Longtime Bethune-Cookman University Director of Athletics Lynn W. Thompson has been elected to the NACDA Hall of Fame 2023 Class. The official enshrinement ceremony will be held on June 12th at the 58th NACDA & affiliates Convention in Orlando, Fl. Thompson is no stranger to Orlando as it is the site of the annual B-CU vs FAMU rivalry game, the Florida Blue Florida Classic.
Thompson began his career at Bethune-Cookman University as a player. He has the distinction of being the first player to score in the Florida Blue Florida Classic, which he did in the inaugural year of the classic in 1978. Thompson was the kicker and booted a field goal to put B-CU up by three points in the game which was then held at Tampa Stadium in Tampa, FL.
One of his claims to fame was growing the Florida Blue Florida Classic to its highest attendance, growing to over 70,000 during his tenure as director of athletics. He also aided in guiding the game to attract major sponsors, with revenues going directly to both institutions.
As head of the B-CU athletics department, Thompson oversaw a department that dominated the MEAC in several areas. With the hiring of Brian Jenkins, the Wildcats would win multiple MEAC football championships and the Black National Championship in 2010 and 2012.
Thompson was caught totally off guard
“When they called me, the guy told me this is it for your career. It doesn’t go any gigher. You’ve reached the hallmark,” Thompson said. “ I had to sit back and realize when I started as the youngest AD in the world I had no time to consider the significance of me taking the job, I had to start working. Then to retire as the longest tenured AD when I retired, it’s almost like a full. circle. To be recognized by my peers, you realize this is it. This is the greatest honor to be honored by the industry. It is quite humbling.’
With several MEAC championships in softball, track and field, and golf, the most dominant sport at B-CU was baseball. Under the guidance of Mervyl Melendez, B-CU dominated HBCU baseball and it continued under Jason Beverlin. Beverlin led the Wildcats to probably its biggest win in history as they defeated the eventual national champion Gators of the University of Florida in the NCAA Regionals in Gainesville. The Gators would fight out of the loser’s bracket and with a national championship, capturing the World Series just a few weeks later. The teams regularly defeated Power Five schools. From 1996-2017, B-CU won 18 MEAC titles, including a record seven consecutively between 2006 and 2013.
Thompson has served on several NCAA committees and boards. At the time of his retirement in 2021, he was the longest tenured active Division-I athletics director. He is now a consultant for the MEAC along with pursuing his dreams in the liberal arts. He wrote a play that was read in Orlando by a New York production company known for its plays. He has also voiced a special on the Los Angeles Rams. Thompson is not as busy, but is more calculated with his time, making sure to spend time with family that was often lost to the rigorous hours of being an athletics director.
Credits Bethune-Cookman University greats before him for his success
“When I got the information, I was in the city manager of Daytona Beach’s office, I told them the story of how Dr. Bronson asked me to do a favor for him and that’s how I got the job. I thought of the people who believed in me when I didn’t fully believe in myself. When I think about those who share the vision, Cy McClairen, Tank Johnson, Tony O’Neil Sandra Booker and so many others, we just went to work. I’m standing up there because of all those people,” Thompson said.
Thompson also elevated the profile of the university through athletics. When the Wildcat football team was rolling, the applications to the school came rolling in. B-CU was receiving both record numbers of applications and a record enrollment. Thompson’s vision to marry the “Marching Wildcats” band and the mission of promoting the university into a fine-tuned package.
The congratulatory correspondence has been overwhelming. “I’m humbled beyond…you just sit back and are like wow…(as we have to break as he got a congratulatory text from Joe Taylor). “See, this is happening every five minutes, I’m overwhelmed,” Thompson said.
While B-CU enjoyed it’s most successful runs in several sports under his guidance, he is more impressed by the citizens they produced through their family atmosphere.
“The ultimate is the lives we change. It’s a ministry, not a job. If you’re not in this business to touch and transform lives, you’re in the wrong business. Sports teaches the value of hard work, teamwork and sportsmanship. It teaches the things that anyone has never played on a sport will not understand. Last night a group of former athletes began texting me as news spread. I had this to say to them. ‘I was honored to serve as your athletic director.’ To see how successful you’ve been in your lives. That means more than any number of championships,” he concluded to them.