Friday, March 4, 2016

MEAC Hall of Fame Selection Humbles 2016 Inductees

NORFOLK,Virginia -- The 2016 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Hall of Fame Class features five conference stalwarts – Hampton women’s basketball player LaShondra Dixon-Gordon, South Carolina State defensive end Bobby Moore, Howard track and field athlete David Oliver, Bethune-Cookman Director of Athletics Lynn Thompson and Joe Taylor, who coached football and Howard, Hampton and Florida A&M – all of whom have eye-popping credentials and have made significant contributions to the league’s tradition of excellence.

The class will be enshrined March 10 during an award brunch at the Sheraton Waterside Hotel in Norfolk, Va. The Hall of Famers will also be recognized prior to the 6 p.m. men’s basketball game during the 2016 MEAC Basketball Tournament at the Norfolk Scope Arena in Virginia.

”It’s a real honor,’’ said Taylor, who compiled a 233-96-4 record with a .700 winning percentage in 29 seasons at Howard, Hampton, Florida A&M and Virginia Union. “It means you’ve been around some good people. You don’t do anything of this magnitude by yourself.’’

Taylor is currently Director of Athletics at Virginia Union University. He is third all-time in wins among HBCU football coaches, trailing Eddie Robinson of Grambling State and John Merritt of Tennessee State. He is winningest coach in school history at Hampton (136-48-1), and he led the Pirates to four Black College National Championships and five MEAC titles. Before Hampton’s transition to Division I, he coached the Pirates to two NCAA Division II playoff appearances, including their first playoff win.

Taylor was previously inducted into the Halls of Fame at Hampton, the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) and Western Illinois, his alma mater. Given his accomplishments, it was only a matter of time before he would be tabbed for the MEAC Hall as well.

“As you’re working you don’t look that far down the road,’’ Taylor said. “I felt at some point it was going to happen. It’s humbling and a tremendous honor. I used to tell my players hard work doesn’t go unnoticed. This is another example of that. To be enshrined, this is major. When you do it right way these are the things that happen.’’

Dixon-Gordon’s Hampton resume is clearly worthy of the Hall of Fame. She ended her four-year career No. 2 on the school’s all-time scoring list and No. 6 in assists after leading the Lady Pirates to two NCAA tournament appearances. In addition, she led the MEAC in scoring twice and was named to the conference all-tournament team four times. Still Dixon-Gordon, 34, was caught off guard when she was notified of her selection.

“It’s one of the highest honors you can get,’’ she said. “I can’t say I thought about it. It came as a surprise. All your hard work, the sacrifices you make to become a good player. It’s shocking to get this honor at such a young age.’’

Dixon-Gordon says having her two children ages nine and five present for her induction makes it even more special.

“They have asked me how thing went when I played,’’ Gordon-Dixon said. “This solidifies with them what I had been telling them, that I was an okay player and won a couple of championships.’’

Dixon-Gordon didn’t get a lot of attention playing high school ball in Sparta, Ga. However, she caught the eye of Hampton assistant coach Walter Mebane while for the Georgia Metros, an Atlanta-based AAU team, during the summer. Hampton’s academic reputation and setting as a smaller school appealed to Dixon-Gordon. In hindsight, she says choosing Hampton was an excellent decision.

“It was just an athletic decision,’’ she said. “Academics were a big part of it. I felt it was a good fit for me. I wouldn’t change anything. I don’t think things would have turned out as good if I had gone someplace else.’’

Thompson was among the youngest athletic directors in the country when he became head the athletic department at Bethune-Cookman 25 years ago. The Wildcats have enjoyed a high rate of success during Thompson’s tenure, winning 64 championships, including 44 MEAC crowns, and he established himself as a first-rate athletic administrator with his innovative thinking.

