As Fayetteville Sports Club Hall of Fame inductees and representatives for the classes of 2021 and 2022 stepped behind the podium to acknowledge their enshrinement at Highland Country Club’s ballroom last month, a theme began to emerge.
The tales of hard work, dedication, long hours of practice and long lists of thank you’s were connected by an underlying narrative that told a story beyond the ballfields, tennis courts and boxing rings where their status as stars of the city was born.
“Take advantage of where you are and don’t ever feel like you’re a stranger to where you’re going,” Tony Baldwin said as he accepted Hall of Fame recognition for former Fayetteville State football, basketball and golf coach Ray McDougal.
“I came to Coach as a boy, and now I’m a man,” Baldwin added.
“This was his philosophy: I don’t care how dark the day, make sure you bring the light. … It’s not where you come from, it’s where you want to go.”
More:Fayetteville Sports Club to honor classes of 2021 and ’22 in dual induction ceremony
McDougal’s golf teams at FSU earned national prominence with six PGA National Minority/Division championships and a place in the NCAA Tournament in 2009 as the first Historically Black College & Universities member to make the field in more than three decades.
The ability to lift a program to another level of prestige, to convince young athletes to buy into a regimen of discipline and dedication, to execute the plans and meet the challenges of unknown next steps into a new height of triumph — it doesn’t come easily. To most, it doesn’t come at all.
“He took the little and made it a lot. Those are the things he taught every player,” Baldwin said of his coach. “I love him like my own dad.”
McDougal’s 44 years as a team leader for Fayetteville State inspired and impacted many young people, and with them his “make sure you bring the light” mentality will go forward.
Coaches like him also set the course for other Hall inductees like tennis standouts Blair Sutton Craig and Francie Barragan, who played for the remarkable Gil Bowman at Terry Sanford before going on to NC State.
Craig was a three-time individual state champion at Terry Sanford and an All-ACC player for the Wolfpack at No. 1 singles.
“What you put into things is what you get out of them,” she said. “When all is said and done, I know I have given a good part of my heart to the game of tennis and tennis has given so much to me.”
Barragan played on three state champion teams at Terry Sanford and reached the NCAA Tournament field with NC State before coming home to coach at Methodist, where she’s a member of the school’s Hall of Fame.
Barragan and Blair were teammates at NC State, a connection they treasured. “Playing with Blaire at N.C. State was the time of my life,” Barragan said.
Impact of Title IX
For Sheila Boles, legislation aimed at providing equity for girls’ sports changed the course of her career in real time.
While women like Barragan and Blair would reap the ultimate benefits of Title IX, Boles’ future was shaped with its inception.
“I graduated in June of 1972 thinking I would never play competitive athletics again,” she said.
“But on June 23, 1972, Title IX was passed, and at the time I was just oblivious to what that would do to my life.”
Boles, who had been a star athlete at Seventy-First, became the first woman to receive a scholarship to play basketball at UNC Wilmington.
She went on to win multiple conference titles as the head coach of Wilmington Hoggard’s boys’ basketball team, and the gym there is named in her honor.
Another Seventy-First alum, Alex Gaines, was enshrined to the Hall’s class of 2021 with Boles.
“All I wanted to do was play sports,” Gaines said.
Then he was cut from a junior high basketball team.
“After that, I started every team I played on,” Gaines said, crediting that challenge for pushing him to work harder for what he wanted.
With a father who was a veteran of wars in Korea and Vietnam, and a mother born in Germany in the 1930s, Gaines spent 20 years in the Air Force, earning a Bronze Star and bearing in mind the battles his family had fought to give him the opportunities he had.
An exceptional soccer player, Gaines also kicked the winning field goal in a 3-0 Falcons’ 1986 state championship win over West Charlotte.
Gaines played soccer and ran track at UNC Pembroke, making the all-district team thrice and setting school records for points and goals in a career.
Other honorees included Dwayne Allen (Terry Sanford alum and Clemson football All-American who won a Super Bowl as a tight end for the Patriots), Earl “Air” Harvey (Douglas Byrd alum who set NCAA Division II records for passing at NC Central), and the late Leonard Sanders (first Black man hired by the Fayetteville Parks and Recreation Department who mentored the Black community and organized numerous youth teams).
Also among those inducted were Jack McGinley (Pitcher for Wake Forest’s 1955 NCAA baseball championship-winning team who served as principal at Reid Ross High Schoo), the late Horace Whitaker (Seventy-First and Douglas Byrd football star who led Byrd to its first league title and went on to play for Lou Holtz at NC State) and the late Mabon Leslie “Beau” Williford (Fayetteville High School alum, North Carolina Golden Gloves titlist and national amateur champion in 1967 who founded the Ragin’ Cajun Boxing Club in Louisiana where he coached and mentored young people).
Their stories run through Fayetteville, where a love of athleticism and the life lessons inherent in the game can launch careers of national renown or fuel a passion to serve one’s community.
“Education and service were hallmarks in our house,” Leonard Sanders Jr. said as he accepted the Hall honor for his father. “And for years he served kindergartners to senior citizens. And kids from midget league football to the NFL. We played table tennis. We square-danced. This night is a celebration of remembering those who make life better for all people, and I salute all of the men and women being celebrated tonight.”
Sports editor Monica Holland can be reached at [email protected]