon. “I was one of four children,” she said. We never had a whole lot. But Coach Lyon took me under his wing as he did so many other boys and girls. He would take me on trips with his family. He taught me to swim and guided so many of us through the Red Cross program. He always said Alex City was a gold mine for children to grow up in. He believed in the city.”
Weathers reported that Benjamin Russell’s teams became one of the first in the nation to display players’ names on the jerseys. He helped developed programs not only football, basketball, track and baseball but also wrestling, boys and girls tennis, girls track and swimming.
Former player William D. Waites recalled a personal relationship between Coach Lyon and his family.
“My mother and I lived with my grandfather and grandmother,” he said. “They had a gas station and country store. Coach Lyon and his family moved in next door. Since my uncle played football with him at Alabama, friendships were already established. My mother and I moved, leaving my elderly grandparents alone. She was a severe diabetic. Coach Lyon took on the task of giving insulin shots. He helped in many other ways and was with her when she died. This was the kind of man he was with people and young men who played football for him.
“I played football under him for four years. Due to events in my teenage years, I can honestly say that football and the Navy kept me from turning out to be a very bad person. Coach Lyon had two sayings that I applied to my life: A winner never quits and quitter never wins and ‘It is not whether you win or lose, it is how you play the game.
“I feel I speak for the doctors, lawyers, retired military, heads of companies, coaches, teachers, successful businessmen and everyone else who played for him, when I tell you he had a very positive influence on their lives.”
Bill Plott is a veteran journalist and state sports historian who has covered the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame since its inception in 1991.
11th in a 12-part series on the Alabama HOF Class of 2020
MONTGOMERY – When Carrol Cox arrived at Bessemer’s Jess Lanier High School from Samford University in 1973, he promised one thing. His student-athletes would be taught the fundamentals of football … and life.
Now, 47 years later, all who know him agree he was true to his word.
Cox, who grew up in Bogalusa (LA), devoted 27 years of his career to the students at Jess Lanier High School, 21 of them as head football coach and athletic director.
It is that devotion and detailed attention Cox gave to each student that the primary reason he is being inducted into the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame. He is one of 12 outstanding individuals in the Class of 2020 being honored at the banquet which starts at 6:30 p.m., Monday night, June 22, at the Montgomery Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center.
After graduating high school in Jackson (LA), Cox attended Southwest Mississippi Junior College and Samford University on football scholarships. He graduated from Samford in 1973 and later earned a master’s degree in school administration from the University of Montevallo.
He went to Bessemer in 1973, accepting a position as assistant football coach and social studies teacher at Jess Lanier High School. When he retired 27 years later, he was the winningest coach in school history, having surpassed legendary Alabama High School Hall of Fame Coach Euil “Snitz” Snider (Class of 1991).
Cox, who was 162-77-2 overall at Jess Lanier, had only one losing season in 21 years as head coach. Six teams won 10 or more games. The 1990 team finished 12-3 winning the Class 6A state championship. The Tigers started that season with a 7-0 shutout win over Lee-Montgomery, and ended it with a 35-0 shutout win over Hewitt-Trussville in the semifinals and a 22-0 victory over Murphy in the 6A finals at Legion Field. Of the three losses, two came by just one point and the other by six points. Lanier lost 17-16 to 1990 GHSA state champion Valdosta (GA) on the road. His 1986 team lost to Lee-Montgomery 13-7 in the 6A finals and his 1997 squad reached the semifinals falling to Tuscaloosa County 14-13. His Tigers beat the Wildcats 14-7 during the regular season, however.
is Tig Twelve other Cox teams made the state playoffs and compiled a 22-13 playoff record. His teams also were 54-25 in region play. , compiling a record of 22-13. Cox coached the Alabama All-Stars in the 1990 Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game. Cox had more than 50 players named to All-State football teams, nine to Super All-State teams, and two selected as high school All-Americans. He also had numerous players who participated in the North-South and Alabama-Mississippi All-Star games. Two players, Kerry Rhodes and Demeco Ryans, also played in the NFL.
Former Bessemer school superintendent Larry O. Wilson said Cox had a knack for reaching hard-to-reach kids.
“Coach Cox built the program under extremely difficult circumstances in a school system that was economically and culturally deprived and could not afford many of the amenities that other programs had,” Wilson said. “Coach Cox worked extremely well with the many educationally deprived students that made up a good percentage of the Jess Lanier student body and encouraged them to achieve at a higher level. His impact and influence on the lives of many young men in the field of athletics and the state of Alabama is deserving of his nomination and election to the Hall of Fame.”
