Category: Sports Stories
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Bid Symposium

On Tuesday, August 29th, the Durham Sports Commission traveled to Indianapolis for the 2026-2028 NCAA Bid Cycle Host Symposium. The DSC staff, along with Board Chair Dr. Ingrid Wicker McCree, joined hundreds of representatives from across the country at the NCAA headquarters to learn what the NCAA is looking for in bids to host their future national championships.

The morning began with an introductory meeting where the DSC heard from multiple NCAA representatives, including NCAA President Charlie Baker.

Throughout the day, the DSC team members attended various championship-specific break-out sessions. These included Division I, II and III men’s lacrosse, women’s gymnastics, and Division II and Division II Festival, amongst others. They also met and spoke with multiple championship managers positioned throughout the building. Through these interactions, the DSC formed strong connections with the NCAA representatives involved.

The team also visited the NCAA Hall of Champions, honoring all current and past NCAA champions across all sports.

The symposium provided great information and clarity on what the different championships are looking for in potential hosts and highlighted items to focus on in each bid. The sessions placed a large emphasis on creating a memorable student-athlete experience and community support, specifically finding ways to incorporate diverse businesses into the overall experience.

“Our trip to the Bid Symposium was a great opportunity to prepare ourselves for the upcoming bid cycle. We are confident in Durham as a host for future NCAA events and are excited to continue to grow Durham as a Championship Hub.” – Executive Director Marcus Manning

The team is excited to showcase Durham throughout the bid process. We believe the passion for sports and unwavering community support makes Durham the perfect fit to host future NCAA Championships. Bid submissions are due this upcoming February, and host locations will be announced in October of 2024.

Grand Park Sports Campus

The next day, the team headed north of Indianapolis to Westfield, Indiana to tour Grand Park Sports Campus. Grand Park’s Matthew Trnian and Rachel Nelson toured the team around the complex and provided valuable insights. The tour included a look inside the multi-purpose events center, 31 multi-purpose turf and grass fields, and 26 baseball diamonds. The team learned about maintaining a large-scale facility and the positive economic impact it has on the surrounding area.

Additionally, the September 13-15 Inter-City Visit to Indianapolis hosted by Discover Durham, Downtown Durham, Inc., the DSC, and the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce featured Grand Park. The over 70 business leaders, elected officials and additional Durham stakeholders in attendance visited and learned about Grand Park’s success and how we can continue to accelerate sports and tourism in Durham.

We remain focused on learning how to continue to make Durham a sports destination both today and in the future. We know that bringing championship-level events to Durham will continue to provide positive social and economic impact for our community.

Category: Sports Stories
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Trip Durham to Facilitate the “DSC Bull Sessions” About Gender EquityInspiring Women through Sports, and the Play Like a Girl Movement in Durham  

March 22, 2021 (DURHAM, N.C.) – In recognition of Women’s History Month, the Durham Sports Commission (DSC) will host three virtual panels to explore the accomplishments and impact of women athletes, coaches, and changemakers from Durham. The first discussion, titled “Being a leader in sports,” will center on the importance of women working in male-dominated sports and female mentorship. The first taping was released today, Monday, March 22 and can be viewed here. The second panel focuses on the importance of female coaches and can be viewed here, while the third and final panel features female student-athletes and can be found here.  

“Women have had a transformative impact on sports and that trend has continued in recent months. From Sarah Fuller to Kim Ng to Sarah Thomas, women — to steal a phrase from Women Leaders in College Sports — are kicking glass and it’s exciting to see” said Marcus Manning, executive director of the DSC. “By offering our platform, the DSC seeks to put a spotlight on female leaders, coaches, and athletes to dive deeper on complex, timely topics such as gender equity working in sportscoaching in sports and the future of female participation. I encourage sports fans and casual viewers alike to tune in and learn more about the immediate impression women in sports are having in shaping Durham and communities across the country.” 

Starting from a national perspective, the DSC found it integral for the opening Women’s History Month discussion to feature a representative from a National Governing Body of sport. Ashley Bratchersenior director of baseball operations for USA Baseball will discuss topics ranging from the disparities between women and men working in sports, the importance of female participation in male-dominated sports as well as mentorship amongst females working in sports and the expectations associated with being a female leader in sports. 

The second-panel discussion concerning the importance of having female coaches at all playing levels will be shared later this month. Confirmed panelists include Trisha Stafford-Odom, head women’s basketball coach at North Carolina Central University, and Kerstin Kimel, head women’s lacrosse coach at Duke University. This conversation will be centered on why female coaches matter, the lack of female coaches, and delve into how female coaches lead and inspire women through sports. 

The third and final discussion focuses on female student-athletes and will be shared at the end of the month. Confirmed panelists include Darcy Bourne, field hockey student-athlete at Duke, and Christine Alcoxwomen’s volleyball student-athlete and Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) president at North Carolina Central University. Part of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, SAAC is made up of student-athlete advisory committees – at the campus, conference, and national level – to ensure that student-athletes not only have a voice, but that their entire experience is enhanced through opportunity promotion, protecting student-athlete welfare, and fostering a positive image. This conversation will bring to light the motivation behind women wanting to play sports, the Play Like a Girl movement, the impact of social media on women’s sports, and life after athletics. 

