There is no greater tribute to the five decades Frank Weedon spent in the athletics department at N.C. State than the mere existence of the N.C. State Athletic Hall of Fame, which inducted its inaugural class in 2012.
One of Debbie Yow’s priorities after taking over as athletics director at N.C. State, the new Hall of Fame awaits permanent residence in Reynolds Coliseum as part of the impending renovations to the venerable arena. Almost all of the artifacts that will soon be on display were collected and stored, some for decades, by Weedon in hopes that there would someday be a place for them. Weedon died Monday at 82 after a long illness, safe in the knowledge that by August 2016, there will be.
John Franklin Weedon Jr. was preceded in death by his wife, the former Janice Bunn Nixon, and is survived by a brother-in-law, Jerry Bunn of Raleigh, and a sister-in-law, Julia Davidson of South Carolina. Funeral arrangements are pending.
Most of what Weedon saved ended up in his overstuffed campus office or stashed in crevices of Reynolds not often visited by light. Weedon, though, was the most precious artifact of all – a witness to the glory days of Wolfpack athletics and, often, the silent hand behind that history.
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“He loved N.C. State and he loved his mother,” former football coach Lou Holtz once said of Weedon’s single-minded devotion to the school.
From the day he started in 1960, the Maryland grad was blindly loyal to N.C. State. Although best known for his promotion of Roman Gabriel and David Thompson, Weedon spent most of his time as Willis Casey’s deputy in what was essentially a two-man athletics department.
Promoted to assistant AD in 1971, Weedon served in that role until his “retirement” in 1996, after which he continued to come into the office every day for another 15 years, a father figure to generations of athletes.
“His life’s work was to make people, and make their experiences at N.C. State, Hall of Fame-worthy,” said Tim Peeler, a sportswriter who took over for Weedon as unofficial Wolfpack historian and now works in the university relations department.
“Whether those athletes will eventually be elected into the Hall of Fame, Frank was the guy there (who) made them feel like Hall of Fame athletes no matter who they were or what sport they played or what they did for the university.”
Casey and Weedon showed a surprising acumen for hiring coaches, perhaps because their own personalities were so outsized they were never afraid of being upstaged. So in came basketball coaches Norm Sloan, Kay Yow and Jim Valvano, football coaches Holtz, Bo Rein and Dick Sheridan, wrestling coach Bob Guzzo, swimming coach Don Easterling, baseball coach Sam Esposito, and many more.
If there was an event on campus – tennis, baseball, cross-country, wrestling, swimming and diving – Weedon was there. His gold-star attendance spawned what may be the most frequently cited description of Weedon, by former athletic director and basketball coach Les Robinson: “He is everywhere, especially if there is food provided. And some of them, he was even invited to.”
Weedon also enjoyed sharing his thoughts with the officials, to the extent that he was once assessed a technical foul during an ACC basketball game. The press box at Doak Field is named after Weedon, in honor not of his longevity but his substantial contributions to the Wolfpack Club over the years, and he made a particular hobby of tormenting umpires.
One of the most famous Weedon stories, perhaps apocryphal but entirely credible, involves a summer-league game at Campbell in the early ’80s. Weedon spent the entire game giving the home-plate umpire the business from the dugout. Finally, the umpire ripped off his mask and screamed at him: “That’s enough, Weedon! I want you where I can’t see you.”
“In that case, I’ll stand on home plate,” Weedon said, “because you haven’t seen that all night.”
Weedon is not yet a member of the N.C. State Athletic Hall of Fame. There were too many legends in line ahead of him in the first two classes. Of course there were: Weedon spent more than 50 years making sure there was never any shortage of Wolfpack legends, only to become one himself.