BUIES CREEK, North Carolina – Wanda Watkins, the 29th winningest active coach in NCAA Division I women’s basketball with 549 career wins at Campbell University, announced Wednesday, March 16, she is stepping down from her head coaching duties after 35 years to assume an administrative position with her alma mater.
Watkins, just the 10th Division I women’s basketball coach in NCAA history to coach 30 or more seasons at the same institution, became Campbell’s head coach in 1981. Among her countless honors and achievements is the fact that more than 95 percent of her student-athletes have completed their Campbell undergraduate degrees.
The 1979 Campbell graduate led her teams on the court to conference championship games on 10 occasions, winning the 1989 Big South and 2000 Atlantic Sun Conference tournament titles. In addition, Campbell was the 1988 (co-champion) and 1991 Big South regular season champion, as well as the 2001 A-Sun regular season champion.
Her 2000 team defeated Georgia State in the championship game and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history. That Lady Camel squad, which lost to Duke in the Big Dance, posted a 22-9 record.
“It is really difficult to put into words the joy the past 35 years of coaching have brought to my life. I want to thank Campbell for the wonderful opportunity to serve as women’s basketball coach, a job I truly loved,” Watkins said.
“I also want to express my gratitude to the many student-athletes who have played for us at Campbell. I have been blessed beyond measure to have had the opportunity to be associated with each of them. I am so grateful for the coaches who I have had the opportunity to work alongside over the years, who have made the program one that our alumni and university can be proud of. The loyalty of my current staff is unheard of in today’s world, and I will always be grateful for their devotion and loyalty to Campbell.
“Lastly, I want to thank Campbell President Brad Creed and Campbell Athletics Director Bob Roller for the administrative opportunity. I look forward to this new venture in representing the university I love in this new capacity.”
In her new role, Watkins will be a liaison for the office of the athletic director as well as the university president for special projects. She will also serve as a mentor for coaches among the university’s 21 NCAA Division I sports.
In addition to her coaching achievements, Watkins holds a special place in Campbell athletics history. She was the school’s first female athletic scholarship recipient after graduating from nearby South Johnston High School in 1975. She was a member of that school’s 1974 North Carolina state championship team.
She served as team captain of the Lady Camels basketball team as a senior and captained the softball team for three years. Despite suffering an injury in her final season, Watkins was named MVP of the 1978-79 team and selected as Campbell’s Outstanding Female Athlete.
“The list of people who have given their entire career and adult life to one institution is infinitely small, and Wanda Watkins is that person who continues to give her all to Campbell University,” Athletics Director Bob Roller said. “One visit to her office will show you 35 team pictures of each of her ‘babies,’ as she affectionately refers to her former student-athletes.
“Wanda can tell you every fact about where those women are today, she can talk about their families, and she knows their life stories. She has made a transformational difference in the lives of these hundreds of student-athletes over the last 35 years,” Roller added.
The search for Campbell’s next head coach will begin immediately, Roller said.