Thompson assembled the Bethune-Cookman Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) and he initiated the Wildcats’ athletic graduate assistant program. He also was instrumental in launching a 30-minute coaches television show highlighting Bethune-Cookman football and men’s and women’s basketball programs. In addition, he was the first African-American to chair the NCAA Baseball Rules Committee.

“It’s humbling that your peers, the people you work for and with, would think enough of your body of work, that it would be amongst the very best through the test of time,’’ Thompson said of his Hall of Fame selection. “It’s a humbling thing, almost to the point of embarrassment. I never thought in terms of what I do would be Hall of Fame level. I was o busy working I didn’t see it that way.’’

When Thompson took over as athletic director, Bethune-Cookman was the smallest school in the MEAC, and it had the smallest budget for athletics. However, Thompson says it had the biggest ambition.

“We kept plugging away,’’ he said, adding that a core group coaches and staff members that has been with him for 18-20 years has been key to the program’s success. “For me, now I have to look back at all the people who had a hand in this. You don’t do this by yourself. All the people who put in the work also deserve to be celebrated.’’

Thompson also said having two former athletic directors – Jack “Cy’’ McLairen and Lloyd “Tank’’ Johnson on campus in his early years was an immense help. Florida A&M’s Walter Reed and Nelson Townsend of Delaware State were two MEAC athletic directors who mentored Thompson.

“I pulled from their experiences,’’ he said. “It was a bigger task than I could imagine. I was so naïve I couldn’t imagine how big a task it was.’’

Moore is one of the most ferocious defensive linemen ever to play at South Carolina State, a school known for producing ferocious defensive linemen. So it’s difficult to imagine him being moved to tears by much of anything, but that’s exactly what happened when Moore learned he had been selected for the MEAC Hall of Fame.

“I cried and thanked God,’’ said Moore, an assistant principal at Burke County Middle School in Waynesboro, Ga. “I got on my knees and thanked God, and I thought about how many people who could have gotten, and some people might have been more deserving.’’

As word of his selection spread, congratulatory calls poured in from friends and former teammates, and Moore says he cried some more with each call.

Moore says he thought about the Hall of Fame “many, many times’’ after learning that he had been nominated. But he refused to allow himself to get excited about the prospect of being chosen.

“I said it would be a great honor and a blessing from God,’’ he said. “I said, ‘if it comes, great. If not, it’s something that I wasn’t meant to have.’

Moore, a four-year starter, was a two-time All-MEAC performer and the MEAC Defensive Player of the Year and All-American in 1978. The Bulldogs were 35-6-3 overall and 21-2-1 in the MEAC and won four MEAC titles (1975-78) during Moore’s career. He has fond memories of his days playing the MEAC and the athletes he competed with against, the Dwain Boards, the George Ragsdales, the Ron Scotts, the Edwin Baileys and Charley Browns and Nate Rivers.

“I had a great time,’’ he said. “I wouldn’t give it up for the all the gold in China. But the most important thing I got from South Carolina State is an education. That’s why HBCUs are important. Don’t ever take education lightly. I preach that every day to my students.’’

Oliver went on to become a world class hurdler after winning four consecutive MEAC outdoor title sin the 110m hurdles and earning All-American honors twice. He holds school record in the 60m hurdles (7.69 seconds), set at the 2004 NCAA Indoor Championship and the 110m hurdles set the Georgia Tech Invitational that same year.

Oliver is four-time United State Track Field Outdoor champion in the 110m hurdles, and he was a bronze medalist at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He was the 2010 Jesse Owens Athlete of the Year.

The MEAC Hall of Fame highlights former student-athletes, coaches, university and conference administrators as well as special contributors, who have enriched the legacy of the conference since its inception in 1970. Enshrinees were selected by a 13-person committee made up of administrators and representatives from member institutions.

The inaugural Hall of Fame class was inducted on May 29, 1981, during a 10-year anniversary banquet in Greensboro, North Carolina. Since its establishment, the MEAC Hall of Fame has enshrined 133 people, including the class of 2016.


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