Bill Hayes is in multiple halls of fame, but he is quick to point out that it never gets old.
In fact, his most recent honor, being inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame, was one he envisioned himself in for many years. Hayes, a native of Durham who stayed close to home, coaching football at Winston-Salem State and North Carolina A&T before becoming an athletic director at N.C. Central, was one of 15 members of the 2018 class inducted into that hall of fame, his eighth, last week.
During his coaching days Hayes, 74, always told his players to visualize success on game day. He himself had a vision of entering the NC Sports Hall of Fame from the first time he heard of it.
“It’s been at least 30 years since I knew of a North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame,” Hayes said. “Once I knew that this organization existed, then I aspired to be a part of it. I know there aren’t but about 8-10 African Americans in this Hall of Fame, but I said years ago this is something that I really wanted for myself.”
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Hayes was an All-American football player at N.C. Central three times, and embarked on a coaching career that started in 1965, before cracking the college ranks in 1973, coaching offensive backs at Wake Forest as the first African-American coach in the ACC.
Hayes got his first head coaching job at Winston-Salem State in 1976 and stayed there until 1988, when he became the head coach at North Carolina A&T. In 2003 Hayes returned to his alma mater, N.C. Central, to take over as the athletic director.
In 2007 he ventured away from the Tar Heel state, leaving for Florida A&M, where he was the top athletic administrator. In 2010, he returned to Winston-Salem State, resuming his role as the Rams’ athletic director.
Everywhere Hayes stopped, his teams won. The Rams won three CIAA titles and seven division crowns. The Aggies captured three MEAC titles, the 1999 Sheridan Broadcasting Network black national championship and made two NCAA Division I-AA playoff appearances. Hayes’ overall coaching record is 195-104-2 and he is the winningest coach all-time at A&T and WSSU.
He's been inducted into the CIAA, MEAC, Winston-Salem State, North Carolina A&T, N.C. Central, Guilford County Sports and Black College Football halls of fame. The North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame selection, however, was the one he had been waiting on, and means so much.
“This is the epitome of halls of fame because it represents my state,” Hayes said.
Hayes grew up in Durham, a poor kid who had polio growing up. He worried about whether he could walk or run as a child. Hayes went from being one of the smallest kids in his class for the longest time, to one of the biggest sports figures in the state, especially in the HBCU ranks.
Even though his loyalties are torn between three schools, two of which are heated rivals, Hayes still is able to stay in the loop with all three. Hayes could be at an N.C. Central football practice during the week, communicating with the coaches, and then doing the same thing at North Carolina A&T. Last week, he was at Fayetteville State, where his nephew, Richard, is the head coach.
“Well you know your alma mater is your mother, but I spent 15 years at North Carolina A&T,” Hayes said. “North Carolina A&T and Winston-Salem State is where I spent most of my time as a coach and an athletic director. I’m extremely loyal to all of those schools. It’s tough on me when we play each other, but I usually find a way to pull for the one who is having the worst year.”
That’s rare for any of the three schools in North Carolina he is connected with. The Aggies this past season won the HBCU national title, capping off an undefeated season with a win over Grambling in the Celebration Bowl. Meanwhile, his alma mater’s basketball team has played in the NCAA tournament the past two seasons.
“Now that I look at what the coaches are doing at Central I am extremely proud,” Hayes said. “I’m proud of Coach (Rod) Broadway (former A&T football coach), I was his AD at Central, so I’ve gone full circle.”