Powers leaves indelible mark on PCCUA athleticsFeb 10, 2020
In just a few shorts years in the late 60s and early 70s, the late Coach Fred Powers broke ground for athletics at Phillips Community College and broke records for junior college basketball in Arkansas, in the region and gained national ratings.
Sharing an important piece of the past for Phillips Community College, Trey and Marta Powers, of Atlanta, Georgia, made a return visit to Phillips College and brought with them Trey’s father’s scrapbook of his glory years as our first athletic director. A young boy at that time, Trey beamed when thinking back on his father’s legacy and impressive winning streak as a young coach in the Delta. The scrapbook overflowed with impressive game stats, newspaper clippings of record wins and state and national rankings, group and individual photos of team players, and letters of support and commendation from local and state dignitaries.
Along with team recruitment responsibilities, the late Coach Fred Powers was also charged with the task of generating sponsors for the athletic scholarship program. Trey and Marta Powers are pictured in the Phillips gymnasium in front of the original seats that Trey’s father had installed in the bleachers for his sponsors, and there were many who filled these stands each game day in support of such a winning coach, both on and off the court.
Powers leaves indelible mark on PCCUA athletics
At Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas (PCCUA), part of our distinction and longevity as the state’s first community college has come from the College’s ability to draw the right people who inspire success and greatness in our students. One of those people was our very first athletic director, the late Fred Powers.
In recent weeks, Phillips College has had some special visitors to campus, who brought with them an important piece of our past. Trey Powers, the son of Fred Powers, and his wife, Marta, of Atlanta, GA, followed up a phone call to PCCUA with a personal visit to see the place Trey’s father so fondly talked about and remembered. During their visit, they shared Fred’s personal scrapbook and other memories from his glory days at Phillips.
“Dad would often say that for about four years, he had the best job you could ever imagine,” said Trey Powers. “He would say, ‘If you can get up every morning and love what you do, it’s a very special thing.’ And he loved his years at Phillips, often referring to it as his dream job.’”
More than just about anything, Fred Powers loved and lived basketball, making all-county and all-sectional teams on his high school team in Webster, Indiana. His impressive skills on the court gained him a college scholarship to Florida State University (FSU), where, after graduation, he was hired to coach the FSU freshmen. From there on, it seemed that every coaching job he landed brought success and broke records for FSU as well as Leesburg Florida High School and Brevard Junior College at Cocoa, FL, taking teams all the way to regionals, state tourneys, and even southeastern regionals.
Phillips Community College was established in 1965 and with construction of its permanent facilities complete in 1968, it began making plans for a basketball program. It was during these years, that Phillips College was fielding for an athletic director/head basketball coach, and Powers took the bite and was hired at that time.
Powers immediately began a nationwide search for players for his new team. He recruited players from all over the U.S., including Mississippi, Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana, even enlisting a player from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Once again, in true Fred Powers fashion, he gained regional and state notoriety for impressive and successive conference wins and outstanding athletic records. In January 1969, the Ridgerunners’ impressive winning streak caught the attention of the state of Arkansas, which led to the drafting of a special Senate Resolution by then Arkansas Senators Joe Anderson and Dorathy Allen acknowledging the young team’s outstanding coach and record.
The resolution commended Powers, his team, and staff stating: “Whereas, the Ridgerunners have compiled an outstanding athletic record during the last two seasons and have shown impressive sportsmanship; and whereas, through their excellence on the courts and through the untiring work of their head coach, Fred Powers, assistant head coach Arch Jones, and the other members of their staff, the Ridgerunners have attracted the attention of this State and have gained national recognition.” The resolution further cited that the team had scored an average of 95 points per game and was, at that time, leading the Ozark Junior College Athletic Conference with a 5-0 record.
Acknowledging Powers’ early accomplishments, Dr. John Easley, founding President of Phillips College who hired the young head coach, stated, at the time, “The success of the basketball program has been largely due to Powers’ coaching ability. Only a few schools in their formative years, such as we, can boast of the caliber basketball teams that we have had.”
Powers’ impressive coaching ability and drive drew headline after headline such as these: “Phillips County Ridgerunners set school record in win last night,” “Ridgerunners close season play with victory over Delta State,” “Phillips College Ridgerunners in victory over Christian Brothers,” “Phillips College Ridgerunners undefeated in Conference play,” “Phillips County Ridgerunners in another win over Ole Miss Frosh,” “Ridgerunners defeat Central Baptist, 89-70,” “Phillips County Ridgerunners chalk up fifth conference win,” and “Ridgerunners rank 13th in nation in latest poll.”
Though Trey was young when his family moved away from Helena, he still remembers attending basketball games in the Phillips gym, watching his dad coach and mentor his young teams, and hanging out with the many players who visited their home. He chuckled remembering that, while coaching on the sidelines, his father was both energized and entertaining.
“My father always coached with a towel in his hand,” said the younger Powers. “While on the sidelines, he could be seen whipping it in the air, throwing it, and even chewing on it. By the time the game was over, he would have towel fuzz all over his shirt.”
Trey said his mother was just as enthusiastic about the Ridgerunners, not only attending all of the games, but often cooking in their home for members of the team. During those years, Phillips College hosted the Arkansas State Junior College basketball tournament, and the Ridge Runners were also among top teams in the National Junior College Athletic Association Region 2 tournament seat.
Though he only stayed through four basketball seasons, what Coach Powers was able to build from the ground up and accomplish during his time at Phillips was nothing short of remarkable. During his tenure at Phillips, his teams won 62 games, while losing 21 and represented the conference at the Regional tournament three times. As recognized for his coaching skills as he was for all of his wins, Powers was also named “Coach of the Year” for the conference in 1968-69 and 1969-70.
Powers left coaching to join his father’s restaurant business, The Powerhouse, in Richmond, Indiana, his home state. Following the restaurant business, he went into financial planning and went on to achieve recognition in the Hall of Fame for IDS-American Express in the field of personal investments. Powers passed away in 2006.
Coach Powers will always be remembered for his efforts and dedication in getting our athletic program off the ground in its infancy at Phillips College, setting records, and setting the bar high for the next coach. Hearing current plans at Phillips College to solidify a capital campaign to renovate PCCUA’s gymnasium, Trey and his wife presented a $5,000 contribution on behalf of the Fred and Patty Powers Foundation to the Phillips Community College Foundation to go toward the gym renovation. Represented in the Powers Foundation are Trey and his sisters, Beth Powers Macke (Georgia) and Kim Powers Kinsey (Florida).
On behalf of PCCUA, Chancellor Dr. Keith Pinchback stated, “We are very touched and deeply honored that members of the Powers family have stayed in touch and have chosen to be a part of bringing it back for our students.”