A place for champions
If the cereal kings from the General Mills food company came here looking for a school to put on Wheaties boxes, then the athletics boosters at Jordan High School would tell you that there’s an argument to be made about their alums having eaten the breakfast of champions.
It’s a notion that some would dismiss, potentially arguing that football players from Northern and Hillside high schools over the years were the ones eating their Wheaties and either winning or vying for state championships, while the Falcons settled for soggy corn flakes.
“Generally, when you’re looking at high school sports and you’re looking at somewhere as being a great athletic school, you look at football first, because that’s your largest sport,” Riverside High School football coach David Hackney said.
Hackney was Jordan’s quarterback in the early 1990s, back when Falcons football wasn’t so great, although other sports at the school had it going on.
In the late 1970s, the superintendent of what then was Durham’s county school system said Jordan always would be mediocre in football because the school’s parents were pushing their children toward golf, tennis and swimming, sports regarded as requiring less aggression, Jordan’s alumni association president Stephen Barringer said.
Jordan has been viewed as a school where preppy kids make really good grades, Barringer said.
What could get lost in that picture has been Jordan’s penchant for producing sports champions.
Just not football champions.
“If you look at the athletics as a whole, overall it’s traditionally had some pretty good success. Maybe not in football, but in other areas,” Hackney said about Jordan High. “It’s rich in tradition.”
Jordan opened its doors 50 years ago and since then has generated 19 state-championship teams. All of those squads will make up the inaugural class of Jordan’s sports hall of fame, unveiling Oct. 26 during a barbecue banquet at the school.
“It is something we have wanted to do for quite some time and felt that launching this in conjunction with the school’s 50th anniversary made sense,” Jordan athletics director David Davis said.
Initially, Jordan’s hall of fame will be a small area of mementos in the school, but the plan is to construct a larger, dedicated space, Barringer said.
The coaches of Jordan’s state-championship teams, along with other key Jordan coaches and educators, will get enshrined as individuals during this first lap around the hall, including former swimming coach Jim Maxwell and former volleyball coach Ann Harris.
The N.C. High School Athletic Association recently distinguished both Harris and Maxwell as two of the top 100 high school coaches in the state in the last century.
“A lot of people do look at a school on their football record, but I think our overall record speaks pretty well,” Davis said.
Barringer, a 1981 Jordan alumnus, said former Falcons athletes will begin entering the Hall of Fame as individuals next year. A committee has been formed to handle the nominations, Davis said.
“The committee will be made up of a cross-section of Jordan athletics over the years including representatives of more recent teams, members of the administration and the Jordan community at large,” Davis said. “There are many, many Jordan athletes who were considered the best of their time in their respective sports. Many went on to play at the next level after Jordan, and we have several who played at the professional level.”
Former Jordan basketball player Courtney Alexander suited up for the University of Virginia and California’s Fresno State before earning a spot in the National Basketball Association.
N.C. Central University athletics director Ingrid Wicker-McCree, who played volleyball in the nation’s capital at George Washington University and professionally in Puerto Rico, was on Jordan’s first two state-championship volleyball teams in 1983-84.
Jordan’s 1968 boys’ basketball team was the school’s first squad to win a state title and included future Atlantic Coast Conference basketball players Stuart Yarborough (Duke) and Billy Chambers (North Carolina).
John Popson was Jordan’s first director of athletics. He’ll enter the school’s sports Hall of Fame with his name already admirably affixed to the football stadium’s press box.
Popson played for the National Football League’s Washington Redskins before becoming a coaching fixture at Jordan, Barringer said.
“Never had a state-championship team, amazingly enough, but he’s just legendary, iconic,” Barringer said.
Davis is just the third athletics director that Jordan has had in five decades, selected in 1999 to replace Randy Rogers, who retired. Davis started coaching the school’s varsity baseball team when Popson retired after the 1990 season.
The 1990s were huge for Jordan athletics, particularly 1990, when the Falcons girls’ swimming, boys’ soccer, wrestling and volleyball teams won state titles. League championships in the PAC-6 were routine for Jordan’s squads.
The Jordan boys’ soccer team won the school’s most recent state championship in 2010.
In 50 years, Jordan athletics grew from three varsity sports to 18, from 83 athletes to 563, Davis said. In addition to the 19 state championships, the school can boast about 167 conference championships, as well as the individual athletes who won state championships in wrestling, track and swimming, according to Davis.
The inaugural class of Jordan High School’s Sports Hall of Fame features the school’s teams that won state championships. The coaches of those teams will enter the Hall of Fame as individuals, along with key educators from Jordan:
1968, 1981 boys’ basketball
1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1989, 1990 girls’ volleyball
1987, 1988, 1989 boys’ swimming
1990 girls’ swimming
1990, 2001, 2010 boys’ soccer
1989 boys’ golf
1990 boys’ wrestling
1986 girls’ tennis
1978 girls’ track and field
John Popson, athletics director and coach
Ann Harris, volleyball coach
Larry Junkin, golf coach
Steve Turner, soccer coach
John Avery, basketball coach
Doug Kistler, basketball coach
Wallis Green, tennis coach
John Gray, track coach
Randy Rogers, wrestling coach
Jim Maxwell, swimming coach
Jim Sills, principal and administrator