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    TIM PEELER: Weedon's Five Decades of Bleeding Red
     

    March 13, 2008

    BY Tim Peeler

    RALEIGH, N.C. Frank Weedon can’t and probably wouldn’t if he could tell you his favorite memory in his five decades as an integral part of NC State athletics. There's just too much to choose from.

    He’ll easily recall the scariest moment the March afternoon in 1974 when David Thompson tripped over teammate Phil Spence’s shoulder in the NCAA East Regional at Reynolds Coliseum and lay motionless on the court.

    He can tell you the loudest roar he ever heard when Thompson returned to Reynolds from Rex Hospital, and everyone saw that college basketball’s greatest player was alive and well.

    He can tell you some of his favorite people and rest assured anyone remotely associated with ACC or college athletics over the last five decades have crossed paths with Weedon, from Roman Gabriel to Philip Rivers, from Everett Case to Sidney Lowe, both the player and head basketball coach.

    And he’ll even tell you his proudest moment the day in 1982 that he accepted the plaque for legendary NC State basketball coach Everett Case’s posthumous induction into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame.

    But favorite moment? When you have been to as many NC State athletics events as Weedon -- from Riddick Stadium, Reynolds Coliseum, Doak Field, Carter-Finley Stadium and the RBC Center -- there have been too many to pare down to a short list. Plus, the loyal and dedicated Weedon is the type of kind-hearted person who would never declare one sport, one player or one coach to be a favorite over another.

    “It has all been fun, and I have met an awful lot of nice people,” Weedon said.

    Thursday, during halftime of the NC State-Miami game in the ACC Basketball Tournament, Weedon will be presented the Marvin “Skeeter” Francis Award, presented annually since 1990 in recognition of notable achievement and service to the media in coverage of ACC athletics.

    Weedon, a native of Washington, D.C., and a graduate of Maryland, arrived at NC State as the sports information director in 1960, after two years in a similar role at Lehigh University. When he arrived in Raleigh, he committed himself to NC State, becoming one of the most recognizable and long-standing figures in Wolfpack athletics.

    Weedon had a red blazer, albeit made from 1960s industrial-strength polyester, long before Lowe was recruited by Norm Sloan.

    “Frank and I used to room together at the ACC wrestling tournament,” said former NC State wrestling coach Bob Guzzo. “I remember one morning I walked in, about 7 a.m., and Frank was standing there in his red-and-white NC State boxer shorts, with a red toothbrush, whistling the fight song as he brushed his teeth.

    “You can’t get much more NC State than that.”

    Actually, the Weedons did. Frank and Janice, his wife since 1989, have probably attended more NC State events -- athletic, cultural and academic -- than any couple in school history. Frank Weedon has also contributed more money to the Wolfpack Club than any employee of the athletics department. Included in his gifts are a $100,000 scholarship endowment and a $50,000 naming gift for the press box at Doak Field at Dail Park.

    “Frank has been a tremendous supporter of NC State,” said Wolfpack Club executive director Bobby Purcell. “He has given more money to the Wolfpack Club than any athletics department employee in NC State history and is among the biggest donors of any NC State employee over the years.

    “He and Janice come to all our events. They go to all our sports. There has been nobody who has been a better Wolfpacker ever than Frank Weedon. He’s a great gentleman, a great person. He is really a hero. He represents what we all aspire to be in our lives and what college athletics is all about.”

    Weedon is a fixture at games, at functions, at reunions.

    “He is everywhere, especially if there is food provided,” said former athletics director and basketball coach Les Robinson once said. “And some of them, he was even invited to.”

    Though he officially retired as an athletics department administrator in 1995, Weedon still arrives nearly every morning to his office at the Weisiger-Brown building. He still serves as the unofficial historian and walking anecdote mill for NC State athletics.

    Want to hear stories about Everett Case? Go to Frank. Lou Holtz? Go to Frank. Jim Valvano? Go to Frank. Want information about NC State fencing or lacrosse, two sports that are no longer part of the athletic department? Go to Frank. Want to hear about the early days of radio networks, television contracts or women’s athletics? Go to Frank. Want to hear former NC State football coach Earle Edwards’ idea for a college football playoff? Weedon can show you the article in a 1968 newspaper.

