JACKSON, Tenn. – April 7, 2006 – Union University students, fans and supporters gathered April 7 in the Fred DeLay Gymnasium to celebrate the Lady Bulldogs’ second straight NAIA national championship.
“Today is a day when we honor champions,” said Justin Phillips, Union’s director of student programs. “Today is a day when we honor athletes of excellence and character.”
The Lady Bulldogs captured the national championship March 21 with a 79-62 win over Lubbock Christian University. At the April 7 celebration, Union University President David S. Dockery read a proclamation from Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen declaring an official day of recognition for the Lady Bulldogs.
“This is another example of the excellence of our athletic department that permeates the entire university,” Dockery told the crowd.
The Union president recognized that everything good that has happened at Union University is a gift from God.
“Even a national championship like this one, earned on the floor, is still a gift from God,” Dockery said.
Jackson Mayor Charles Farmer and Madison County Mayor Jerry Gist were in attendance at the event, as were a number of prospective Union students visiting campus as part of a Preview Day.
“There is no place they could go to find more of what they’re looking for and what they need than Union University,” Farmer said about the prospective students. “What an honor it is to be here and through the years to be connected and in partnership with Union University.”
Farmer presented Lady Bulldogs coach Mark Campbell with a key to the city, and presented a mayor’s commendation to Campbell and the members of the Union team.
Farmer and Gist also proclaimed April 7 as “Union University Lady Bulldog’s Day.”
“It’s a great day for Union University and the Lady Bulldogs,” Gist said.
He spoke specifically to sophomore guard Meredith Richardson, who hit 15 three-pointers in the five games of the national tournament. Gist said he didn’t know what Richardson’s major was at Union, but he had a career recommendation for her.
“I would suggest you go into the U.S. military and replace all the radar that the military has in this nation,” he said.
Gist praised the entire team for their character, ability and energy that they will take with them when they leave the university.
“Union University is such an integral part of this community,” Gist said. “I hope we as a community can bring back to Union what you have given to us.”
Dockery recognized Campbell’s contributions and accomplishments – including 226 wins in seven years as coach of the Lady Bulldogs, six straight seasons of 30 or more wins and back-to-back NAIA Coach of the Year honors.
“When you start a season you have no idea how it’s going to end up,” Campbell said. “You just enjoy the journey. I’ve never had a group of people choose to love each other like this group has.”
Campbell said the team’s word of the year was “trust,” and the team members learned to do just that through the season. He said he’d be happy if every year his team would be as close as this year’s team was, regardless of the ending.
Campbell also spoke about the importance of teaching his players to honor Jesus Christ through their efforts, and he thanked fans and supporters for cheering for the team.
“Union is a special place where we’re allowed to be excellent in every area of our lives,” he said.