WCU Dedicates Field House to Former Tennis Player and Coach
William Carey University held a dedication ceremony for the Jack Jones Soccer-Tennis Field House, honoring former tennis player and coach Jack Jones, on Sunday, February 5.
The ceremony opened with a welcome from Dr. Tommy King, president of WCU, as he explained the unique nature by which Jones became a part of WCU. Jack’s son, Matt, played tennis for the Crusaders and Jones and his wife Ruby often attended the games. At one particular tournament in Florida, the players were staying at Eglin Air Force Base, and Jones and one of the base’s officers played a match. Jones, a chemical company supervisor, defeated the officer and caught the eye of then-WCU tennis coach Ron Porter.
Porter was so impressed with his skills that he told Jones if he had any eligibility left, he would offer him a scholarship to play at Carey. As it turned out, Jones did have two years of eligibility left because of his early departure from the University of Cincinnati in order to play professional baseball. At the age of 55, Jones left Cincinnati for Hattiesburg and played for Porter for two years as the oldest college tennis player in the state, gaining a reputation as a powerful and superior tennis player.
After his two years of playing were up in 1988, Jones became tennis coach, a position he held until the late 1990s. During his time as coach, he won numerous awards and led his team to multiple victories.
“We had a really good tennis program because of my focus on recruiting quality players who were also great people,” he said. The program made it to the national championship in the early 1990s.
After remarks from Dr. King during the ceremony, basketball coach and athletic director Steve Knight made comments about all of the awards and victories Jack earned for WCU, both as a player and a coach, and how he truly cared about his players as if they were his own children. Knight told about how Jones’ coaching talents produced high-quality, All-American players each year. In his first year as coach, one of his players qualified for nationals. The following year, one singles player and two doubles players qualified, and for the remainder of his time as coach, the entire team qualified.
Jones also started the WCU women’s tennis program and led it to success.
“When I got to Carey, there was no women’s program,” Jones said. “I started it and shortly afterwards, they were qualifying for nationals, too.”
His coaching skills won him national acclaim, including a seat on the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA)’s Tennis Committee. He was also named NAIA Coach of the Year and Mississippi Coach of the Year in 1993. Jones retired from WCU in 1996 but has maintained close ties with the university and especially with its tennis program. In April 2011, Jones was one of 16 former athletes inducted into the inaugural class of the university’s Sports Hall of Fame, and his name is featured on the Tennis Honor Board outside of the new field house named in his honor.
During the dedication, both Jack and his son Matt thanked the Carey family for the honor of naming the facilities after him, and Scotty Fletcher, assistant men’s basketball coach and Fellowship of Christian Athletes director, closed the ceremony with a prayer of dedication.
Jack remarked, “When I coached here, we only had four tennis courts. Now, these new tennis facilities … they’re absolutely super.”