Athletics Director Emeritus created the Wesley Cup Challenge in '09 that is now a Panthers tradition
“The Wesley Cup is our Iron Bowl,” says Birmingham-Southern quarterback, Blake Stidham. “It’s always the one game that you want to win every year.”
The Wesley Cup is a rivalry between the BSC Panthers and the Huntingdon Hawks, the only two Division III schools in the state. This huge tradition started from a very small conversation in 2009 between BSC Student Activities Director, Kyle LoPorto, and SGA.
“[We were] talking about how we needed a football rival we could play every year,” says LoPorto. He emailed the idea to Joe Dean, Jr., the college’s hall-of-fame basketball coach and Athletic Director at the time.
“Within a few months, [Dean] had spoken to Huntington and created this rivalry based off of that very small conversation,” says LoPorto. “[The Wesley Cup] is a big deal. Joe Dean was the catalyst of that. He took an idea and ran with it from our vision.”
Joe Dean, Jr. had a history of making ideas come to life. In high school and college, he studied basketball rulebooks so that he could one day teach the sport. After Dean received his undergrad from Mississippi State University, where he was a three-year basketball letterman, he began his dream of coaching, eventually teaching at BSC, and leading the Panthers to win three consecutive Southern States Conference Championships in the 1980s. Like his father, the famous color analysts in SEC history, Joe Dean, Jr’s voice was part of his larger-than-life charm.
“Anyone who has spent any time around Joe Dean knows that he has an infectious and high-energy personality,” says current Athletic Director and BSC Volleyball Hall-of-Famer, Kyndall Waters.
It seems that Dean, with such strong attributes and talents, would have no trouble stealing the spotlight. In reality, he often keeps a low-profile and leads from behind.
“Joe was great at delegating,” says LoPorto. “He got the best coaches possible, and he let those coaches do their [jobs].”
“Dean taught me how to be a leader,” continues Waters about her predecessor. “He taught me how to serve the people you work with and how to be unabashedly passionate about what your goals are and how to live your life.”
Dean retired on March 1st, after more than 20 years of service to BSC. He served as BSC’s senior vice president for advancement in his last year at the college. Few can talk about Dean without mentioning the motivation, warmth, and legacy he leaves Birmingham-Southern. It is no surprise that one of his greatest contributions to the college is a friendly rivalry that ignites passion and leadership in BSC athletes.
“At the end [of the Wesley Cup], nothing feels better than going crazy with your teammates while holding up a huge trophy,” says Panthers cornerback, Matthew Byers.
Joe Dean, Jr. may no longer be working at Birmingham-Southern, but the team spirit he instilled in every Panther he met lives on in the Wesley Cup. It is no wonder that he has been named the college’s first Athletics Director Emeritus.
Feature photo via BSC Athletics
is a junior MFS major