George Whitfield Hall of Fame
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on January 13, 2011 1:47 PM
Attendees of the 38th annual George Whitfield Hall of Fame induction ceremony snapped candid photos and found any available scrap of paper for autographs from pioneers who shaped the Atlantic Coast Conference men's basketball scene into what it is today.
Whitfield took you on a nostalgic tour that evening as he enshrined ACC greats Vic Bubas, Tommy Burleson, Lennie Rosenbluth, Bucky Waters and Vic Molodet -- just to name a few.
No one thought Whitfield could surpass that celebration described by many as his "greatest induction ceremony ever" in nearly four decades.
They just don't know George.
The 39th Hall of Fame observance, scheduled for Friday evening at Goldsboro High School, is even more star-studded than last year.
Whitfield is honoring former Duke All-Americans Jack Marin and Jeff Mullins, former N.C. State guard Chris Corchiani, former UNC head coach Bill Guthridge and former Wolfpack men's basketball coach and athletics director Les Robinson.
"The people I have talked to are real excited about coming. We're looking forward to it ... hope the weather breaks and everybody will be able to get out there and have a good time," said Whitfield, who is scheduled to undergo hip replacement surgery.
"Every class is special, but I think this is really a good one."
The 24-member "guest" list also includes 1969 Goldsboro High graduate Karl Eikenberry, who is the current U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan; retired Colonel Walter J. Marm, Jr., who resides in Fremont; Goldsboro High alum Eddie Radford; Military Affairs Committee member Troy Pate Jr.; and Charlie Adams, former executive director of the N.C. High School Athletic Association.
"I think the fact that Karl is going to be there is certainly a plus because that's something that was sort of unexpected when I began working on this (induction class) six months ago," said Whitfield. "I want to give credit to Wes and Bob Waller for helping me with it and help making it happen. Karl went on to a fabulous career, and represents our country with dignity and class."
East Carolina football record-holder Carlester Crumpler, Don McCauley and former Major League great Bill Merrifield are also scheduled for induction. Merrifield's son, Whit, delivered the game-winning, walk-off hit to lead South Carolina to the 2010 College World Series title. It was the final hit and final RBI recorded at legendary Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha.
Whitfield also plans to recognize members of the 1961 East Carolina baseball team that won the NAIA national championship, and players from the 1965 and 1966 Goldsboro High Earthquake football teams that earned state rankings each season. The groups were coached by Gerald Whisenhunt, one of several Wayne County alum who has coached in the prestigious Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas.
Inductee Fisher DeBerry, former head football coach at Air Force Academy, is the guest speaker for Whitfield's annual baseball clinic, which is scheduled for Saturday at Goldsboro High School. The day-long event features coaches from around the country who will instruct campers on pitching, hitting, infield/outfield play, base running and catching.
They will also conduct discussion forums including what coaches seek in today's athlete, practice organization and indoor/on-field drills for players.
While Whitfield cherishes every moment he spends with his Hall of Fame guests, he shares the same enthusiasm with every coach and boy who attends the clinic. Scholarships are provided for the boys through gracious, anonymous donations.
"I'm trying to pull the strings together to get everything right," said Whitfield. "All of us who will be there have many common interests, but the main one is sports. It's hard to believe I've been doing this that long."
And it keeps getting better each year.