Grover Dunn served as principal at Jess Lanier from 1989-1993. He said he recognized Cox’s leadership very quickly. “I recognized his desire to promote excellence, and I saw his love for children the very first time I observed him on the practice field.”
James M. Howell, another former Jess Lanier principal, also saw Cox up close and personal. “Coach Cox’s teams were always well coached and competitive,” said Howell. “He not only coached football but also coached the players as individuals. Many of the student-athletes have made the City of Bessemer proud in their accomplishments, not only on the field in college and the National Football League, but also in later life as outstanding citizens of the communities in which they work.”
Pelham schools administrator Robert Lavett, a former Jess Lanier assistant coach, said Cox set the bar high for those who worked with him. “When I worked with Coach Cox and observed him performing his many duties,” Lavett said. “I saw a person with great skills, true character, high ethical standards, outstanding work ethic, and a person that has a great heart for young people, public education, football and athletics. Coach Cox has always demonstrated and put into use good common sense, high values and teamwork. He provided an atmosphere that promotes high levels of commitment and work. Coach Cox has demonstrated genuine concern that allowed him to relate to the diversity of his students in a highly effective and productive manner.”
One quality that stood out, said Lavett, was Cox’s emphasis on loyalty.
“He gave back the same loyalty he demanded from his fellow coaches and players,” Lavett said. “Upon this foundation, much was accomplished. Another trait was his ability to teach the players good, solid fundamentals. He taught fundamentals of the game of football as well as fundamentals of life.
“These fundamentals included teamwork, team rules that applied to every player. Simple things like school came first. Good behavior at school was required. And a very basic fact that if you were the best at your position, you would play that position. Parents knew these facts and there was never any misunderstanding in these areas.”
Coach Cox retired at Jess Lanier after the 1999 season. He then moved to Campbell High School in Smyrna (GA) where he remained until he retired for good.
Bill Plott is a veteran journalist and state sports historian who has covered the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame since its inception in 1991.
MONTGOMERY – It may be hard to believe, but Falkville High School’s longtime track coach Keith Wilemon coached in the first track meet he ever saw.
Little did he expect that coaching track and field would put him on a fast track to a legendary coaching status that would earn him selection into the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame. Wilemon will be joining 11 other individuals to be inducted in the Class of 2020 at a banquet set for the Montgomery Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center, Monday, June 22 at 6:30 p.m.
A native of Tupelo (MS), he graduated from Itawamba Agricultural High School in 1978 before crossing the state line to attend the University of North Alabama, earning his education degree from UNA in 1985 and later returned to earn master’s degrees in special education and school administration.
He started his teaching and coaching career in 1986 at Winfield, coaching the girls’ junior high basketball team to the county championship. Two years later, he moved to Falkville High School as an assistant football coach and was assigned the task of coaching the track and field program. The football team advanced to the state playoffs in 1989, winning the first playoff game in school history.
Although he stepped in serve as head football coach a decade later (1998 and 1999), it was in track and field where he found his niche. He started the girls’ track program at Falkville. Between 1989 and 2000, his girls’ program won four Sectional titles and the 2001 indoor state championship. In 2000, Wilemon became assistant principal and athletic director but continued to serve as head track coach until his retirement in 2017. With his wife as his assistant and later his son, they built a program in the small town of Falkville that has been one of the best in AHSAA history.
Between 2000 and 2017, his teams won five boys’ state championships (2007, 2008, 2013, 2014, and 2015) and won two under his son Jace’s guidance in 2018 and 2019. Wilemon has continued to assist his son’s program. Falkville’s girls also won the 1A outdoor state title in 2019.
The boys’ program captured four sectional championships and nine county championships. Meanwhile, his girls continued to excel, also, winning 14 sectionals and eight county championships.
Many of his athletes set state records and 18 won individual state championships. He was named National Federation of High Schools Coach of the Year in 2014 and State Track Official of the Year in 2017
Zack Holmes, a former Falkville player and now head football coach at New Brockton High School, said Wilemon was the biggest influence on his becoming a teacher and coach. “While he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame because of all the state championships, in my eyes he deserves it even more because he is everything that is right with high school athletics,” said Holmes. “I wrote a letter of recommendation over an entire week, adding a little bit each day after practice. It has been remarkable as I down to write a little each day how I see the impact Coach Wilemon has on my style of coaching.
