Lenoir-Rhyne University Athletics, in collaboration with the Bears Club, announced at its annual dinner Tuesday, Aug. 7, a $2.6-million fundraising campaign to build the Neill McGeachy Sports Performance Center. The center will be named for McGeachy ’65, former director of intercollegiate athletics and executive director of the Bears Club, who died earlier this year.
McGeachy was a three-sport standout student-athlete at LR in football, basketball, and track, and earned All-American honors. McGeachy served LR athletics for 14 years, and his transformational leadership elevated Bears sports to national prominence while spearheading unprecedented growth. The sports performance center will stand as a tribute to McGeachy’s life work and his profound impact on LR athletics. The campaign theme announced for the project is Forever 46 in honor of McGeachy’s legacy and jersey number.
“Paramount to sustained success of Bears athletics are facilities consistent with a championship program,” said University President Dr. Fred Whitt. “The Neill McGeachy Sports Performance Center will not only honor Neill’s memory and his commitment to LR, but it will also enhance the student-athlete experience and performance, improve recruiting, and magnify the visibility of LR athletics in an increasingly competitive environment.”
The facility will feature 14,000 square feet of new and enhanced multiuse training space, a weight room, nutrition bar and indoor turf training area, enhanced team meeting spaces, additional coaches offices, and a covered pavilion for Bears Club hospitality and engagement space. The athletic department aims to break ground on this project in the next year.
“This initiative is incredibly special as it allows us to celebrate and honor Neill’s life work and the profound impact he had on LR, while building a state-of-the-art facility that supports our strategic vision to develop and prepare our student-athletes not only for competition but also for life,” said Athletic Director Kim Pate. “This facility will support our coaches’ efforts in developing their student-athletes’ mind, body, and spirit in support of LR’s mission to develop the whole person.”
The facility will support student-athletes in all 22 intercollegiate sports. Thanks to unprecedented growth of the athletic programs, the student-athlete population has almost doubled over the past decade. This much-needed additional space will support the immediate and future needs of the entire athletic program. The facility will also support the growing needs of the Bears Club by providing a covered pavilion for hosting game-day hospitality events, as well as an engagement space for teams and the broader campus community. The construction of the sports performance center is crucial to continued success for the Bears and will position the athletic program to attract talented student-athletes and coaches, as well as increase membership of the Bears Club.
“The new facility will serve as an excellent recruiting tool that will enable us to attract top athletic talent across all 22 teams and will position LR in the top 10 percent of all DII programs for sports performance facilities,” said Drew Cronic, head football coach.
As a student-athlete, McGeachy proudly wore the number 46 on his football jersey. The Forever 46 campaign invites donors of all levels to make a gift to honor the profound impact McGeachy had on Bears athletics, the University, and the countless lives he touched during his time at LR.
Donors who make a transformational gift of $25,000 or more will join Club 46 and have their name printed prominently on the Club 46 donor recognition signage in the Bears Club Pavilion. Additional donor opportunities and naming recognition are available at all giving levels.
Tuesday evening’s dinner also featured three accomplished coaches, all with unique ties to the University and to McGeachy:
Rick Barnes ’77, one of the most accomplished collegiate basketball coaches, recently led the University of Tennessee men’s basketball team to the 2018 regular-season Southeastern Conference Championship. A native of Hickory, North Carolina, Barnes was a standout player at LR, where he lettered for three seasons and won the Captain’s Award for Leadership as both a junior and senior.
Mike Houston, former LR football head coach for three seasons, is currently head coach at James Madison University. Houston accumulated a 29-8 record at the helm and directed the Bears to three consecutive South Atlantic Conference championships, a stretch that included a school-record 13 wins in his final year. In his final season at LR, the Bears advanced to the NCAA Division II national championship game and ranked No. 2 in the final polls.
Ryan Odom, former LR basketball coach, is the men’s basketball head coach at University of Maryland Baltimore County, where he coached his team to college basketball history March 16, 2018, when UMBC defeated Virginia 74–54 in the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament. Odom served as head men’s basketball coach at LR for the 2015-16 season. The Bears, with a 21-10 record that season, advanced to the NCAA Division II regional finals for the first time in school history and won 20 games in a season for the first time in eight years.
Each spoke in memory of McGeachy and encouraged those in attendance to support the fundraising efforts.