High School Sports

Overdue honors for West Charlotte’s McCullough, Collins

Got a call this week from former West Charlotte basketball player Maurice Caldwell, who was one of the stars of the 1986 unbeaten Lions basketball team that won a N.C. 4A state title. He wants to start a movement to name the school’s gym after Charles McCullough, who won six state titles, more than 500 games and is, in my view, the best coach – in any sport – in Mecklenburg County history.

That’s long overdue.

Something else that West Charlotte should do, finally, is retire Mo Collins’ football jersey. Former Lions coach Tom Knotts said he tried to get it done back in 1999, when Collins was with the Oakland Raiders and donated $17,000 to build a much-needed weight room at the school. Collins was a high school All-American lineman who helped West Charlotte to two state championship games in three years. He won a national title at Florida and went to the Super Bowl in Oakland.

But Knotts could never get anywhere with naming the weight room after Collins (which should also happen) or getting the jersey retired.

Collins passed away suddenly Sunday. He had come back to his dream job, coaching at West Charlotte, and was turning around a program that had struggled in recent years. Given Collins’ pedigree, success and loyalty to his high school, Knotts agrees with me that the jersey retirement and the weight room dedication should happen sooner rather than later.

“We could never get anywhere with it,” Knotts said Thursday. “I asked him to give money because we were woefully short of equipment. He said, ‘How much?’ I said it’s $17,000 and he said, ‘I’ll send you a check tomorrow.’ I told everybody we wanted to name it the Mo Collins Weight Room and we couldn’t do that in Charlotte-Meck. I bought a plaque myself and put it on the wall. Boy, was he instrumental. That weight room, at that time, with what he bought, it was the best in North Carolina. We had a dungeon where I lifted with Mo many a day. I told him we were getting a new weight room and he said, ‘Boy, we’re getting a new one? I’m thrilled to help.’ ”

CMS athletics director Sue Doran said any process to name a facility or retire a jersey needed to start with a school making a naming request to the school board. I hope that happens quickly and I hope the board moves to retire the jersey and name the weight room shortly thereafter.

• About a week ago, West Mecklenburg athletics director John Yewcic retired from his athletics duties, Doran said. He still teaches at the school. His daughter, Ashley, is serving as his interim replacement and has quickly had to deal with an issue. Vandals removed bleachers from West Meck’s brand new football stadium – from the home and visitors’ sides – and the Hawks scheduled home game with Berry had to be moved to Berry this week.

• Rock Hill Herald reporter Bret McCormick had an interesting Twitter observation Thursday morning: Two of the area’s top football players are baseball commits: Rock Hill Northwestern’s Dupree Hart (College of Charleston) and Lake Norman’s Josh Ladowski (North Carolina). Both quarterbacks had big games last week. Ladowski accounted for eight touchdowns and more than 500 yards in a 56-28 win over North Lincoln. Hart accounted for more than 400 yards and six touchdowns in a 66-19 win over Nation Ford.

Ladowski and Lake Norman play at North Iredell on Friday. Hart and Northwestern are at home against rival Rock Hill.

• Monroe’s Chase Byrum, a 5-foot-9, 197-pound senior, is carrying on a family tradition. His father, Tony, and his brothers – Ryan and Dion – all played for Monroe.

“It’s a great feeling to follow in the footsteps of my dad and brothers and coach (Johnny) Sowell as a running back here,” Byrum said. “They all experienced it and have helped me become a successful player. While they don’t tell me how to run, they have contributed to the type of back I am today.”

Correspondent Jay Edwards contributed.