“My story is not a typical one. I am a product of a divorced home and grew up with my grandparents. I am 36 years old and have lost my parents and my grandparents. I do not have any brothers or sisters. I have had so much support from so many people, and I am now married to a wonderful wife. I am so blessed. The one constant in my life through all of this are the guys I played high school football with and Coach and Mrs. Wilemon.”
Holmes said he is not sure the word “Coach” is adequate enough to explain just what Wilemon has mean to him.
“He taught me how to take pride in my community and my school,” he said. “I am proud to be a Falkville Blue Devil to this day. He taught me how to set goals and achieve them. Most importantly, he taught me how to love. He told us he loved us every day. If I needed a place to sleep, he let me stay at his house. If I needed clothes, he gave them to me. If I needed money, he gave me more than I needed. If I needed a hug or an ear to listen, he was there for that too. When I went on my first college visit to Maryville College, he took me. I still have the Bible he gave me as a graduation gift.”
The father of another former Wilemon player, Dr. Milan Dekich, gave his perspective of Wilemon’s impact. “Coach Wilemon encourages and motivates students to strive for the highest level of achievement,” he said. “Even after my son graduated from Falkville, I continued working with the Falkville track team as a volunteer for 11 years. During this time, I saw firsthand why the Falkville track team has been so successful under Coach Wilemon.
“He has a unique ability to motivate athletes to succeed without discouraging them. He pushed then to achieve their best in a way that makes them want to excel. He worked to build character, academic success, and community involvement in them. Students joined the track team with varying levels of ability, and he helped each one achieve their potential.
Dekich said Coach Wilemon fostered a team spirit and community spirit so that team members supported and encouraged each student to make a contribution to the team’s success, regardless of their abilities.
“Many students on the Falkville track team never scored a point for the team or qualified for state, but Coach Wilemon trained, motivated and encouraged them all. They were all an important part of the team as far as he was concerned.”
Layne Dillard, who was on Wilemon’s first girls’ track team at Falkville, recalled the experience and her relationship with her beloved coach. “I have had the unique opportunity to know Coach Wilemon as both an athlete on the very first girls’ track team that he established at Falkville as well as getting the privilege to serve as an administrator with him on the very same campus two decades later. Coach Wilemon always impressed me with his passion for developing his players into leaders. He has an ability to understand how to motivate and the desire to help all of his players achieve success on the field as well as in life.”
Bill Plott is a veteran journalist and state sports historian who has covered the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame since its inception in 1991.
MONTGOMERY – The 30th annual Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame induction banquet scheduled For Monday night is being postponed until Monday, June 22.
The banquet, which will be held at the Montgomery Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center as originally planned, was postponed based on the recommendation of the Alabama State Department of Public Health and the City of Montgomery. In light of the current COVID-19 virus concerns, the ADPH recommends that no large gatherings be held. The City of Montgomery has also limited use of city facilities.
Denise Ainsworth, Assistant Director of the Alabama High School Athletic Association and coordinator of the HOF event, said the Alabama High School Hall of Fame is its highlight event of the year.
“We are saddened to have to reschedule this prestigious event,” she said. “We apologize for the inconvenience this might cause. However, the health and safety of our inductees, their families, and supporters must be paramount. Tickets purchased will be honored. We appreciate the cooperation of the Renaissance Hotel and everyone’s understanding and flexibility.”
BY BILL PLOTT
9th in a 12-part series on the Alabama HOF Class of 2020
MONTGOMERY – Those who know him best marveled at Briarwood Christian Coach Fred Yancey’s devotion to the sport of football. It wasn’t so much his love for the X’s and O’s. Rather, it was unique way that the sport helped students mature athletically, socially, academically, spiritually and responsibly.
His boss for many years, Byrle Kynerd, who served as Superintendent of Briarwood Christian School from 1976-2006, said it best. “His devotion to using sports as a resource in teaching his players the importance of these character-building qualities was unwavering.”
The traits he worked so diligently to instill in his players he displayed daily in his own life –
A major reason Yancey is being inducted into the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame. He will be joining 11 others in the Class of 2020 that will be honored at induction banquet at the Montgomery Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center, Monday, June 22 at 6:30 p.m.
