Chadwick to enter Mississippi sports hall

Billy Chadwick came to Ole Miss mainly because his future wife Julie Carr was in graduate school at UM. They would soon marry and didn't figure to be in Oxford more than a year or two. That was in 1978. They're still here.

If you want to see a hall of fame list of accomplishments, then look no further than the one compiled by Billy Chadwick over 28 years as an Ole Miss coach.

With first the women's program and then the men's, Chadwick has enjoyed a coaching career that would rival almost any across the country – in any sport. Few coaches have accomplished what he has at Ole Miss.

Next weekend in his hometown of Jackson, Chadwick will be inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. The Belhaven College graduate who basically fell into or maybe even lucked into his fabulous career in coaching joins a growing but still elite group of people with Mississippi ties inducted into the state's great sports hall.

It's an honor Chadwick has known would happen for almost a year. But it's still one he almost can't believe he's receiving.

"I was out of town recruiting last summer when I got the news," he said. "I was overwhelmed. This is perhaps the highest honor that one can receive in sports in Mississippi. And having grown up in this state, it just means that much more to me."

But Chadwick says that's not all.

"Having built this (UM) program in the state of Mississippi is also very important to me. I'm very proud that we've been able to do that here. I'm just really humbled by the honor."

Chadwick's list of accomplishments is lengthy. With his fourth Southeastern Conference overall championship in 2005, Chadwick joined former baseball coach, the late Tom Swayze, and former football coach, the late John Vaught, as the only coaches in Ole Miss history to win four or more SEC titles. Swayze won four SEC titles in 1959, 1960, 1964 and 1969. Vaught won six conference titles in 1947, 1954, 1955, 1960, 1962 and 1963.

Chadwick is one of only seven active Division I men's tennis coaches to have led a team to the NCAA Championship Finals. He is one of only three active Division I coaches to have taken his team to three or more NCAA Final Fours. In his tenure at Ole Miss, he has led the Rebels to the NCAA Championships 15 times, and the Rebels have become a mainstay among the elite teams in the national rankings.

Chadwick began his coaching career at Ole Miss as the women's tennis coach. In 1982, he led the Lady Rebels to the SEC finals, AIAW Nationals and the program's first top 20 national ranking. In 1983, he took over the men's program.

Chadwick's 1995 squad will be remembered as the benchmark year for the Rebels to date when they advanced to the finals of the NCAA Team Championships, losing to Stanford in the finals in Athens, Ga.

The Rebels immediately turned the 1995 success into more accomplishments by capturing their first SEC Championship in 1996 and repeating that feat in 1997. The 1997 team became the second Rebel squad to advance to the NCAA Final Four and posted a 25-4 record, which the 2005 team equaled.

Ole Miss closed out the 20th century with an outstanding year in 1999, capturing the SEC regular season title, advancing to the NCAA Final Four for the third time, and ending the year ranked as the No. 3 team in the nation.

In 2002 the Rebels captured the SEC Western Division title and advanced to the NCAA "Sweet Sixteen." The following year the Rebels repeated as SEC West Champs and advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight. In 2004, the Rebels captured the overall SEC Championship and won their third consecutive SEC Western Division title.

In 2005 Ole Miss won the SEC overall again, the SEC West again, and advanced to the Final Four of the NCAA tourney for the fourth time.

In 2006 the Rebels finished second overall in the SEC, won the West for the fifth straight year, and advanced to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen.

While Chadwick's teams have ranked among the nation's elite for the past several years, they have been just as impressive off the court. Academically they are always at or near the top of all UMAA teams as far as academics and cumulative grade point average.

Being a Mississippian and knowing the importance of dominating Mississippi State, Chadwick's program has won 17 straight over the arch-rival.

Love brought Chadwick to Ole Miss in the first place. His future wife, the former Julie Carr of Brookhaven, was in graduate school here, and Chadwick followed her to Oxford to get an MBA degree. College coaching wasn't on his radar screen at the time.

Billy and Julie had plans to wed, and he needed work while in college. He approached then athletics director Warner Alford about a job with UM tennis.

"Originally I was going to run Parham Bridges Tennis Center (in Jackson) with my (twin) brother, Barney," said Chadwick - he and Julie have two sons, Lyon, a recent Ole Miss alum, and Carr, a student at the University of Georgia. "Dorothy Vest, also in the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, was retiring, and we were going to manage it. That had been approved by the city (of Jackson).

"But when Julie and I decided to get married, she was in the middle of her graduate program here. So I moved up here and decided to go to graduate school, too, and get my MBA. At the time I just wanted to get on as an assistant tennis coach. But that summer they shifted gears and moved the head coach (Russell Blair) to just the men's team and I coached the women."

And the rest is tennis history as Chadwick has coached Ole Miss to more than 500 wins – 107 of them as coach of the Lady Rebs back in the early part of his career, and 402 as head coach of the men's team.

Chadwick said he's had some chances to move on to other schools, like another SEC program or two or an ACC school or some schools in Texas. But he chose to remain in Oxford, at Ole Miss, and in Mississippi. He says a lot of coaches throughout the country have had success following that same path.

"If you look at Coach Vaught or Bobby Bowden or Joe Paterno or Vince Dooley or Dean Smith," Chadwick said, "these men weren't always looking for the next best thing or to get paid more or to get another opportunity. They basically said we'll take what we have and we'll build it up to become one of the best in the country. We have a real love for Mississippi and a real love for Oxford. So that's the path we chose, and here we are today."

Yes, here he is indeed, a true Mississippi hall of famer.

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