Longtime Augusta College coach Vanover passes away

Former Peach Belt Conference commissioner and longtime Augusta College basketball coach Marvin Vanover passed away early Friday after a brief illness. He was 85.


Vanover was the first commissioner of the Peach Belt and served in that role from 1990 to 2007. Before leading the conference, he was the Jaguars men’s basketball coach and athletic director for 25 years starting in 1963, leading the team to two consecutive NAIA District 25 championships and their first NCAA Division II Tournament appearance.

He compiled a 371-254 record and guided Augusta to two NAIA national tournament appearances before the Division II bid in 1978. His 1969-70 team went 27-3 and reached No. 5 in the nation.

“Augusta University, the city of Augusta, and intercollegiate athletics lost a giant of a man in the passing of Marvin Vanover,” AU athletic director Clint Bryant said in a statement. “Our athletic department and I personally are forever grateful for all that he stood for and the manner in which he lived his life. Our deepest sympathy goes out to his family and all that knew him.”

Vanover was inducted into the inaugural class of the Peach Belt Conference Hall of Fame in 2016. The road to Augusta’s Christenberry Fieldhouse was named in his honor in 2003, and the Peach Belt’s basketball championship was renamed the Marvin Vanover Peach Belt Conference Championships in 2008.

He helped bring the school to the Division II level and was named a coach of the year multiple times between conferences and districts. His work in Augusta has been recognized many times, including Nov. 18, 2003, which the city declared Marvin Vanover Day.

He paved the way for both Augusta’s athletics department and the Peach Belt. After a quarter-century at what’s now Augusta University, Vanover became involved with the initial planning of the conference and was eventually named its first full-time commissioner in June 1991.

Dave Brunk succeeded Vanover as Peach Belt commissioner in 2007. The two first met in the late 1990s when Brunk became commissioner of the Northeast-10 conference.

On a yearly basis, Brunk and Vanover would chat at NCAA conventions and meetings. When Brunk became the new Peach Belt commissioner, Vanover offered his help.

“He always had that smile on that face and wanted to talk Kentucky basketball,” Brunk said. “From Day 1, he was always so nice. He was always ready, willing and able to help.”

Under Vanover’s tenure, the Peach Belt grew into a thriving Division II conference with 24 national championships in 16 years. More than 300 of the conference’s student-athletes were named All-Americans during that time.

Beyond his many accolades and groundbreaking work for Augusta and the Peach Belt, Vanover was known for his kindness.

“Marvin’s greatest strength was in the relationships he forged,” Peach Belt assistant commissioner Ken Gerlinger said in a statement. “No matter where he went, there was somebody he knew or wanted to know. He was a very outgoing and generous person and I will be forever thankful to him for giving me the opportunity to become a part of this league. He has had a big impact on my life.”

A native of Harlan, Ky., Vanover graduated from Georgia Southern University and has served on its alumni board. He also earned a Master’s degree in physical education from Peabody College.

Funeral arrangements will be announced by the family in the coming days.

Staff writer Chris Gay contributed to this article.

Reach David Lee at (706) 823-3216 or david.lee@augustachronicle.com.