Watson to be honored by TSU

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 10, 2002

Sports Columnist

Dr. Earl Grant Watson will be honored next weekend by Troy State University at the annual"Spring Reunion" 2002 weekend scheduled for March 15-17.

Watson served Troy State from 1950-1969 as Director of Athletics and Chairman of the Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation.

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No nicer man has ever served this school and community then Earl Watson did for 19 years. That’s been pretty much the sentiment of all the people I’ve talked with that were, either here at the university when the Watson’s were here or they knew him in the community.

I’ve known Dr. Watson since I was 10 years old and he still has that same great enthusiasm that he had when he was at Troy State.

I can remember as a young boy, me and my friends would go to all of the Troy State football and basketball games and he would treat us with the same kind of warmth that he did when meeting some of the school’s biggest supporters.

The one big thing that set Dr. Watson apart from so many other administrators that I’ve known, is that he treated everyone the same. He treated the night janitors with the same humility and respect that he did his colleagues. His faculty loved him and they respected him as their leader.

He was one of the principal architects of Troy State’s rich athletic tradition. When he came here from the University of Buffalo in 1950, Troy State Teachers College had only two varsity sports, basketball and football.

In just a few years, there was a tennis team, a baseball team, a cross-country team, a golf and a track team. He even brought a wrestling program to Troy State.

He hired Coach Leonard Serfustini to be our basketball coach in 1951 and five years later a fellow named John Archer took over and the program really took off.

While building an athletic department and a physical education program at the Teachers College, he was one of the founders of the old Alabama Collegiate Conference, a league that most of his sports teams participated in. Troy State, Florence State (North Alabama), Livingston State (West Alabama), Jacksonville State, Athens College, Alabama College (University of Montevallo), Huntingdon College, and St. Bernard College in Cullman, made up the eight team league. It quickly became one of the top leagues in the NAIA and was respected nationally. I remember all of the great rivalries! Since all of the teams were from Alabama that made it even more competitive.

Dr. Watson was applauded many times for his ability to put good teams on the field with a very limited budget. He was the man behind the construction of Sartain Hall, which for many years was one of the best small college basketball arenas in the country. He was a little bit dissatisfied with the development of Sartain Hall at first, because they ran out of money and could not construct a then-ultra modern olympic-sized swimming pool beneath the gym floor.

Watson’s main claim to fame, though, was his HYPER program at Troy State. He built one of the nation’s best physical education programs and during his 19 year reign, some of the country’s best coaches and teachers evolved from this curriculum. The HYPER department at Troy State under Dr. Earl Watson was nationally acclaimed.

Dr. Watson set the ground work for the great athletic program and physical education programs that we have today.

"Whoever came up with the idea to honor this man should be showered with roses," one recent caller to the TSU Alumni Affairs office said.

"He’s responsible for the well being of thousands of educators that have walked these hallowed halls, " another caller said.

"I’ll be there with bells on to honor my friend and professor," one superintendent of education said. "They don’t make them like him anymore."

Dr. Watson left Troy in 1969 and moved to Pensacola, Fla., to do the same great things with the physical education program at the University of West Florida.

A receptions for the Watson’s will be held at Trojan Arena on Friday night, March 15 at 6 p.m. The cost is $7 per person. The Watson’s long time friends, Dr. and Mrs. Leonard Serfustini will travel from their home in Las Vegas, Nev., to be with the Watson’s on this special occasion.

On Saturday, March 16, Dr. Watson will be the official starter for his old friend Nick Costes’ 5K run that morning at 8 a.m. At 11 a.m., Dr. Watson will be the grand marshall of the Second Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade down University Avenue on the TSU campus. He will be introduced at the annual T-Day football game at 2 p.m.

At 6:30 p.m., Dr. Watson will be the guest of honor and the key speaker at the Spring Reunion Banquet held at the Adams Center Ballroom.

Dr. Jack Hawkins Jr., Chancellor of the TSU system, will also speak and present to Dr. Earl Watson the Distinguished Leadership Award. Cost for the banquet is $20 per person. All friends and former colleagues are urged to attend these events honoring Dr. Watson. All of the events are open to Troy State alumni and friends.

It’s going to be a great weekend!

Hope to see you there!