Remembering a legend: Celebrating the life of Marvin Vanover

Courtesy: Peach Belt Conference

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) — Marvin Vanover was a fixture in Augusta for more than 50 years. He devoted his life to Augusta University and the Peach Belt Conference.

He spent 25 years as the athletic director and basketball coach at Augusta before he helped create the Peach Belt in 1990, and served as its first commissioner for 17 years. He transformed both Augusta and the Peach Belt into what they are today, but he will forever be remembered by the lives he impacted.

“Marvin is just a very special guy,” Augusta University athletic director Clint Bryant said. “He was a great basketball coach, administrator and commissioner, but more importantly he was a tremendous person. I don’t know of anyone that Marvin didn’t consider a friend.”

“He was just so helpful to me even back in 1998 when I was first starting out as a commissioner,” Peach Belt Conference commissioner David Brunk said. “He always had a smile and great demeanor. [He was] a good role model to emulate for me career-wise.”

Vanover’s legacy will live long past his lifetime.

He has a scholarship named after him. He was honored with “Marvin Vanover Day” twice in Augusta. In 2003, the University named the road leading up to Christenberry Fieldhouse “Vanover Drive.” In 2008, the Peach Belt Conference renamed the basketball tournaments in his honor, and the conference inducted Vanover into its inaugural Hall of Fame class in 2016.

“I think this entire community, no matter what side of the tracks you lived on, or what color your skin, everybody had a great appreciation for what Marvin Vanover brought to the table,” Bryant said.

 

Augusta University Press Release:

AUGUSTA, Ga. Marvin Vanover, who was the Director of Athletics and head men’s basketball coach for the Augusta Jaguars for 25 years, passed away in the early morning hours of May 19, 2017. He was 85.

Vanover was also the first commissioner of the Peach Belt Conference and served in that capacity for 16 years.  Beginning in 1989, Vanover became involved with the initial planning of the Peach Belt Conference and was asked to serve as an interim commissioner in April of 1990 for one year. He was named the PBC’s first full-time commissioner in June of 1991. Vanover was inducted into the inaugural class of Peach Belt Conference Hall of Fame in 2016 and was dubbed a founding father of the PBC.

“Augusta University, the city of Augusta, and intercollegiate athletics lost a giant of a man in the passing of Marvin Vanover,” Director of Athletics Clint Bryant said. “Our athletic department and I personally are forever grateful for all that he stood for and the manner in which he lived his life. Our deepest sympathy goes out to his family and all that knew him. Jaguar Nation Mourns.”

Under his leadership, the Peach Belt grew into one of the preeminent Division II conferences in the nation with 24 National Championships in his 16 years. PBC teams won national titles in men’s basketball, women’s tennis, men’s tennis, softball and baseball in his tenure and over 300 PBC student-athletes were been named All-Americans.

Vanover continued to support the Jaguars after his retirement in 2006 and held reserved seats for men’s and women’s basketball in Christenberry Fieldhouse (May 2017)

As a coach, Vanover led the Jaguars for 23 years including two straight NAIA District 25 championships in 1970 and ’71. Aside from winning the regional and advancing to the NAIA national tournament, the 1969-70 team was ranked No. 5 in the nation with a 27-3 overall record, the best by a Vanover-led team. In 1978 he led the team to their first NCAA Division II Tournament appearance, where the Jaguars faced current Division I power Central Florida.

It was also during this time that Vanover produced All-Americans Joe McBride (1970) and Chip Wilson (1971). Coach Vanover received many accolades of his own including the NAIA District 25 Coach of the Year and the Georgia Collegiate Coach of the Year from the Atlanta Tipoff Club for the 1969-70 season. It was also during this time that “Marvin Vanover Day” was declared in Augusta on February 14, 1970, and he was named a Kentucky Colonel by the Governor of his home state. He received a certificate of commendation from the mayor of Augusta and the Georgia state senate, as well as a commendation presented personally by the Governor of Georgia.

NAIA Championship banners in Christenberry Fieldhouse. Vanover guided Augusta to back-to-back NAIA District 25 Championships. He was named the 1970 NAIA District 25 Coach of the Year and the College Basketball Coach of the Year for the state of Georgia. 

He went on to be named Coach of the Year in 1975-76 and in 1980-81 from the South Atlantic Conference as he moved the Jaguar program to the NCAA Division II level. In 1980-81 he was also named Coach of the Year in the NCAA’s south district by the National Association of Basketball Coaches. The road leading to ASU’s Fieldhouse was named in his honor on Nov. 18, 2003, which was also declared Marvin Vanover day in Augusta.

