Bluefield College received a boost to its new football program, Friday, September 3, with a major gift from a local family with a tradition of supporting the Greater Bluefield community.
Helping the college bridge the gap between its football program from decades ago and the new generation of Ramblin’ Rams, brothers Bill Cole, Charlie Cole and Tom Cole presented a $5,000 check to BC president Dr. David Olive, connecting one generation of giving to a new generation of giving for the Cole family.
“This community has been very good to us over the years,” said Bill Cole. “I think it’s only appropriate that we give back any way we can. It’s something our parents demonstrated to us, and it’s something we strongly believe in.”
The Cole family’s contributions to the Greater Bluefield community began some four generations ago when Bill, Charlie and Tom’s great, great grandfather operated a grocery store in town. Since, the Cole generations have managed numerous other business ventures, employed thousands of local residents, served a variety of civic organizations, held leadership positions in government, and supported many community causes, the latest being BC football.
“Football is a wonderful tradition in southern West Virginia and southwest Virginia, and having a college football program in Bluefield will only add to that tradition,” said Tom Cole. “It’s something to be proud of, and any time we can add something that will make Bluefield a little better place, then we want to do that.”
The Cole brothers said the family hopes to contribute even more to the community in the future through the Paul and Carol Cole Foundation, a charitable organization named in honor of their parents.
“The foundation will allow us to support the community to an even greater degree,” said Charlie Cole. “As it grows, we will be able to increase our giving.”
In addition to the economic impact a college football program will bring to the Greater Bluefield community, the Coles cited the Bluefield College mission as a reason to support the new sport.
“We believe strongly in what the college is doing, and sometimes people don’t realize just how much this institution means to the community,” said Bill Cole. “We think it’s important for us, even others, to get behind the college and to get involved in what it’s doing.”
The $5,000 gift from the Coles, which makes the family a charter member of the Rams Football Booster Club, will help new football coach Mike Gravier begin the process of visiting, traveling, and recruiting players for the program.
“This is a great gift from the Cole family, and we appreciate their involvement in our football program and in the mission of the college,” said Dr. Olive. “This gift will help us in our continual efforts to revive and to seek support for football. Our hope is that it will encourage others to get behind the new program, as well.”
After an extensive four-year-long feasibility study and a tremendous show of support from alumni and friends, Bluefield College officials formally announced in June of this year the return of intercollegiate football to the school after a 69-year hiatus. Shortly thereafter, the college hired Gravier, a coach with a history of launching new football programs and a track record of developing players both on and off the field, to revive the sport.
“We can’t have football without people like the Coles, who get on board to support Bluefield College football,” said Coach Gravier, who joined the president, athletic director Pete Dryer, vice president for advancement Ruth Blankenship, and fellow Rams Football Boosters Jim and Chris Justice in accepting the Cole check. “It’s the only reason we have football right now.”
BC will begin club play for football in the fall of 2011. The team will begin intercollegiate action, most likely in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics’ Mid-South Conference, in the fall of 2012.