Bobby Pope

Bill Bibb honored by A-Sun

Bill Bibb is a former basketball head coach and athletics director at Mercer.
Bill Bibb is a former basketball head coach and athletics director at Mercer. Atlantic Sun

The Macon based A-Sun will hold its second annual Hall of Fame ceremonies in Jacksonville, Florida, on Monday, and the conference partially will correct a wrong and induct a man who was notably missing from the first class.

William Clyde Bibb, the former Mercer basketball head coach and athletics director and later the commissioner of the A-Sun, is one of six inductees in the second class. How he was not selected in the first class in hard to imagine, but it is my understanding the selection committee did not have a long history of the conference. Bill, or Billy Clyde to me, was one of the founding fathers of the conference (then the Trans America Athletic Conference) way back in 1978, and no one has had a longer stint or had more impact involved with the conference. He coached in the A-Sun from the time of its formation in 1978 until 1989 and then served as commissioner from 1991 until 2007.

I have known Bibb since his arrival in Macon back in 1973 when he came to Mercer as Joe Dan Gold’s assistant for the Bears. A year later, Gold was gone, and Bibb was named the head coach, a position he held until 1989 when he left Mercer to become the athletics director at Texas-Arlington. During his 16 years as the head coach, which also included 10 years as the athletics director, I traveled the country with him and his team as radio play-by-play announcer and also part-time sports information director.

He took me to some places, where the Bears played, that I will never forget, like Ruston, Louisiana, Greenville, North Carolina, New Britain, Connecticut, and Abilene, Texas, to name a few. We also went to some really good cities such as Houston, New Orleans, San Antonio and Tampa, among others. Together, we visited Printers Alley in Nashville, The Rainbow Room in New York, Gilley’s in Houston and Bourbon Street in New Orleans. And we discovered the Scamp Fish (not to be confused with shrimp scampi) at a restaurant in Pensacola, but I haven’t seen it on a menu since, and that spans at least three decades.

Bibb was old school in his coaching style. He had a tough exterior but a heart of gold. Players some times didn’t like him much when playing for him, but ask about him after they left, and they would express gratitude and admiration to and for him. One thing about Bibb was he always looked after his players.

Bibb got a lot of his toughness while playing for the legendary Adolph Rupp at Kentucky, where he spent his first two years of college. Bibb was on the 1954 Wildcats team that went unbeaten at 25-0, but the team’s three best players were ineligible for the NCAA Tournament because they were graduate students, and Rupp and Kentucky declined the invitation. LSU, which had finished second to the Wildcats, took the bid.

That 1954 team featured future NBA stars and basketball Hall of Famers Frank Ramsey and Cliff Hagan. Bibb played his final two seasons at Kentucky Wesleyan, starring for “Bullet” Wilson, where he earned Division II All-America honors.

Bibb coached at Kentucky Wesleyan, Trinity in Texas, St. Louis (he is a big St. Louis Cardinals baseball fan) and at Utah State before landing at Mercer. He still holds the all-time record for most career wins with the Bears (222), and he led them to the NCAA Tournament in 1981 and again in 1985. That 1981 team lost to Arkansas 73-67 in Austin, Texas, while the 1985 squad dropped a 65-58 first-round game to Georgia Tech at the Omni in Atlanta. The Bears were in both games until the end.

After a two-year stint as the AD at Texas-Arlington, Bill took over as the commissioner of the A-Sun and kept that conference viable with numerous defections by schools leaving for other conferences. During his time with the conference, 11 schools left the conference, but he always found schools to replace them.

He oversaw the A-Sun’s transition from an all men’s conference, which competed for just six championships, to a men’s and women’s conference that supported 17 championships when he stepped down. He was responsible for implementing the President’s Council, which provides insight into the leadership and vision of the conference. Bibb also negotiated the A-Sun’s Friday night Game of the Week with CSS, making it the only mid major conference for a time with such a deal.

Going into the A-Sun Hall of Fame for Bibb is very much deserved, even though a year late. Unfortunately, he won’t be able to attend the ceremonies as he is battling dementia.

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