DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Bethune-Cookman University announced Friday, that Lynn Thompson, Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics, will be leaving his role next month after 30 years with the university’s athletics department. Thompson’s contract expires at the end of June.
“I thank God for the honor of serving with and touching the lives of world-changing student-athletes and staff members at the university that I love, but it’s time. It has been my life’s ministry to help build the brand of B-CU, establish Wildcat Athletics as a comprehensive championship program, but most of all develop student-athletes into Champions in life through their experiences in our program and at our university,” said Thompson. “This past year has been a season of reflection and reassessment- all around. If we learned anything, we have learned not to take life, health or anything else for that matter- for granted. Making this change now gives me the opportunity to focus some time on the most important things to me and my family while embracing new opportunities in the next steps in my personal and professional journey.”
“Lynn Thompson has contributed so much to the success of our students and our Wildcats sports program,” said B-CU Interim President Dr. Hiram Powell. “His professionalism and dedication to the mission of B-CU is nothing shy of remarkable. He has truly left our sports program poised and ready for future growth. I am grateful for all of his many contributions throughout the years.”
Building upon the blueprints of his mentors, the late great Lloyd “Tank” Johnson and Jack “Cy” McClairen, Thompson’s experience in marketing and communications solidified an institutional commitment to use athletics and the Marching Wildcats band as the front porch and branding arm of Bethune-Cookman’s recruiting and promotional strategies as the growth of intercollegiate athletics exploded nationally via a variety of media platforms. With B-CU as the smallest and only faith-based institution in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, the Wildcats created a strategy in the late 1990s that belied a school with an enrollment of its size and comprehensive success soon followed.
Thompson, 63, cultivated a great working relationship with his fellow MEAC member school Florida A&M University. He worked tirelessly to grow the business relationship and jewel of the Florida Classic created by his predecessor Johnson and FAMU AD Hansel Tookes. As a result, the game relocated to Orlando and exploded into the largest and most lucrative HBCU and FBS football game in the nation. More importantly, under Thompson’s leadership, the rivalry with FAMU became far more competitive with the Wildcats, particularly over the past twenty years of his tenure.
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Those twenty years have been deemed “The Golden Years in Wildcat Athletics” where the Cats head-to-head competitive progress in several sports against their in-state rivals became evident. During this time span, B-CU leads with 13 wins against seven losses in football, earning four MEAC titles, and a streak of nine straight wins in the Florida Blue Florida Classic. In men’s basketball, the Cats enjoy a 27-15 head to head record against the Rattlers and two MEAC regular-season crowns; and in women’s basketball B-CU has virtually pulled even with FAMU with a 23-24 record with nine consecutive wins and five MEAC regular-season championships during this era. In the diamond sports, B-CU baseball owns a 70-34 advantage with a MEAC record-setting 15 championships and the distinction of being the only HBCU to earn a spot in an NCAA Baseball Regional Final. In softball, the Cats stand at 63-50 over their rivals with 10 MEAC titles and the only HBCU ever to win an NCAA Softball Regional Tournament and advance to an NCAA Super Regional. The Cats also produced three Olympians in track and field during this era.
“I want to thank our university’s leadership team, from the Trustees to the Cabinet for trusting me with the lives of generations of future leaders of our world. I did not ever take that responsibility lightly. More importantly, I want to thank every student-athlete, coach, staff member, alumni and fan of the Wildcat Nation who believed in us and what we could do. Their faith is what propelled us forward!”
Looking to the future, Thompson wants to be proactive. “It is an exciting time for B-CU as we become members of the historic Southwestern Athletic Conference, where the program will continue to build on a great legacy of success. No matter where I am or what I am doing, when B-CU calls, I will answer.”
Hired initially at Bethune-Cookman in 1991, as the youngest Division I athletics director in the nation, Thompson is now the longest-tenured and one of the most respected Division I athletic directors in the NCAA. Because of his success, Thompson was elevated to the position of Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics in 2015, providing executive leadership over the 17-sport Division I program and support offices for the B-CU Department of Athletics.
As the senior statesman amongst Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and Historically Black College and University athletic directors, he serves nationally as a committee chair and well sought-after leader for input on various NCAA committees. In 2020, Thompson received the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) Under Armour AD of the Year Award, and in 2017, in recognition of his career accomplishments, he was inducted into the MEAC Hall of Fame, in recognition of his career accomplishments.
“Lynn has been the consummate professional for over three decades. He has built the Bethune-Cookman athletics program to national prominence,” said MEAC Commissioner Dr. Dennis Thomas. “As a son of Bethune-Cookman, Lynn bleeds Maroon and Gold and he has always been student-athlete centric. He is highly respected nationally; Lynn has served on many NCAA National Committees. He is a progressive thinker, and we wish him well on his next journey.”
