Bryant, Young to be inducted into Augusta City Classic Hall of Fame

For 28 years, Clint Bryant has become such a fixture in so many parts of the Augusta community that you realize he's more than just the director of athletics at Augusta University.

 

On Friday, the former Jaguars basketball coach will have his coaching contributions recognized with induction into the Augusta City Classic Hall of Fame.

"If you stay around long enough things just come your way and I'm one of those guys who's been around a long time," Bryant said.

That's hardly a fair synopsis of a man with such diverse talents and accomplishments. Bryant is a worthy selection to be enshrined along with former longtime area high school coach Al Young in Friday night's banquet at the Augusta Marriott Hotel & Suites.

"I'm honored and humbled and feel especially good about being inducted with Al Young, who I think is one of the all-time best people I've ever had the opportunity to know," Bryant said.

If you've ever had a conversation with Bryant, you quickly realize he knows pretty much everyone – especially the coaching ranks. Bryant can quickly rattle off the names of previous inductees into the Augusta City Classic Hall of Fame – Don Brock, David Dupree, Henry Daggett, Norman Bonner, Marvin Vanover, Ron Spry, Michael Curry, Larry Campbell, Roscoe Williams and E.G. Meybohm.

"They are really some quality people and I've had the opportunity to know everyone who's been inducted so far," Bryant said. "To even be mentioned in that group is highly humbling and I'm appreciative and overwhelmed that people think I'm deserving of such an honor."

When Bryant first came to town in 1988, he was more than just a former Belmont Abbey basketball player and 12-year coaching assistant under Bill Foster at Clemson and Miami. He won 106 games in nine seasons at the Jaguars' helm, including three consecutive 17-win seasons from 1991-94, but his significance went beyond the court from the day he arrived.

Bryant was hired for the dual role of coach as well as director of athletics, and that made him the first person of color not employed at a historically black college or university to report directly to a school president in the state of Georgia.

"At that time, I didn't know the significance of that," Bryant said.

Augusta University couldn't have realized the significant impact Bryant would have on the school and community over the next few decades. His influence has made him a frequent member of NCAA management councils and various boards both inside and outside of athletics. He was one of the founding members of the Black Coaches Association in 1988 trying to address inequality in the coaching profession.

It was also Bryant who convinced Nike to established its annual Peach Jam in North Augusta in 1996, turning the region into the travel basketball center of the universe each July. Every prominent coach in the nation who comes to Riverview Park is on a first-name basis with Bryant.

It's not a career legacy Bryant envisioned when he accepted a scholarship to play Division II basketball in North Carolina more than 40 years ago.

"This is a path I hadn't set out to do," Bryant said. "I've spent virtually my whole adult life on a college campus. When I left my mom's house in 1973 to go to college at Belmont Abbey, there's no way in the world you'd tell me that 40-some years later I would still be on a college campus. That's the way it played out."

Bryant will be presented at Friday night's ceremony by basketball hall of fame coach George Raveling.

It was Raveling, when he was an assistant at Maryland, who sent Bryant the very first recruiting letter he ever received when he was only 16 and inadvertently started him down this career path in collegiate athletics.

"I don't regret one moment of it at all," Bryant said. "I've been very fortunate."

Over the years, Bryant was had a couple opportunities to leave Augusta that he seriously considered. But approaching his 62nd birthday, he has no plans to leave or retire as long as Augusta University will have him. He's relished seeing the Jaguars grow from small Augusta College to an expanding research Augusta University and wants to see it through.

"I'm in the short rows, as my grandaddy used to call it," he said. "I'm going to finish my career here and stay around as long as I can. It has been and always will be about the kids."

Joining Bryant in the 2016 class will be Young, who spent 37 years coaching everything from basketball to football to track while also teaching physical education at various schools including Thomson, Cross Creek and North Augusta. Young retired as basketball coach at North Augusta in 2014.

A member of the South Carolina State University Hall of Fame as a standout wide receiver, Young was drafted in 1971 by the Pittsburgh Steelers and spent two seasons in the NFL before his health pushed him into his coaching career.

Saturday's Augusta City Classic will feature Benedict College and Albany State at Lucy C. Laney Stadium at 2 p.m.

"I've always thought the Classic was pretty special in town and the chance for people to come together for a good small-college game," Bryant said. "The camaraderie around it is special."

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