Bethel Holds Hall of Fame Induction

Bethel University honored two former athletic greats and one outstanding former team with inductions into the prestigious Bethel Athletic Hall-of-Fame Friday night. The Alumni Awards and Athletic Hall-of-Fame Inductions were held in the Vera Low Center for Student Enrichment, Crisp Wing.

The 2016 inductees are:

Chris Edlin (85) Golf

Lon Varnell -Men's Basketball

1970-1971 Men's Basketball Team

Prior to this year, eighty one people and one team had been enshrined into the hall. The 2008 National Championship soccer team was the first team to be inducted at the 2013 ceremonies.

Here is a look at the 2016 Hall-of Fame Class:

Chris Edlin played four years of varsity golf at Bethel College from 1981-1984. He had graduated from McKenzie High School in 1980 after leading the Rebel squad to the District Championship his senior year. Recruited by Bethel Coach and Hall-of Famer Jerry Wilcoxson, Edlin was known as a consistent performer for the Wildcats, averaging 79.1 for four years on challenging courses. The Wildcat golf teams had a 26-11 overall record during his career as well as impressive showings in VSAC and NAIA District 24 competitions.

As a sophomore Chris shot an impressive round of 69 against Rhodes College at Fox Meadows Golf Course in Memphis, taking medalist honors and leading the team to an impressive team total of 291. The victory total remains one of the lowest in Bethel Golf history (1982). He earned NAIA All-District 24 honors the following season and was received The Most Improved Bethel Golfer Award. As a senior Edlin was named the Captain   and was low medalist in four of the five matches during the season. The squad finished 7-2 on the year with Edlin having the low stroke average for the team. He was named the Rotary Club Bethel College Athlete of the Year.

An all- around athlete, Edlin was an avid 5Kilometer runner and amateur boxer while attending Bethel. He won the West Tennessee Golden Gloves Bantamweight Championship prior to graduating from Bethel in 1985. He was named Golden Gloves Outstanding Boxer in 1985 and 1989.

He was inducted unto the Carroll County Sports Hall-of-Fame in 2015. He was Ringside Masters World Boxing Champion runner-up in 2010 at the age of 48. He captured a Masters National Boxing title that year in the Lightweight Division. He was again World Boxing Champion runner-up in 2015 at the age of 53. In 2013 Chris was the Tennessee State Senior Olympic 400 Meter Champion in the 50-54 age division. In 2015 he won the 50 Meter Senior Olympic State Championship Sprint.

He has been instrumental in the success of the UTM Pike Fights, refereeing and officiating the event for 27 years. He is a licensed by the Tennessee Athletic Commission as a professional boxing referee.

Chris resides in McKenzie and has two daughters, Rachel and Rebekah. He has one grandson, Easton Edlin. He serves as a Youth Services Officer for the Carroll County Juvenile Court.

Lon Varnell was a native of Adamsville, Tennessee. He played baseball, football and basketball at Freed-Hardeman College while majoring in English and Religious Education. After graduating from Freed he began his teaching and coaching career at Shiloh and Saltillo High Schools. An innovative coach, he was the first use the hook shot and the 2-3 zone defense.

In 1940, Lon came to Bethel to coach and finish his last two years of college work. His first Bethel squad posted a 27-4 record. When   the school dropped athletics because of the war, Varnell coached at McKenzie High School.

In 1944 the "Baron of the Bluegrass" Adolph Rupp invited Varnell to work with him at the University of Kentucky. There he helped recruit one of Kentucky's fabled teams, "The Fabulous Five."    

Bethel re-instated athletics following the end of the war and Varnell returned to coach basketball and baseball. The basketball team lost only one game while his baseball team went undefeated.

Varnell became head basketball and assistant football coach at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee in 1948. Coach Rupp recommended him for the job stating, "Next to me Lon Varnell is the best coach in America." Varnell coached there for 22 years, winning 58 percent of his games while playing DI and DII schools as well as conference foes. 

In 1948 he began working with the Harlem Globetrotters as a promoter and advance man. He traveled worldwide with them and was instrumental in opening doors for the team to play in the South.

Lon set up a fall baseball tour in the mid 1950's with two teams of black big league players who barnstormed throughout the South...Players included Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Don Newcombe, Joe Black, Ernie Banks, Roy Campanella, etc.

In 1951 his University of the South team won 53 of 57 games played on a tour of Europe and North   Africa. They won the World Tournament in Geneva, Switzerland. Five Rhodes Scholars played on his teams as well as several outstanding coaches including former Kentucky coaching great, Joe B. Hall.

Sports Illustrated   described Varnell in February 1969 as "a legend in his own time-a coach, a Methodist minister, coal mine operator, car dealer, political manager, hardware store owner and promoter of entertainment."

Upon his retirement from coaching in 1970, he established Varnell Enterprises at Nashville, an agency that would be recognized as one of the top entertainment promoters in the country. Stating that victory is in the struggle, not in the gold medal that hangs around your neck, Varnell said that "you can make a success sure by effort, sacrifice, enthusiasm, unselfishness, and self-control. You are the master of your own destiny." In the worlds of sports and entertainment, Lon Varnell was certainly a master of his own destiny and a victorious leader.

Varnell was inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall-of-Fame in 1973 and served as its president in 1977. He passed away in 1991.

1970-1971 Men's Basketball Team –The Bethel Wildcat Men's 1970-1971 Basketball team remains to this day one of the more popular teams in Bethel history.  The Wildcats, ranked 14th in the nation defeated No. 10 Georgetown in the NAIA District 24 tournament in the first year of Baker Fieldhouse. The Wildcats met No. 1 Kentucky State in the district title game.  Kentucky State won the game and went on to win the NAIA National Championship. Bethel finished 25-5 on the year. Four players averaged in double figures.

The starters for the Wildcats were, James Penn, Joe L. Reaves, Kenny Booher, Don Eichorst and David Cosby. Don Stanford and J.C. Popplewell were valuable members of the squad appearing in almost every game. Other key members of the team were, Tom Cunningham, Tom Copple, Dudley Crowder, Frank Navarro and Ruben Owen.

The team was coached by Hall-of-Fame Coach Doug Hines. 

The team was third in the NAIA in rebounding. They were eighth in the nation in margin of victory at 20.9 points per game. They were 17th in team defense. Reaves and Penn were named all-district.

Former Bethel professor and Dean of Students and Admissions Dr. Clinton O. Buck said, "I worked with this team and Coach Hines. They were wonderful to work with. They were an outstanding team and even more so, simply outstanding people. I am so happy about this well-deserved honor for them."  

*Article by Dave McCulley: Bethel University Sports Information

Posted by Jennifer Glass at 9:48 AM