All three conversations will be facilitated by Trip Durham, founder of 2D Consulting, LLC, and the current public address announcer for Duke Athletics. Durham was previously the President of the National Association of Collegiate Marketing Administrators (NACMA) and the Associate Director of Athletics at Elon University. 

Each discussion is expected to be approximately 30 minutes to an hour in length and will be published across the DSC’s website as well as YouTubeFacebookTwitter and Instagram accounts. The Women’s History Month roundtable conversations mark the second installments of “DSC Bull Sessions,” a new storytelling initiative from the sports commission that will showcase and explore various topics that are important to the community.  


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Learn about the first interracial basketball game in the Jim Crow South in this WUNC feature about North Carolina Central University’s John McLendon.

The following feature is by Anita Rao, Frank Stasio, and Jess Clark. It was published by WUNC on April 23, 2015. Head to their website to listen to the radio interview Stasio did about this story for WUNC’s The State of Things.

Over seven decades of breaking barriers in basketball

On a Sunday morning in March 1944, most of Durham, North Carolina was in church. That’s the way basketball coach John McLendon wanted it when his all-black college team from North Carolina Central University (then the North Carolina College for Negroes) faced off against an all-white team from Duke University’s medical school.

The game would be the first interracial college basketball game in the Jim Crow South, and it had to be kept a secret. McLendon even locked the doors behind the teams after they entered the gymnasium.

The story of McLendon and this historic game is the subject of historian Scott Ellsworth‘s book, “The Secret Game: A Basketball Story in Black and White” (Little, Brown and Company/ 2015). Ellsworth met Coach McLendon while researching for a book about the 1957 NCAA Final Four. Ellsworth told Frank Stasio of WUNC’s The State of Things that he was interviewing McLendon in his Ohio home when the elderly man pulled out a list of racial firsts he had accomplished, including first black basketball coach in the professional leagues, first assistant U.S. Olympic basketball coach and first coach to win a desegregated tournament at the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).

“McLendon is the most important person in basketball that no one has ever heard of,” Ellsworth said. When McLendon told Ellsworth about the “secret game,” Ellsworth knew that he had to change his research focus. He set off on a decades-long journey to document the history of basketball, and his research reveals that McLendon’s coaching revolutionized the game.

“John McLendon is this genius,” Ellsworth said. “College basketball teams in World War II would maybe score 50 points a game; his team is scoring 60, 70, 80. They beat St. Augustine’s 119-26.”

McLendon revved up the fast break, used a full-court press before anyone else and had his players run as part of their training before it was common practice, Ellsworth said. As a result, the North Carolina College Eagles became the highest scoring college basketball team in the world.

“He [McLendon] says, ‘I’m going to create a whole new, super-revved-up kind of basketball… and we’re going to play basketball like nobody’s ever seen before.’ And they did,” Ellsworth said.

But because they were black, they couldn’t play in many college tournaments, such as the NCAA tournament. That meant most of America didn’t know about what McLendon was doing on the court, Ellsworth said.

Players from both teams organized the “secret game” when they met at secret interracial prayer meetings at the Durham YMCA. Ellsworth said people who crossed the color lines had to be discreet in the 1940s to avoid becoming targets of violence. That same year in Durham, a black soldier was murdered just for refusing to move to the back of the bus, he said.

The Eagles won the game, but the significance of the game went beyond the final score.

NCCU, Duke Play Illegal, Racially-Integrated 'Secret Game' in 1944

“The word got out that there was a new kind of basketball being played at North Carolina College,” Ellsworth said. “All that summer of 1944, carloads of white basketball players for the Tar Heels from UNC drove over from Chapel Hill to try to get a pick-up game with McLendon’s black players, and they were blown away by what they saw.”

Ellsworth said those white players then took McLendon’s game with them when they returned to their hometowns of Boston, Philadelphia and New York. The secret game, Ellsworth concluded, was therefore an important moment in the evolution of basketball, and also in the evolution of civil rights.

“It was a part of this generation…that really started to lay the groundwork that the civil rights movement was going to thrive on,” Ellsworth said.

Read this New York Times article about the secret game by Scott Hillworth in its entirety.

Paving the way to present day

Incredibly, one game in 1944 completely changed the foundation of basketball in the country, especially in Durham. From elementary hoops to the unforgettable plays we see today in the National Basketball Association, we are witness to history in motion.

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The history of basketball in Durham also extends to close geographic neighbors. We’d be remiss if we didn’t address the Duke/UNC Tobacco Road nemeses; the two universities sit just eight miles apart, and have been playing each other for almost 100 years. The two schools have combined for 38 of the 65 ACC tournament titles and 50 regular season crowns, made it to 36 Final Fours and claimed 11 NCAA national championships.

Both schools have supported and cultivated renowned talent. Michael Jordan (a member of the NCAA championship team in 1982) and other Carolina greats like James Worthy, Vince Carter, Rasheed Wallace, and Rick Fox donned the lighter color blue. But Kyrie Irving, J.J. Redick, Jay Bilas, Shane Battier, Bobby Hurley, Grant Hill, and Christian Laettner played for the Blue Devils with pride. The list continues, with extraordinary freshman talent adorning Duke’s roster this season, and Carolina contending with remarkable players to call their own.

Want to relive history and celebrate talent in the here and now? Visit the Duke Basketball Museum and Sports Hall of Fame, or catch both teams in action this season during this year’s epic March madness matchups at bars and restaurants fit for the best spectator vibes in Durham.