One thing I have learned is that good friends have other good friends. This is a series of stories about “friends of my friends”. The post below is the story for March 28, 2015.
My goal in 2015 is to learn or get re-acquainted with 365 people and doing a daily post on the “the friend of a friend” is helping me get closer to my goal.
In my career in higher education I have met some pretty amazing leaders. One man who always treats me with class and respect is George “Buddy” Sasser. I first got to know Buddy Sasser as the commissioner of the Big South Conference when I was the men’s basketball coach at Winthrop University (1992-1998).
A native of Conway, SC Buddy served as athletic director and head football coach at Conway High School from 1963 to 1970, leading the Tigers to a 66-17-5 record. He got to move on to the college ranks and was assistant football coach and assistant athletic director at Appalachian State University from 1972 until 1977. In 1977 he became the athletic director and head football coach at Wofford College. In 1982 Buddy was named “Kodak Coach of the Year” for the college division.
Buddy left Wofford in 1982 and joined East Tennessee State in 1982 as head football coach. In 1985 he became E.T.S.U athletic director in 1985. In 1986 Buddy came back to his hometown of Conway, SC to become the Athletic Director at Coastal Carolina University. In 1989 he became the commissioner of the Big South Conference and remained in that position until 1996. In 1996 he went back to Coastal Carolina University to serve as Director of Athletics and was an instrumental planner in Coastal Carolina adding the sport of football. Buddy retired as Coastal Carolina’s Director of Athletics “officially” in 1999.
When people talk about Buddy Sasser people know about his reputation and legacy. If you go anywhere in Buddy’s hometown of Conway, SC people know who he is. Two great tributes to him include the Big South Conference naming their all sport championship trophy in his honor “Sasser Commissioner Cup Trophy” and Coastal Carolina naming the Hall of Fame after Buddy Sasser. Links to both tributes can be found below:
Buddy also is a man who was very free to share his expertise. In 2004 when UNC Pembroke tasked me as Director of Athletics to study the feasibility of adding football the first person I called and asked for help was Buddy Sasser. He agreed to serve as the university’s consultant and worked with me for nearly a year on getting data and information that would guide our decision. Buddy was unbelievable in how much he shared with UNC Pembroke from July 2004 until December 2004 in helping me write and prepare the “UNC Pembroke Football Feasibility Study”. In December 2004 after the UNCP Board of Trustees approved the recommendation to move forward he was my constant consultant on all matters related to football. He was so helpful in getting me connected to people who knew football leaders.
Buddy didn’t just treat me with respect he also did that for others including his good friend Wendell Carr the former Campbell University Athletic Director. Buddy went to college at UNC Chapel Hill and Wendell at Wake Forest. Their connections go way back.
The Friend – BUDDY SASSER
The Friend of the Friend – WENDELL CARR-depicted on left
Conference Break Up is not Friendship Break Up
Wendell Carr was the Director of Athletics at Campbell for 18 years. Wendell was instrumental in the Fighting Camel program’s elevation from NAIA to NCAA Division I status, the rise of women’s athletics at the school, and the formation of and alignment with a conference that held automatic berths in NCAA Championships.
From the time of his arrival in Buies Creek in the fall of 1974 through his retirement in the summer of 1992, Carr oversaw some of the school’s most notable athletics achievements. After Campbell advanced to the 1977 National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics men’s basketball championship game, the school then moved to Division I competition the next fall. Carr also established the Fighting Camel Club, the University’s athletic booster organization, and was one of the driving forces behind the formation of the Big South Conference.
His earnest efforts paid off with Campbell’s charter membership in the Big South, a league of which he wrote the constitution and by-laws. In eight years, he served two terms as league vice-president and also sat as the conference’s secretary.
In his final year as A.D., the Camel programs won the 1991-92 Big South Commissioner’s Cup for overall athletics excellence. CU teams won five conference titles that year and the men’s basketball team earned its first-ever berth in the NCAA Tournament.
A native of Muncie, Ind., where he was a basketball standout at Muncie Central High School, Carr served four years in the U.S. Navy from 1950-54. He went on to Wake Forest where he earned his B.S. degree in 1958. A member of the Demon Deacons’ varsity from 1955-58, Carr captained the basketball team his senior year.
Wendell played basketball for coaches Murray Greason and Horace “Bones” McKinney at Wake Forest. Legend had it that Wendell was on a train for a recruiting visit to N.C. State, which was coached by Everett Case, after Carr had served four years in the Navy. The train made a stop in Wake Forest in the days when Wake’s campus was actually in the town of Wake Forest and Carr never made it to Raleigh. Bones McKinney and the milkshakes at Holding Drug Store sold Carr on a scholarship with the Deacons.
Bones McKinney, an ordained minister, married Carr and his wife, Susie, on March 26, 1956. The Wake Forest campus moved from the town of Wake Forest to Winston-Salem in 1956, and when Carr finished at Wake, he became a coach at newly-opened North Forsyth High School in Winston-Salem.
Wendell earned an M.A. degree from East Carolina where he also served as the school’s basketball, golf and tennis coach. He later coached at Indiana University while pursuing doctoral studies. He also coached at Memphis State and the University of Wisconsin-Superior before accepting the athletics director position at Concord (W.Va.) College in 1972. During his tenure at Campbell, Carr also served as coach of both the tennis and golf teams. He guided the 1989 men’s golf squad to the Big South title and was named league Coach of the Year.
Wendell Carr died at the age of 71 on March 9, 2002.
After Wendell retired from Campbell in 1992 Campbell University and the Big South Conference had a falling out over Sunday championships in 1995. Campbell left the league for the Atlantic Sun Conference and didn’t return until 2011. That fall out didn’t affect the friendship between Buddy and Wendell. Buddy and Wendell were two AD’s that saw the Big South Conference get started. Buddy and Wendell are two men with a positive reputation and legacy.
Glad I knew both of them.