With less than two months remaining before the first Bluefield College football game in 70 years, supporters continue to step forward to invest in the return of the program.
Former Bluefield College professor and longtime Bluefield, Virginia, resident Dr. Don Caudill was on the BC campus recently to present a $5,000 check to Rams football and to become the latest founding member of the Rams Football Booster Club.
“What excites me is that donors are continuing to step forward,” said head football coach Mike Gravier, who accepted the school’s first football startup gift nearly a year ago. “My fear was that after the initial excitement, the support would dwindle, but as we move forward and see more and more people stepping up, it’s encouraging that the word is still getting out, and it’s not just a flash in the pan, and people are continuing to invest in getting this program started.”
Bluefield College formally announced the return of intercollegiate football in June of 2010 after 70 years without gridiron competition and following an extensive four-year-long study to determine the feasibility of reviving the sport. Shortly thereafter, the college hired Coach 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 begin club play in the sport this fall and full intercollegiate action in the fall of 2012. Since then, nearly 100 donors, including Dr. Caudill, have stepped up with a gift of at least $5,000 to help underwrite startup costs for the new sport.
“We wouldn’t be able to start this program without gifts like this from Dr. Caudill,” said Coach Gravier. “People like him are helping us realize this dream.”
A native of Norton, Virginia, who lived in Bluefield, Virginia, for eight years, Dr. Caudill has been a longtime supporter of Bluefield College. His gifts to BC have supported scholarships, the adult degree completion program, communication students, and now football.
“I think a football program can bring a lot of great things to a college,” Dr. Caudill said about his reasons for supporting the new sport. “It can bring things no other program can, and that’s why I wanted to be a part of it. I’m excited about the potential for football at Bluefield College, and I just wanted to be a part of something great.”
During his tenure as a professor of business at Bluefield College from 2004 to 2008, Dr. Caudill served as chair of the organizational management and leadership portion of the adult degree completion program. He also served as faculty advisor for BC’s chapters of Sigma Beta Delta, Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE), and Phi Beta Lambda (PBL).
Now a professor of marketing at Gardner Webb University’s Godbold School of Business in North Carolina, Dr. Caudill also established the Alfred and Shirley Wampler Caudill Scholarship Fund at Bluefield College in 2007 in memory of his father, in honor of his mother, and in an effort to support adult education at BC.
“Don is a great example of service and mentorship,” said Ruth Blankenship, BC’s vice president for advancement. “He’s a strong Christian, a successful businessman, a man of character, and a role model for our student-athletes. He has a long history of supporting Bluefield College, and this is just his most recent interest and latest contribution to the school.”
Dr. Caudill’s gift to football, like all Football Booster Club contributions, is being used to purchase the team’s first uniforms, helmets, shoulder pads and other equipment. The startup gifts are also helping pay coaches’ salaries and allowing those same coaches to travel and recruit the team’s first players.
“I agree with all the other supporters of this football program who say it’s going to be great for not only the school, but also the community,” said Dr. Caudill. “It’s a win-win for Bluefield and for Bluefield College.”
About 50 players to date are on the Rams football roster, some just accepted, while others fully enrolled in the admission process. Coach Gravier said he hopes to field at least 60 players when the team takes the field this fall for an exhibition season that features seven scrimmage games and three intra-squad matchups, including the season opener at Guilford College in North Carolina on August 27, the home opener at Mitchell Stadium on September 17, and a Homecoming intra-squad scrimmage on October 15.