Yancey, a 1963 graduate of Messick High School in Memphis, graduated from Memphis State University in 1969. He also holds a master’s degree from Memphis as well. He began his career at Overton High School in Memphis in 1969 and over the next six years served at several schools in Tennessee and Georgia, compiling a football record of 41-20-1.
In 1990, he was hired by Kynerd as head football coach at Briarwood Christian School in Shelby County. He retired after the 2018 season, leaving a legacy of a 278-95 coaching record at the school, a winning percentage of 74.5% and the 11th most AHSAA wins in Alabama history. He closed his coaching career with an overall 319-115-1 slate in 35 seasons. Yancey was named Varsity Football Coach of the Year by the National Christian School Athletic Association for the 2017-18 season. He served as head coach for the Alabama squad in the 2010 Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game.
The Lions advanced to the semifinal round of the AHSAA state playoffs 11 times, winning three championships and finishing as runner-up three times. His record in the playoffs was 59-24. Briarwood also reached the state playoffs 26 consecutive years. Yancey is third all-time in the state of Alabama for most wins at one school, fourth all-time in area/region games won, and fourth all-time for most playoff games won. 15 teams won 10 or more games with the 1998 squad going 15-0. The 2007 and 2017 teams each won 14 games.
He had more than 100 players named to All-State teams and 11 selected for post season All-Star games. He retired at the end of the 2018 season. In his last regular season game, the Lions were down to St. Clair County 27-10 at halftime. They came from behind in the second half to win 37-33 to send Yancey’s 26th team to the state playoffs.
After the game, two seniors responded to the retirement. "Knowing I was as captain on his final team is so personal to me," said senior defensive lineman Dalton Brooks. "He is one of those type of guys to just light up a room and you can't help but smile when talking to him. He led every team he coached in the right way. He is truly one of the greatest to ever do it."
Senior J. R. Tran-Reno, now at Vanderbilt University, said, "We are sad to see him step away from being head coach, (and) we seniors sure are honored to be in this class. He brought the same attitude to every day with a smile. He was fun to play for. Words can't describe how much he has meant to us as players and this school. He has surely left a positive and Godly impact in everyone's life he has touched."
Last season, Briarwood Christian School held a celebration of Coach Yancey’s impact on the lives of thousands of students and adults – creating a leadership scholarship in his honor. Hundreds of his former players gathered at the stadium and walked onto the field to give him thanks.
Coaching at a Christian school sometimes produces a different approach to athletics. Briarwood athletic director Jay Mathews said Yancey’s commitment to coaching at a Christian school was a ministry in its own right.
“All of the people who have been in contact with Fred throughout his 29 years at BCS will say the same thing,” Mathews explained. “Coach Yancey was a man who clearly demonstrated a passion for Jesus Christ and always understood his work to be primarily a ministry of disciple-ship. The image that will forever capture this ministry is both teams meeting at midfield after a hard-fought game where Coach Yancey would always commend the opponents and their coaches whether Briarwood won or lost. He would always direct the conversation to the Lord and His blessings as both teams prayed together.’
Kynerd’s impressions are also vivid.
“Coach Yancey valued people and he evoked respect, appreciation, and admiration throughout the broad sphere of the athletic program at BCS,” Kynerd said. “Coach Yancey has been a model for good relations among and between all coaches, schools and classifications of the AHSAA. He was good for Alabama high school athletics through positive relationships, promoting unity among member schools and valuing the officials and decisions of the AHSAA.”
Kynerd said his coach was a well-respected and admired leader. “Impeccable character distinguished his example and decisions,” he said. “He always did the right thing, and countless people valued and sought his counsel. Coach Yancey’s style had an invigorating influence on his players, their parents and every coach in the athletic program at BCS. Coaches, parents, players, and administrators sought and usually followed his counsel and suggestions.
“And student participation in football and all other sports at BCS has been outstanding since Coach Yancey came in 1990. His leadership and service helped prepare students for success in football, school, life and eternity.
BY BILL PLOTT
8th in a 12-part series on the Alabama HOF Class of 2020
MONTGOMERY – Former players of boys’ basketball coach Tommy Lewis are in agreement about one thing. Their coach was much, much more than just a basketball coach to the many players in his basketball program.
