Tolley Receives NAIA Hall of Fame Honor
Sept. 24, 2008
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Jerry Tolley, two-time national champion football coach at Elon and former East Carolina record-setting student-athlete, has been selected to the 2008-09 class of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, recognizing his meritorious and longtime service to the sport of football.
Currently a member of the University Advancement staff at Elon University, Director of the Elon Society and Mayor of the Town of Elon, Tolley was selected not only for his achievements as a football coach, but also for his success as an NAIA student-athlete for East Carolina University and the five football books and many sports-related articles he has published over the years.
The honor is the highest bestowed by the NAIA. Individuals inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame must be persons of outstanding quality, high moral character, fine leadership ability and must be held in high esteem by their colleagues, former coaches and former athletes. All inductees will be recognized and honored at various NAIA events held throughout the year. Tolley will be honored in January at the 2009 American Football Coaches Association Convention in Nashville, Tenn.
"The NAIA Hall of Fame recognizes the remarkable contributions of student-athletes, coaches and athletic administrators," said Jim Carr, NAIA President and CEO. "The individuals that make up the 2008-09 class represent talent, hard work and sheer determination. These men and women are proven competitors, teachers and mentors and wonderful representatives of character driven intercollegiate athletics. The NAIA is thrilled to celebrate their work and storied careers."
For Tolley, the honor acknowledges his work and storied career as an Elon football coach, a sports author and an East Carolina athlete as well as a contributor to his community.
Jerry Tolley: Elon Football Coach
Tolley began his college football coaching career at Elon in 1967 as the defensive coordinator and later as assistant head coach under Shirley "Red" Wilson. While serving under Wilson, the Elon football program achieved unprecedented success, claiming a 72-34-2 record (.675). The Wilson-led team reached a high water mark in 1973, advancing to the NAIA Division I playoffs for the first time in the program's history - culminating in a national runner-up finish.
When Wilson departed Elon in 1977, Tolley was elevated to head football coach. Under his guidance, Elon amassed a sizzling 49-11-2 record (.806) with four conference championships and three district titles over five years. Tolley's teams also advanced to the NAIA Division I playoffs on three occasions, claiming back-to-back national titles in 1980 and 1981. His 1978 squad earned national runner-up recognition. His 1977 team fell shy of a national playoff berth, but forged a 9-2 record and finished No. 6 in the national rankings. Tolley retired from coaching at the top of his game following the 1981 season.
For his efforts, Tolley collected many accolades including Conference, District, State, Regional, Area and National Coach of the Year honors. He also received the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame Dwight D. Eisenhower Award and the Eastman Kodak National Collegiate Football Championship Award. During Tolley's entire football career as a high school and college player and as an assistant and head coach, teams he was a part of, complied an overall record of 201-63-6 (.756).
While leading the Elon football program, Tolley coached 53 all-conference performers - four who achieved conference MVP status - to go along with 30 all-district honorees, 12 all-state selections and 18 All-Americans. Also, 18 of his players have been inducted into Elon Sports Hall of Fame. Tolley himself was inducted into the Elon Sports Hall Fame in 1988 by Dr. J. Fred Young, Elon's President at the time, in a special Centennial Year Hall of Fame Celebration induction ceremony.
Tolley continues to receive honors for his coaching accomplishments. In a private ceremony held in the Governor's office in 2002, Governor Mike Easley, presented him with the Laurel Wreath Award, the highest award given for athletic excellence by the State of North Carolina. In a ceremony held in New Orleans in 2003, the AFCA honored Tolley with their Lifetime Membership Award. At a banquet held in New York City in 2004, The All-American Football Foundation honored him for his long and outstanding contribution to the game of football with its coveted Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2006, he received the Distinguished Service in Sports Award presented by the Alamance County Area Chamber of Commerce.
Jerry Tolley: Sports Author
A nationally renowned sports author, Tolley has published five football books as well as many articles which have appeared in nationally recognized magazines such as Coach and Athlete, Athletic Journal, The Coaching Clinic and the Journal of Physical Education, Health, Recreation and Dance. His doctoral dissertation is a 368-page topical and chronological history of men's athletics at Elon. His football books have sold in every state in the nation and in more than 25 countries and one of his books was published in the Japanese language. He is currently working on his sixth book.
Jerry Tolley: East Carolina Athlete
Tolley excelled in football as well as track and field during his four-year athletic career (1961-65) at East Carolina (1961-1965), setting nine of the Pirates' football records - five of which still remain to this day. He also led the 1963 ECU track and field team in scoring and established a program plateau for the triple jump. Tolley was also a member of a school record-setting 440 relay unit.
His five ECU football records that still remain are the most interceptions in a game (three in 1963), the highest kickoff return average in a career (32.1 yards per kickoff return in 1962-1964), the highest kickoff return average in a season (31.9 yards per kickoff return in 1962), the highest kick return average (punt returns and kickoff returns combined) in a season (24.4 yards per kick return in 1962) and the longest non-scoring kickoff return (92 yards in 1963).
Tolley was inducted into the East Carolina Athletics Hall of Fame in 1991 and in the ECU Educators Hall of Fame in 2008. Also, in 2008, in recognition of his outstanding leadership, he received the East Carolina University Health and Human Performance Centennial Leadership Medallion.
Jerry Tolley: Contributor to his Community
Along with his celebrated athletics career, Tolley has also been a loyal community volunteer and civic leader. He is currently serving his third four-year term as the Mayor of the Town of Elon. In fact, he served on the Appearance Commission for the Town while serving as head football coach at Elon. He also serves as the current President and is a founding director (1992) of the Alamance Community Foundation as well as serving on the boards of directors of the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro and the Thomas E. Powell, Jr. Biology Foundation.
Tolley is a founding trustee (2001) and serves on the board of Be Active North Carolina, which was recently recognized as the nation's best statewide organization for health and physical activity by the National Association for Health and Fitness. Be Active currently has a presence in all 100 counties in North Carolina.
Tolley has served as the first chairperson of the Town of Elon's Parks in Recreation Commission (2000-05). Under his chairmanship, the town constructed a 1.5-million dollar, 23-acre recreational park complex complete with walking trails, a community center, picnic shelters, water feature and garden, disc golf course and an American with Disabilities Act approved, all-encompassing playground with 72 play stations of which 67 are accessible to persons with special needs. In leading this endeavor, he directed efforts that raised over $275,000 as well as securing a $250,000 parks and recreation grant.
The versatile Tolley has served as the chairperson on two different occasions (1992 and 1997) for Citizens for Schools, a group that led the passage of two different local public school bond referendums in Alamance County. He has also served on the Executive Board of the Cherokee Council of the Boy Scouts of America as well as a Cub Scout den leader. Tolley has served as vice-president on his church council - Macedonia Lutheran Church.
In 1997, then-Governor James B. Hunt recognized Tolley for his public service with The Order of the Long Leaf Pine award; the highest honor given by the State to outstanding North Carolinians who have a proven record of long and continuous community and civic service. In 2007, Easley recognized him with The Old North State Award for his dedication and service beyond expectations and excellence to the State of North Carolina.