Vanover served as the commissioner of the South Atlantic Conference in 1981-82 and was instrumental in moving the Augusta College program up to the NCAA Division I level as a part of the newly formed Big South Conference in 1983.

A native of Harlan, Ky., Vanover graduated from Georgia Southern University with a B.S. in Physical Education and has served on the GSU alumni board. He was awarded the Lettermen Club Award from his alma mater in 1980 and also holds a master’s degree in Physical Education from Peabody College. He was the proud father of two children, a daughter, Holly, and a son, Derek.

The PBC men’s and women’s basketball tournament was renamed the Marvin Vanover Peach Belt Conference Basketball Championships in 2008.

Funeral arrangements will be announced by the family in the coming days.  This release will be updated as that information becomes available.

 

 

Peach Belt Conference Press Release:

AUGUSTA, GA – Former Peach Belt Conference commissioner Marvin Vanover passed away in the early morning hours of May 19 after a brief illness.  The longtime men’s basketball coach and athletic director at Augusta University was the first commissioner of the Peach Belt, serving in that capacity from 1990 to 2007.

“Marvin was a great man and a great commissioner,” said PBC commissioner David Brunk, who came to the league after Vanover retired in 2007. “I worked with him when I was the commissioner of the Northeast 10 Conference and when I arrived in Augusta he was so kind to me and my family as we made the transition.   The foundation and legacy he left at the Peach Belt was tremendous and I am personally thankful to him for the work he did for all of us at the league and beyond.”

Beginning in 1989, Vanover became involved with the initial planning of the Peach Belt Conference and was asked to serve as an interim commissioner in April of 1990 for one year. He was named the PBC’s first full-time commissioner in June of 1991.

Under his tenure, the Peach Belt Conference grew into one of the preeminent Division II Conferences in the nation with 24 National Championships in only 16 years. Peach Belt Conference won national titles in men’s basketball, women’s tennis, men’s tennis, softball and baseball. Over 300 PBC student-athletes were named All-Americans in Vanover’s tenure.

“Marvin’s greatest strength was in the relationships he forged,” said PBC assistant commissioner Ken Gerlinger, who joined the league in 2000.  “No matter where he went, there was somebody he knew or wanted to know.  He was a very outgoing and generous person and I will be forever thankful to him for giving me the opportunity to become a part of this league.  He has had a big impact on my life.”

Vanover served as men’s basketball coach and athletic director at Augusta University for 25 years before becoming PBC commissioner.  He led the Jaguars for 23 years including two straight NAIA District 25 championships in 1970 and ’71. Aside from winning the regional and advancing to the NAIA national tournament, the 1969-70 team was ranked #5 in the nation with a 27-3 overall record, the best by a Vanover-led team. In 1978 he led the team to their first NCAA Division II Tournament appearance, where the Jaguars faced current Division I power Central Florida.

“He is one of the nicest human beings I have ever known,” said PBC associate commissioner Diana Kling, who Vanover hired in 2005.  “He took a chance on someone who was out of the business and raising a family at the time.  I wanted to get back to collegiate athletics and he gave me that opportunity.  I wouldn’t be here today if it were not for him.”

Vanover served as the commissioner of the South Atlantic Conference in 1981-82 and was instrumental in moving the Augusta College program up to the NCAA Division I level as a part of the newly formed Big South Conference in 1983.

A native of Harlan, Ky., Vanover graduated from Georgia Southern University with a B.S. in Physical Education and has served on the GSU alumni board. He was awarded the Lettermen Club Award from his alma mater in 1980 and also holds a master’s degree in Physical Education from Peabody College. He is the proud father of two children, a daughter, Holly, and a son, Derek.

“It is hard to fathom how many lives Marvin touched,” said Brunk.  “When you think of the student-athletes and coaches he recruited and taught, the staff and administration at Augusta University, and then the thousands of student-athletes at the Peach Belt Conference, you begin to understand just how impactful one person can be.  That was Marvin Vanover.  Add to it the generosity, humanity, humor and compassion he brought to all of those relationships and the scale of what we have lost becomes clear.”

Vanover was inducted into the inaugural class of the PBC Hall of Fame in 2016 as a Founding Father, part of the league’s 25th anniversary celebration.  The road to Augusta’s Christenberry Fieldhouse was named in his honor in 2003.  The PBC officially renamed its basketball championship the Marvin Vanover PBC Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournament in 2008.

Funeral arrangements will be announced by the family in the coming days.  This release will be updated as that information becomes available.

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