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Longtime HBCU athletic director gets Hall of Fame Induction

Courtesy of Benedict College Athletics

ATLANTA, Ga. – HBCU Benedict College long-time Director of Athletics Willie Washington will be enshrined in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) Hall of Fame on July 10 at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, in conjunction with the SIAC Football Media Day.

Washington has guided Benedict College athletics for 36 years, including 10 years in a dual role of head men’s basketball coach and athletic director. During his illustrious HBCU career, Benedict College has won the prestigious SIAC Commissioner’s Cup, presented to the top athletic men’s and women’s program in the conference, more than any other school in the league. Benedict College swept both the men’s and women’s trophies four times in school history. All told, Benedict has won 10 of the 18 trophies since the inception of the Commissioner’s Cup award in 2014, including winning the men’s trophy for the 2023-24 school year.

During his tenure, the South Carolina HBCU expanded its athletic program from eight to 14 sports, including the return of football, and saw Benedict rejoin the SIAC after years of success in the NAIA’s Eastern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. He was named the NAIA Southeast Region Athletic Director of the Year in 1999.

During his long HBCU career, Benedict teams have captured 50 SIAC championships – eight in women’s basketball, six in women’s track and field, six in men’s tennis, five in men’s basketball, five in men’s cross country, five in women’s tennis, four in men’s track and field, four in cheerleading, three in women’s cross country, two in football, one in softball, and one in men’s golf.

“Your contributions to the success of Benedict College Athletics for over 30 years are legendary,” wrote SIAC Commissioner Anthony Holloman in a congratulatory letter. “For most people, that would have been enough, however, I want to commend you for your work as a mentor, public servant and role model for thousands of young men.”

“I could not be more proud of Coach Willie Washington on this well-deserved acknowledgment of his distinguished career as a mentor, coach, and an athletic administrator.  Induction to the Hall of Fame is a fitting tribute to his nearly 40-year career,” said Benedict College President and CEO Dr. Roslyn Clark Artis.

HBCU Benedict College SIAC Willie Washington Hall of Fame

“In addition to a proven record of cultivating and developing winning athletic programs, I have found him to be a leader who is committed to excellence,” wrote Dr. David H. Swinton, President Emeritus of Benedict College, in his nomination letter of recommendation. “He also inspires greatness in those who work with him, and most importantly, in the student-athletes who are part of the athletic program at Benedict College.”

More than anything else, Mr. Washington is someone with great integrity and character,” wrote Dr. Derrick Johnson, Associate Dean of Athletics at Fresno (Calif.) City College, and a former Benedict coach and athletic administrator. “As a profound leader, he has always been able to get the best from his staff and colleagues. I have worked with Mr. Washington on several projects, and I have witnessed his professional approach on humanitarian issues and injustices that impact the overall students at the College. I have witnessed Coach Washington utilize his platform to combat hunger, homelessness, violence, and social injustices that have impacted the community in Columbia, S.C.”

“Coach Washington has always worked very hard to inspire greatness in those who work with him, and most importantly, in the student-athletes who are part of the athletic program at Benedict College. Coach Washington has been a pillar of leadership and excellence within the Benedict College athletic community,” wrote Verna C. Mayers-Fakunle, CEO of Inspired Strategies, LLC, who said Mr. Washington has been an “integral part of my life as an employer, mentor, colleague, and friend for over twenty-six years.”

Willie Washington arrived on the campus of Benedict College in 1988 as the head men’s basketball coach and athletic director and took the Tigers to immediate success. He guided the Tigers to the NAIA national tournament four times, nine conference championships, and eight consecutive EIAC Coach of the Year Awards. During his tenure as basketball coach, his teams never had a losing season. The Benedict athletic program won six EIAC Commissioner Cups, the hallmark of excellence for the school with the best athletic program during its stay in the EIAC.

In addition to the athletic success of the Benedict teams under Washington’s leadership, he also focuses on the overall well-being of the student-athletes. Under Washington’s leadership, the overall grade point average of the entire student-athlete population has increased to over a 3.0 on a consistent basis, and Benedict had its first two Academic All-Americans in 2015, a third in 2017, and another in 2023. He has also been instrumental in Benedict receiving grants from the NCAA to help student-athletes complete their degrees, as well as a Choices Grant to help with alcohol education. In 2020, he spearheaded two successful NCAA grant applications to add an Academic Counselor and Assistant Track & Field Coach to the athletic staff. In 2010, the athletic department won the NCAA Division II National Community Engagement Award of ExcIellence.

Mr. Washington has served, or currently serves, on a number of athletic committees, boards and foundations. Washington served on the NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball Committee, and is a former member of the NCAA Division II Management Council, Chairman of the SIAC Athletic Directors Committee, the NCAA Honors Committee, and the NCAA Diversity and Inclusion Committee. In recognition to his dedicated service in the advancement of youth in his community, the S.C. State Conference of the NAACP awarded Mr. Washington the Presidential Citation Civic Leadership Award in 2012. Washington also serves as the Chairman of the Board of the Laurinburg Institute, a historic African American preparatory school in Laurinburg, North Carolina.

In addition to the SIAC Hall of Fame, Willie Washington has previously been inducted into the Laurinburg Hall of Fame in 2016, and the Finney Hall of Fame by the Renaissance Foundation in 2018. He is also a member of the Allen University Athletic Hall of Fame, the Benedict College Athletic Hall of Fame, and the EIAC Hall of Fame.

He is a 1974 graduate of HBCU Tougaloo College, where he was a member of the men’s basketball team, and recently celebrated his golden anniversary. He received his undergraduate degree in Health, Physical Education and Recreation, and earned a Master’s Degree in Health and Physical Education from Jackson State University.

The SIAC Hall of Fame ceremony will take place at 11 a.m. on July 10 in the College Football Hall of Fame. The SIAC Hall of Fame is steeped in HBCU tradition with the likes of NFL Hall of Famers Shannon Sharpe and John Stallworth, Olympic gold medalist Alice Coachman, and Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Coach John Chaney, who have been honored in previous classes. He becomes the second Benedict representative in the SIAC Hall of Fame, joining Benedict College graduate and former chair of the United State Olympic Committee Dr. Leroy Walker, whom Washington considers a mentor.

Along with Willie Washington, the 2024 SIAC Hall of Fame class includes: Kimberly Duggar (Fort Valley State), Frank Walker (Tuskegee), Harold Hubbard (Savannah State), Jacoby Jones (Lane), Mabel Sanders (Savannah State), and William King (Tuskegee).

Longtime HBCU athletic director gets Hall of Fame Induction

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