With a myriad of other career milestones Thompson also served as the first African-American to chair the NCAA Baseball Rules Committee, and served terms on the NCAA I-AA Football, NCAA Division I Baseball and the NCAA Football Issues Committees, with vast experience in creating policy for intercollegiate athletics on a national level Thompson also served the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference as chairman of the MEAC Basketball, Softball, Track and Field and Baseball Tournaments. He was selected five times as an NCAA Peer Reviewer for the athletics certification process and currently serves as the chairman of the MEAC Forecasting Committee which coordinates all of the Covid-19 Pandemic-related policy and procedures for the league. He currently serves on the NCAA Committee on Academics, which oversees the academic standards of intercollegiate athletics.
Known for his ability to hire and develop coaches and administrators, Thompson has produced a bumper crop of athletic professionals who are now industry leaders in collegiate and professional sports such as Jashell Mitchell of the NFL, Lericia Harris of ESPN, Opio Mashariki and Tony O’Neal, athletic directors at Savannah State and Claflin University’s respectively, Cesely Tafoya, former Director of Marketing for the MEAC, Jasmine Alston, Founder of ‘Black Originals’ a lifestyle and marketing brand agency and Senior Creative Manager at Footlocker Inc., and Keith Holt, Director of Compliance at Temple University. A host of coaches have enjoyed outstanding success as a result of the Wildcat pedigree. Former head coaches from B-CU who have enjoyed phenomenal careers include Laura Watten who made the jump from B-CU to Maryland, Mervyl Melendez, legendary baseball coach now at FIU and most recently Ryan Ridder and Vanessa Blair-Lewis, head men’s and women’s basketball coaches at UT-Martin and George Mason University.
Under Thompson’s watch, BCU Athletics has become a comprehensive program that wins across the board…on the fields of competition, and in the classroom. (B-CU opted out of all athletic competition during the 2020-2021 academic year due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, thus the Wildcats did not compete in any MEAC or NCAA sports during their final year in the MEAC.) The Wildcats have won the MEAC’s Talmadge Hill Men’s All-Sports Award in four of the past six seasons and have annually placed in the top three women’s programs in the league, winning the Mary McLeod Bethune All-Sports Award in 2016. Wildcat student-athletes have also excelled in the classroom, winning the MEAC’s Academic Progress Rate Award in 2018.
Consistently, BCU Athletics meets the standard across the board in all sports from an academic perspective.
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During his tenure, Thompson directed the Wildcats to a total of 71 championships, beginning with 54 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) crowns, including a dynasty of 12 baseball championships in a 15-year span; a streak of five consecutive softball titles from 2000-2004 – as well as three additional consecutive titles from 2010-12 and two more in 2018-19. B-CU Football has won a total of six MEAC titles, including at least a share of three consecutive from 2012-14 and continues to finish in the top three in the MEAC. Additionally, the Wildcats won three national HBCU championships.
Success under Thompson’s leadership has also been found on the hardcourt with a men’s regular-season crown in 2018, a 3-peat in women’s basketball in 2016-18 and the university’s first NCAA women’s tournament appearance in 2019.
B-CU’s golf programs have won a total of 24 PGA National Minority Golf Championships (15 women, nine men) titles, featuring an international roster from all around the world. The men’s program won the inaugural 2014 MEAC Golf Championship, earning the school’s first-ever team bid to the NCAA Regionals in Raleigh, North Carolina. B-CU track & field has produced an indoor/outdoor NCAA hurdling champion and was represented by the Wildcats’ first-ever Olympian in the 2012 London Olympic Games. In 2015, B-CU Men’s Track & Field swept the indoor and outdoor MEAC crowns, while defending the outdoor title of 2014. Both men and women’s programs consistently maintain top three status annually in the MEAC track championship race.
Away from the athletic fields, Thompson is heavily involved in the B-CU Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), where his office is constantly open for prayer and consultation with all students. He served as a staff pastor at Calvary Christian Center in Ormond Beach, Florida, for over 10 years in addition to leading the men’s ministry.
A veteran television and radio producer and personality, Thompson has utilized his experience in the media with the development of B-CU’s CatEye Network which produces and distributes programs on television, live streaming of Wildcats athletic events, and he also serves as executive producer of the various B-CU coach’s television shows and the CatEye Radio Network. In addition to his duties as Vice President, he served as chair of the advisory committee for the university’s acquisition and management team of WELE 1380 “The Cat” radio station located in Ormond Beach, Florida.
Thompson graduated from then Bethune-Cookman College in 1980 with a bachelor’s degree in Pre-Med, and later earned a master’s degree from Clark-Atlanta University in 1984. He went on to embark on a mass communications/performing arts career that continues to this day. For many years, he worked on PBS projects in Atlanta, and he hosted the public affairs show Vibrations on WESH-TV, an NBC affiliate based out of Orlando, Florida. He continues to produce and host the regional television and radio shows highlighting Bethune-Cookman University athletics on Fox Sports Florida and Bright House Networks.
He has three children and one granddaughter. His oldest daughter, Tai Lynne, an award-winning theatrical director, is a graduate of Florida State University, and currently lives in New York. His son, Matthew David, is currently director of athletic marketing at Tulane University. His youngest daughter Lyndsay Olga, a professional in the property management/real estate industry, resides in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Courtesy: BCU Athletics