by Benny Benton
WILSON, N.C. – Todd Wilkinson, director of athletics at Barton College, was honored Monday evening with a Conference Carolinas “Legend of the Game Award” in recognition of his long-time service in the league.
He joined Rita Smith, director of athletic training and senior woman administrator at Lees-McRae College, as recipients the “Legend” award for at least 30 years of service. Tina Parks, administrative assistant at the University of Mount Olive, was presented with a “Milestone” award for more than 15 years of service.
Wilkinson’s career as a coach and administrator spans more than 30 years, with 25 of them spent at Barton. He first joined the staff at then-Atlantic Christian College in 1988 as head baseball coach, and over 19 seasons became the winningest coach in school history, compiling a career mark of 496-447-3. He led teams to league championships in 1993, 1995, 2002 and 2006, and was named league or district Coach of the Year on four occasions.
Throughout most of his coaching career, he also served as an assistant professor of Physical Education and Sports Studies. After stepping down from his coaching role, Wilkinson served three years as assistant athletic director and compliance director before moving into his current role as AD in January 2015.
“The Todd I knew as a coach had high expectations of his student-athletes,” said Dr. Alan Patterson, commissioner of Conference Carolinas. “He felt they should be held to a standard that was equivalent with Barton College and with Todd Wilkinson, and that was sometimes different than our other teams … As I’ve gotten to know some of his student-athletes, it’s been interesting to note how, at a later time, they appreciate what he stood for and the respect he expected of them.”
As athletics director, Wilkinson has led the expansion of sponsored sports at Barton to 21 with the recent additions of women’s lacrosse, and men’s and women’s swimming. That number will increase further to 22 in 2018-19 with the announced plans to add men’s lacrosse.
Wilkinson was instrumental in the introduction of the Barton Student-Athlete Leadership Academy, the first DII program in the country conducted through the Janssen Sports Leadership Center. He also oversaw a resurgence of the overall program in 2016-17 that resulted in Barton placing third in the Jody Hawn Cup standings, the school’s highest finish since 2006.
In remarks on behalf of all three recipients, Wilkinson noted how quickly 30 years had gone by and how much things had changed. Among examples, he listed the use of rotary phones, copies on carbon paper, pre-game music on cassette tapes and the use of actual road maps.
“Social security numbers were used to identify you, and you would say it out loud with people behind you and you wouldn’t worry about it,” he noted in one of the items that drew big laughs.
However, he added that some things also remain constant over time.
“What will it look like 30 years from now? Or 20? Or 10?” he asked. “Regardless of what it looks like, sports will continue to be played, and to do it right, it will always be about relationships – colleague to colleague, coach to student-athlete, student-athlete to coach, student-athlete to student-athlete. The fundamental of direct communication, teaching character, integrity, honor, honesty and accountability will never change. Never forget this, never waver on your standards.”
The “Legends of the Game” award program began last year. It recognizes administrators who have reached 15 or 30 years of service, and coaches who have achieved certain milestone victories in their careers. Wilkinson is the first Barton administrator to receive the honor, following three coaches who were presented the award last year.