Conference Founding Father and Administrator
It is hard to enumerate how many individuals former ASUN Commissioner Bill Bibb has impacted during his career in the profession to which he committed more than five decades of his life. As player, coach, administrator, observer and many other small and unnoticed roles in between, Bibb has positively influenced intercollegiate athletics and, in particular, the game of basketball and the ASUN.
"In many ways, this conference sits squarely on Bill Bibb's shoulders," said ASUN Commissioner Ted Gumbart. "As one of the founders, and later the leader of the conference as Commissioner for 15 years, his contribution will never be matched. I invite everyone who has participated in ASUN Championships over our 38 years of competition - players, coaches, administrators and fans - to join me in saluting Commissioner Bibb as the first founding member to join our conference Hall of Fame."
Hailing from Owensboro, Kentucky, Bibb developed his love of the game as he grew up in a basketball rich corridor of the country. A fine high school player who earned all-state honors as a senior, Bibb refined his skills at the same high school as former University of Kentucky greats, All-American center Cliff Hagan and All-SEC guard Bobby Watson.
Bibb signed to play for legendary coach Adolph Rupp and was a member of the school's only undefeated team in 1954, which finished 25-0. Just as in high school, Bibb was a two-sport student-athlete at UK, also playing baseball. But because no restrictions were placed on squad size during Bibb's playing career, the Wildcat roster was crowded. Bibb desired playing time and made the decision to transfer close to home to Kentucky Wesleyan to complete his collegiate career. There he played two seasons and as a senior he participated in the NCAA's first-ever Division II Championship Tournament, finishing second. He earned AP All-American honors following his senior season in 1957.
Following graduation and pursuit of his Master's degree in education at the University of Kentucky, it didn't take long for Bibb to begin to cast his lot into the coaching profession--beginning as an assistant basketball coach for Robert "Bullet" Wilson along with service as the head baseball coach at Kentucky Wesleyan from 1959 until 1966.
Bibb's ability not only to coach but to recruit landed him several other assistant coach positions on the staffs of Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas (1966-69), St. Louis University (1969-71), and at Utah State (1971-73). It was the following year in 1973-74, however, that Bibb and his family, wife Linda and son Brad, settled in Macon, Ga., as Bibb became an assistant coach for Mercer University. The Bears were just one year removed from having participated in the NCAA Tournament at the Division II level under Dwayne Morrison, and Bibb served only one year under Joe Dan Gold before taking the reins and offering the Bears stability for the next 15 years.
Bibb had a good run at Mercer from 1974-89. Twice the Bears posted 20+ win seasons and his 222 wins still rank him as the program's all-time leader in the category. In 1981 Mercer won its first conference title, advancing to the NCAA Midwest Regional. The Bears gave 20th-ranked Arkansas all it wanted, as with 10 minutes remaining in the game the score was tied at 54. The Razorbacks won 73-67, but the outcome truly was in doubt until the very end.
Bibb's second championship title came in 1985, advancing the Bears to the NCAA East Regional to face a talented Georgia Tech squad led by John Salley, Mark Price, and Bruce Dalrymple and coached by Bobby Cremins. Tech won 65-58, but again the Bears earned respect for the Trans America Athletic Conference (TAAC).
Along with leading the Bears to their first pair of conference championships, Bibb twice claimed Coach of the Year honors. During his tenure, 17 players earned All-Conference honors with Benton Wade and Sam Mitchell earning Conference Player of the Year honors. Tony Gattis and Mitchell were also named Conference Tournament Most Valuable Players and the National Basketball Association drafted eight of Bibb's players. Mitchell enjoyed the longest NBA playing career from 1989-2002, and since the 2002-03 season has served as a coach with four NBA teams that includes two stints as head coach for the Toronto Raptors (2004-2009) and the Minnesota Timberwolves (2015-16). He was also named the NBA Coach of the Year in 2006-07.
Along with serving as basketball coach, Bibb pulled double-duty as Mercer's Director of Athletics from1980-89, perhaps providing an additional outlet for his attention to organization and detail. And if coaching and administering an athletic department weren't enough to keep him busy, he also became a founding father of the TAAC. The conference was founded as a men's sports only league in 1978, while a women's league, the New South Women's Athletic Conference, was formed in 1985. After a two-year stint as Director of Athletics at UT-Arlington from 1989-91, Bibb became the conference's third full-time commissioner in 1991, and helped oversee the transition as the two conferences merged for the 1991-92 academic year. The conference name was changed to the Atlantic Sun Conference beginning with the 2001-02 academic year.
Bibb's 50-year career allowed him to be a part of some interesting experiences. The question was asked once, "In just how many roles can you be involved with the NCAA and postseason?" For Bibb, the answer is eight. As a player he experienced it at the Division I and Division II levels in basketball and baseball. As a coach he experienced it with five different institutions, and as an administrator he enjoyed that success as an athletic director and as commissioner.
Since its inception in 1978, the conference continues to provide and enhance opportunities for student-athletes to compete and to excel at the highest levels in academic, athletics and as contributors in their communities.
The accomplishments during Bibb's tenure as commissioner are varied and numerous. He oversaw the growth of the ASUN from an all-men's conference competing for just six titles to a men's and women's league that sported 17 championships when he stepped down. He was responsible for starting the President's Council, which today provides valuable insight into leadership and vision of the conference. During his tenure, the ASUN grew financially and he negotiated the conference's "Friday Night (men's basketball) Game of the Week" package with CSS, making it the only mid-major conference for a time with such a deal. Bibb also instituted an additional benefit in the form of a retirement plan, providing example of the loyalty and the concern he had in taking care of people.
By his hard work and diligence the conference also became more regional, establishing a footprint that provided stability and allowed for growth within areas that provided for easier travel, development of rivalries and the ability to grow a fan base.
As a founding father of the conference, Bibb's influence on student-athletes, coaches, administrators, staff and fans has led him to a well-deserved place as a member of the ASUN Hall of Fame Class of 2016.