The real winners in life

Published 11:19 am Tuesday, December 5, 2017

In a week dominated by college football headlines….and the big money that, to me, has robbed amateur athletics at that level of competition of its intended purpose, I was so happy to be involved in an event that rewarded everyone involved.

Last week, Florida State head football coach Jimbo Fisher jumped ship, leaving the Seminoles for the lure of a huge payday at Texas A&M.  Fisher landed the richest overall deal in college coaching history, a reported 75 million dollars over 10 years. If my math skills are correct, that’s $7.5 million per year. He had a base salary of $5.5 million annually at Florida State.

And, to show exactly how big money has infiltrated college athletics, Texas A&M is required to pay big bucks to its former head coach Kevin Sumlin, who was fired on Nov. 26. Sumlin, who had a decent record (51-26) in his six seasons with the Aggies, will receive a $10.4 million buyout of his remaining contract with A&M. It doesn’t matter if he accepts another coaching job (his name is being mentioned to take over the football programs at other major universities), he still gets his hands on that buy-out cash.

All that brings me to this…..on Thursday, Friday and Saturday of last week, I had the opportunity to witness the way amateur athletics is intended to be.

For the 12th consecutive year, this newspaper was a part of the Lt. Nick Brantley Scholarship Basketball Tournament. Its participants are the local private schools in the Roanoke-Chowan area – namely Lawrence Academy, Northeast Academy, and host Ridgecroft School. In the past we’ve invited Ahoskie Christian, Bethel Christian, Southampton (VA) Academy, and Ocracoke School to participate. This year, the fourth team in the tournament was Pungo Christian Academy.

For those that didn’t know Nick Brantley, he was a standout student-athlete at Ridgecroft (I had the pleasure of seeing him compete as a young athlete) who then attended and graduated from Virginia Tech, where he was a proud member of the prestigious Corps of Cadets (there he was chosen to command the entire 3rd Battalion). Nick’s life ended way too short. He died in 2005 when the Navy helicopter he was piloting went down off the North Carolina coast during a training exercise.

One year later, this newspaper was joined by Joe Murray of United Country Joe Murray Realty of Ahoskie in sponsoring the inaugural Brantley Tournament. Money raised was used to award college scholarships to deserving local high school seniors. They were selected based not just on academic efforts, but on how these young student-athletes fit the Nick Brantley mold….those aspiring to make a difference in the lives of others.

Now, 12 years and $30,000 worth of scholarships later, the Brantley Tournament is recognized as one of the best such events in eastern ‘Carolina. Attendance is superb and the competition on the court is fierce, but friendly.

This year, the Scholarship Committee – consisting of Joyce Brantley (Nick’s mom), Miles Harrell (of Jernigan Oil & Propane – also a 12-year sponsor of the tournament), Joe Murray and yours truly – faced the biggest test to date….that of selecting three scholarship winners from a field of eight candidates.

Folks, I’m here to tell you that we have some outstanding young people here locally. They are bright, witty, intelligent, and well-spoken. The parents of these young people need to be praised for the way they have raised them.

Those eight candidates were Sydney Lane and Drew Davis of Ridgecroft; Addie Piper and L.J. Barnes of Northeast; Gracen Rogers and Savannah Stevens of Lawrence; and Rebecca Hodges and Brinson Edmondson of Pungo.

Personally, I use a five-star system to judge these scholarship nominees. Over the years, I have found only one candidate worthy of all five stars. This year, I awarded four stars to three candidates; three and one-half stars to four candidates and three stars to one.

My committee colleagues (who have their own way of judging) were all in agreement with my assessment and we awarded $1,000 scholarships each to Davis, Rogers, and Edmondson.

My only regret is that we could not give the other five candidates something. However, they are already winners in life and their hard work and dedication will be rewarded down the line.

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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