Bobby Pope

Sybil Blalock set to join Macon Sports Hall of Fame

Sybil Blalock was born in Sevier County, Tennessee (yep, that’s the same place country music singer Dolly Parton was born), but Blalock has spent almost half of her life in Macon affiliated with Mercer.

She is a pioneer in Mercer women’s basketball and was one of the first players recruited when the “Teddy Bears” program got up and running in the early 1970s. Blalock and Myrel Huskey, who also is from Sevierville, helped put down the foundation for early women’s basketball success at “Tattnall Tech.”

It is interesting how Blalock was discovered. Then-Mercer men’s basketball assistant Jay Niddifer was recruiting Bob Caylor, a member of the Sevier County boys team, and saw Blalock and Huskey play and recommended both to Mercer athletics director Jerry Stone, who talked them into coming to Macon.

There were no women’s basketball scholarships at the time. Blalock only got athletics aid her senior season. Mercer head coach Peggy Collins was the beneficiary of Niddifer and Stone’s recruiting effort. Blalock scored 1,856 points in her career (sixth in program history) for an average of 18.9 points per game. In her sophomore season, she averaged 21.9 points per game, which is still eighth at Mercer.

During Blalock’s playing career, the women’s team had an 87-13 record. Incidentally, Caylor didn’t come to Mercer but instead went to Western Kentucky, where he played just one season.

Blalock was a top student, graduating magna cum laude with a degree in mathematics and physical education as well as a master’s degree in applied mathematics. She and I have one thing in common academically, we both made just one B-plus in college.

After completing her Mercer career, Blalock played professionally in Europe, Venezuela and in the U.S. with the New Orleans Pride in the Women’s Professional Basketball League. She also was a member of the U.S. team that competed in the World University games and was on the U.S. Olympic development team.

Following her playing days, Blalock entered the coaching ranks as an assistant at New Orleans in the late 1980s before returning to Mercer in 1993 as a member of Billy Holmes’ staff. She was named associate athletics director and senior woman administrator in 1995 and was elevated to the position of deputy athletics director in 2015.

Blalock, who teaches at least one math class each semester, is responsible for the academic side of the house in the athletics program, and Mercer has consistently ranked among the top teams in conference standings in the classroom.

Blalock is well-respected as an administrator at both the conference and NCAA level. She has served as tournament director for conference championships in tennis, volleyball and basketball and has chaired the Sports Policy Committee, been secretary of the executive committee and currently is chair of the Southern Conference tennis committee.

Blalock has served on two prestigious NCAA committees, as well. She was a member of the NCAA tennis tournament committee from 2006 until 2010, serving as the chair in 2009 and 2010, and was a member of the NCAA Division I women’s basketball committee from 2010 until 2015, serving as the chair of the site selection committee.

Two things you probably don’t want to do is play tennis against Blalock or take her on in a game of H-O-R-S-E. She is about as competitive as anyone you will ever meet. She played competitive team tennis from 1997 until around 2012, and her team was ranked fourth in the nation. As for shooting baskets, she still can be seen on the court quite often and is as deadly as she ever was.

Blalock takes a much deserved spot in the Macon Sports Hall of Fame on Thursday night. The rest of this year’s class is made up of Dick Frame, Sharone Wright, Wayne Johnson, Julius Adams, Don Robinson, Jeff Battcher, Mike McCollum and LeKevin Smith.

Contact Bobby Pope at bobbypope428@gmail.com

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