HARROGATE, TN – On Friday morning, Lincoln Memorial University Head Men’s Basketball Coach Hugh Watson announced he will resign following the 2007-08 season. Watson’s resignation will bring to a close career in coaching that spans more than four decades at virtually every level of the high school and college game.
Watson made the decision earlier this week and broke the news to his team on Wednesday prior to the Railsplitters non-conference road game against North Greenville University in Tigerville, South Carolina. The decision was prompted by the Railsplitter’s 6-13 start this year which includes a 0-7 South Atlantic Conference mark. “In the four years I have been head coach here, I have made many friends at this University and in the community,” said Watson. “Right now I have no career plans. What I plan to do is to get out my boat, fish a lot, and to enjoy retirement.”
Watson, a native of Sweetwater, Tennessee, has served as the Railsplitter’s head coach since the 2004-05 season in an effort to bring the University’s program back to its once national prominence. In nearly four seasons at the helm of the LMU men’s basketball program, Watson and the Railsplitters have compiled a record of 31 wins and 60 losses with at least eight games remaining on the 2007-08 regular schedule.
“Hugh and his family have been vibrant and active in the LMU and local communities,” said LMU President Dr. Nancy Moody. “I will miss his ambassadorship on behalf of the University and wish him well in his future endeavors. It is my hope that he will remain engaged in the life of Lincoln Memorial University.”
Before taking over the helm of the Railsplitter program, Watson spent eight years as head coach of North Idaho College. In 1996, he was named head coach of the Cardinal program and put together one of NIC’s most successful teams ever. The 1996-97 Cardinals played to a 33-6 record and a fourth-place finish at the NJCAA National Tournament. Watson’s success was highlighted by being voted 1997 Coach of the Year for the Scenic West Athletic Conference.
Watson’s coaching experience prior to LMU also included three years as an assistant coach at the University of Idaho where he helped lead the Vandals to a 1993 Big Sky Championship and a 24-8 season record. From 1984 to 1990 he held the head coach position at Hiwassee College in Madisonville, Tennessee. Under Watson’s direction, Hiwassee won the Tennessee Junior College State title three times and qualified twice for the NJCAA National Tournament. He finished his career with Hiwassee with a 152-38 record and was named Coach of the Year in 1986, 1988, 1989 and 1990.
Prior to returning to the college ranks, Watson was head coach from 1993 to 1996 at Columbia Central High School in Columbia, Tennessee. During that time his teams compiled a 67-21 record over three seasons and a No. 1 state ranking during the 1993-94 season.
According to Lincoln Memorial University officials, a search committee will be formed soon to pursue Watson’s predecessor. Whoever the next head coach of the Railsplitter basketball program is will be only the tenth person to hold the position in the past 50 years.