    “The greatest thing about having Frank around is all the history and knowledge,” said athletics director Lee Fowler. “I still go to him on a weekly or monthly basis and ask him questions about what happened here or there. If he doesn’t know it and he usually does he knows where to go find it.”

    And he’s a constant in an athletic department that has seen consistent turnover during his tenure.

    “I always feel like the one thing athletes love to see when they come back to campus is someone they know,” Fowler said. “For nearly 50 years, Frank has been that person. They always want to see him.”

    But if you want to talk sympathetically about officiating, stay away from Weedon’s office. If ACSMA had a sense of humor, its representatives would wear black-and-white stripes to present the award to Weedon, who has spent a lifetime disagreeing with referees, officials and umpires.

    Some of his most notorious exploits are legendary around an anecdote-rich league. He was once whistled for a technical foul in a basketball game against Maryland, making basketball coach Norm Sloan turn a never-before-seen shade of red plaid. Opposing football coaches used to make a sport of watching Weedon on game films run up and down the sidelines giving line judges an earful. Sometimes, the best kick in any game was a Weedon-booted water cooler.

    “He sits up in my box now, instead of the press box, so now I get to watch him run up and down the aisles screaming at officials,” Fowler said.

    Weedon’s first love, and biggest passion, has always been baseball, and he has been the burr under just about every chest protector that has made its way onto a diamond. ACC Assistant Commissioner Mike Finn remembers a summer league baseball game in Buies Creek in the early 1980s when Weedon was thrown out of the dugout for razzing the umpires. He sneaked back in through a back door, took up his heckling again was thrown out for a second time for a whole new set of offenses.

    Former NC State catcher Francis Combs has, without a doubt, the best Weedon story. Combs was managing another summer league team that played at NC State’s Doak Field. Weedon was a constant supporter in the dugout. But after he disagreed with several calls, he eventually hit the final nerve for the umpire, who kicked Weedon out of the dugout and out of the stadium.

    “I want you to go somewhere where I can't hear you or see you,” the umpire told Weedon.

    “OK, then,” Weedon said. “I’ll come stand on home plate you haven’t seen it all day long.”

    But there are many other sides to Weedon. He was the tournament manager for the old Dixie Classic and a half-dozen ACC Tournaments. He was the official scorer for the 1966 Final Four, when long-shot Texas Western shocked Kentucky for the national championship. He saw a couple of other pretty good basketball champions when the Wolfpack beat UCLA and Marquette in the 1974 Final Four and Georgia and Houston in 1983.

    He’s been to all but one of NC State’s football bowl games. He personally made an All-America out of Gabriel, the Wolfpack’s first nationally prominent player.

    Weedon became the associate athletics director to Willis Casey in 1971, and handled many of the day-to-day operations for Casey and Valvano.

    “He has been the backbone of that athletics department for almost 50 years,” said Finn, who was an assistant to Weedon’s successor, Ed Seaman, at NC State. “He was Willis Casey’s right hand man and top administrator, and they were very successful in 26 varsity sports on a shoe-string budget.”

    Casey was known for hiring top young coaching talent, like Lou Holtz, Bo Rein, Dick Sheridan, Jim Valvano and Kay Yow. Weedon helped him pick and choose all of them.

    Coaches around the ACC and country also have reason to honor Weedon. He helped NC State create the first university-affiliated regional radio network in the early 1960s. Shortly after Weedon arrived at NC State, he noticed that the old Tobacco State Radio Network, featuring play-by-play announcer Ray Reeve and Jim Reid, would often broadcast more North Carolina and Duke games than NC State games.

    After one particularly distressing run of hearing about the Blue Devils and Tar Heels, Weedon organized the NC State fraternities to call in and complain. Response was so great that WPTF 680-FM soon became the flagship station for NC State athletics, and Weedon traveled across the state to sign up more stations the first incarnation of the Wolfpack Radio Network.

    Now, every school in the conference and most schools in the nation have something similar, and revenues from those organizations help pay for the bulk of the multi-million dollar coaching salaries.

    And Weedon set several records at Carter-Finley Stadium that have yet to be broken, even after a full decade of stadium expansion and renovation. Some of his estimated attendances of more than 60,000 spectators probably won’t fall until the upper deck is fully enclosed.

    “One thing Frank always did so well was make sure the attendance figures at all our games were more than what they had at Carolina,” Fowler said.

    You may contact Tim Peeler at tim_peeler@ncsu.edu.

     

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