AMERICUS — With 378 wins as coach at Georgia Southwestern and 540 career wins, Randolph Barksdale left his mark on the landscape of college basketball in Georgia. On Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, a permanent reminder of Barksdale's impact on GSW Athletics will be in place as the University will name its basketball court after him – "Randolph Barksdale Court."
"It's an honor to have the court named after me," Barksdale said. "There are a lot of people that had a lot to do with my success there that should be given credit for all of the wins and things that happened while I was there."
Barksdale spent 27 seasons as a college head basketball coach. Between 1979 and 2006, he coached GSW men's basketball for 18 seasons (Dekalb College, 1987-1995). Prior to GSW, he served as an assistant coach at Georgia State University, Vanderbilt University and the Georgia Institute of Technology. Barksdale served as GSW athletics director from 2001 until his retirement from athletics in 2008.
"Credit goes to Dr. (Bob) Clark and Dr. (William) Capitan for hiring me the first time, Dr. (Michael) Hanes and Steve Cobb when they hired me the second time, then Dr. (Kendall) Blanchard who has really been a pleasure to work with, and my assistant coaches and players," said Barksdale. "Lastly, credit goes to the community that got behind the program and made it possible for us to recruit players and have the success that we had."
In 1985, he guided the men's basketball team to their first-ever national tournament appearance, advancing to the "Sweet 16." That same year, he was named District 25 Coach of the Year for the second year in a row and led the 'Canes to win the conference for the second consecutive year. In all, he led the Hurricanes to six conference titles, six national tournament appearances, and was named conference coach of the year four different times.
"When I went down there the first time, I think Southwestern had one conference title in the history of the school and had always been sort of at the bottom of the pack," said Barksdale. "Everybody sort of laughed because they thought we couldn't win without scholarships, which led us to start the Hurricane Club. So, that first conference title and first trip to the national tournament will always be special."
During Barksdale's seven-year stent as athletics director, 'Canes sports teams won three conference championships and made 13 appearances in the national tournament. He also led the athletics department through a successful transition from NAIA to NCAA Division II.
"For many long-time fans the name 'Barksdale' is still synonymous with GSW Athletics and Hurricane Basketball," said current GSW Athletics Director Jaclyn Donovan. "I cannot imagine anyone more deserving of this honor than Randolph."
Barksdale's successes in college athletics are visible in wins, championships and statistics. What cannot be seen is that Barksdale is also a prosperous entrepreneur. His business sense was applicable in the board room, the gymnasium and on campus.
"Coach Barksdale jokes that he is not a scholar, but I have never met anyone who was more perceptive, innovative, or capable of critical thought and analysis than he," said GSW President Kendall Blanchard. "He combines amazing business acumen with basic common sense and makes things happen. I learned early on in my tenure at Georgia Southwestern, when Randolph speaks, it pays to listen.
"If I have done anything right during my seven years as president, it is that I have not only listened but have aggressively sought him out for advice on critical issues," added Blanchard.
According to Barksdale, success as a college coach is not entirely about wins and losses. "The biggest successes are the kids that go on and do well in society," he said. "That's really the pleasure of coaching – watching your players establish meaningful careers."
Fittingly, what will be remembered most about Barksdale is the impact he had on his players and the many contributions he made to Georgia Southwestern Athletics.
"He will long be remembered for the time and energy he devoted to the student-athletes here both as a coach and an administrator," said Donovan. "We will remember him with a smile every time we see his name on this floor in the Storm Dome, home of the Hurricanes and the 'house that Barksdale built.'"
The Hurricanes' opponent the night of the court naming ceremony – the University of North Georgia – has special significance to Barksdale. He graduated from North Georgia College in 1976 with a Bachelor of Science in Health and Physical Education after playing guard for the basketball team and leading them to a conference championship. He earned his master's in the same field from Georgia State University in 1981. Barksdale currently resides in his hometown of Conyers.