One former player, Shane McElwee, explained. “I grew up as an only child and without a father,” McElwee said. “I was a kid who was shy and awkward and was really afraid to ‘put myself out there,’ but Coach Lewis saw potential in me. The encouragement he gave me when I was 12 years old has truly changed my life. Without the structure, stability and discipline learned from playing team sports I really do not know how I would have turned out.
“After I graduated, Coach Lewis didn’t stop being my coach. He’s always been there in support of whatever I was doing. Nothing in my life has ever seemed ‘real’ until I’ve told Coach Lewis. I’ve known Coach Lewis for over 36 years, and I’ve seen him have the same effect on hundreds and hundreds of other kids.”
That positive impact is a major reason Lewis is being inducted into the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame. He will be joining 11 others in the Class of 2020 that will be honored at induction banquet at the Montgomery Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center, Monday, March 16 at 6:30 p.m.
Lewis was graduated from Cherokee County’s Spring Garden High School in 1979 and Jacksonville State University in 1984. He holds additional degrees from Jacksonville State and the University of Alabama.
He began his career in 1985 at Gaylesville High School, serving as a classroom teacher, assistant football coach and head basketball coach. Taking a program that was down, he led them to a 20-win season and county and Area championships in his third year.
In 1988 he returned to his alma mater, Spring Garden. Over the next 11 years he compiled a record of 227-106. Existing records make him the winningest boys’ coach at the school. There were eight 20-plus win seasons, nine area championships and five trips to the state tournament quarterfinals.
From Spring Garden, he went to Cherokee County High School in 2001. His first season was a near break-even 12-13 mark. After that, it was nothing but success -- four consecutive 22-win seasons, four area championships, and a 31-2 record for the 2006 semifinals team. His overall record at Cherokee County was 118-36. Existing records suggest that he is the winningest coach there, also.
In 2007 he moved to Piedmont High School. In 12 seasons he compiled an overall record of 226-153. There were nine Area championships, three quarterfinal and three semifinal finishes. The 2015 team was Class 3A runner-up. And for the third time in his career, he became the winningest coach at a school.
He retired from active coaching after the 2018 season with an overall record of 602-242, 22 area championships, eight quarterfinal region playoff appearances and four semifinal state tournament appearances. He had 26 winning seasons in 32 years. Those totals included 18 seasons of 20-plus wins.
“Coach Lewis deserves to be in the Hall of Fame for all the accomplishments he’s had on the basketball court for sure but even if you take all those accomplishments away, he’d still deserve to be in because of the person that he is,” McElwee said.
Another former player Jay Shell shared his impressions of Lewis’ impact. “Countless nights on long bus rides we’d stop for food on the way home,” he said. “Unfortunately, I was one of the kids that didn’t always have money to eat, so I’d stay on the bus and pretend to not be hungry. Coach Lewis would sneak by and slide me a few bucks to make sure I ate. He had a sneaky way of doing it so it wouldn’t embarrass me in front of the other kids. He did this for numerous kids throughout this career.”
Another former player, Kyle Wilson, wrote his thoughts. “I am writing more on Coach Lewis as a person than as a basketball coach,” Wilson said. “As a coach, I believe the numbers speak for themselves – arguably the best to ever coach a four different schools. Tommy Lewis was much more than a basketball coach, to myself and countless others. Growing up in Centre, sports were never a powerhouse. Coach Lewis took over and changed that quickly. Cherokee County went from a school with a lot of athletes to a school with championship teams. He taught us if we worked hard, we could accomplish goals.
“Many of my teammates were not fortunate when it came to being able to experience many news things or visit new places outside of school. Coach always made it a point to travel to a camp, and we would always go to a tournament in the Georgia mountains or the beach in Florida. He always made it a priority to be able to go on these trips every year, even if it meant buying five to 10 Boston butts for our fundraiser (he was a vegetarian). I have had a blessed life, and never went without much, but these trips and time spent with Coach Lewis and our teams are still some of my favorite memories.”
He said one definition of Hall of Fame is ‘a group of individuals of a category who have been selected as particularly illustrious.’
“By this definition I would nominate Tommy Lewis to numerous halls of fame – coaching, teaching, father, friend, the list goes on,” Wilson said. “I’ve been around a lot of coaches, a lot of teachers, a lot of leaders, and a lot of people throughout my life. You will not find a better representative for the sport of basketball, the state of Alabama, or for humanity in general, than Coach Tommy Lewis. He deserves this honor more than any other person I know.”
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