03/20/10 — Williams: Former Wayne Country Day headmaster inducted into NCISAA Hall of Fame

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Williams: Former Wayne Country Day headmaster inducted into NCISAA Hall of Fame

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on March 20, 2010 11:06 PM

Modest beginnings led to a humbling -- and well-deserved -- honor for former Wayne Country Day headmaster James E. Williams.

One of three pioneers of the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association in the early 1970s, Williams was part of the inaugural class inducted into the organization's Hall of Fame during the season-ending state basketball tournament.

Williams was enshrined along with David Thompson, the association's second president and Chuck Carter, the current executive director of the NCISAA.

"I was certainly humbled, pleased and excited," said Williams. "The two fellas who went in with me, the three of us worked closely together. I'm pleased to see what's happened to the NCISAA since we started from humble beginnings."


In 1973, the trio met with then coordinator of non-public schools Calvin Criner of Ravenscroft School and representatives from the 26 independent schools statewide. The group addressed the desire to crown state champions in boys' and girls' basketball, tennis and golf.

However, there were no rules in place.

The schools were, in fact, independent and operated in that manner. Each school had its own philosophy and objective, particularly the schools that had been established for a number of years.

The common ground was basketball. Each school sponsored the sport, which prompted the NCISAA to initially legislate just the postseason. The organization didn't attempt to control either regular-season play or eligibility, but did address financial aid.

"You had tremendous diversity and we had to merge those into one group that were willing to give up that independence in order to comply with a set of regulations that we set up for the playoffs," said Williams.

That was the beginning.

The Association refined and increased regulations as the schools demanded more. In 1984, long after Williams stepped down as president of the executive board, the state split into two classifications -- 1-A and 2-A -- based on enrollment.

One year later, the NCISAA began to regulate regular-season play.

"We saw the need for it and there was a demand for it," said Williams. "Everybody wants to play by the same rules, compete on a level playing field and that's what we were attempting to create. We felt like it was important that the kids had that experience, and that was really our driving force to move with it at that time."

"You had some disparity, but it was great competition and that was part of the excitement, sort of like (the movie) 'Hoosiers'."

Today, more than 100 schools comprise the NCISAA. The Association added a 3-A classification in 1989 and 39 state champions were acknowledged in 17 boys' and girls' sports that season.

Williams never anticipated that kind of explosion.

"I don't think any of us really thought that far (ahead)," he said. "I think what we thought of doing was we have a need and this is how we can fulfill that need. Obviously, as soon as you started crowning a state champion, the other sports wanted to know 'where is ours?'

"We certainly were not thinking long term. The successes that we had with it led to long term. A lot of people worked hard (as volunteers) and gave a lot of time."

While the Association grew in schools and athletes, it also expanded as well. Carter became the executive director in 2001. Three years later, the NCISAA implemented a strategic planning process and the ratification of new bylaws with budgetary changes created to ensure NCISAA leadership for the future.

Each year, the NCISAA meets with the state's public schools and the N.C. Christian Schools Association to discuss common issues and opportunities for their students.

"You certainly enjoy seeing something work like you wanted it," said Williams. "You enjoy seeing the students at the schools have the opportunity to be recognized for outstanding ability in athletics, just like they were recognized in outstanding ability for academics, or anything else.

"It was important to see that you had that."

And Williams helped lead the way.