Craig McPhail begins his eighth year as Vice President of Athletics at Lees-McRae College, where he oversees all day-to-day operations of the Lees-McRae athletic department and the 21 varsity sports, along with five club sport programs.
McPhail arrived to Banner Elk in July of 1998 as the Sports Information Director and Head Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Coach. He re-started the Track and Field program, became Assistant Athletic Director and assumed the role of AD in the summer of 2009. In 2014, He was named Vice President of Athletics.
After the fire in Williams Physical Education Center in February of 2017, McPhail led the renovation efforts of the building to update the laundry room and weight room to significant standards. The Rhea-Lyons pool was also retro-fitted to accommodate the Bobcats newest sport, swimming. In the enhancements of Williams PE Center, there are new lights, floors, office furniture, ceilings and roof.
One of the biggest transformations also occurred in the summer of 2017 as McPhail led the charges for a new logo to represent the athletic department. In working closely with Lauren Foster, Director of Communications, the two used sketches of a Bobcat drawn in the early 60’s to come up with today’s version. This rebranding effort coincided with the re-opening/dedication of the Williams PE Center.
The Bobcat Walk Project has been an effort McPhail led as the entryway into the building has brick pavers engraved by donors to create a legacy walk.
Many areas have seen success during his tenue, most importantly the improved grade point average of the student-athletes, from a 2.9 to a 3.2 via the CATS (Challenging Athletes to Success) program.
The athletic department has undergone noticeable enhancements in his career, receiving a full-time NCAA Director of Compliance, trophy case renovation, Bobcat Club Media Room, The Haigler Athletic Center, McNair and Debi Tornow Court, Student Recreation Beach Volleyball Court, bathrooms and shower facilities, locker room renovations, student-athlete photos, banners and signage, weight room equipment, additions of two charter buses, apparel deal with Nike.
Other renovations have occurred as the outside athletic facilities have been hard wired for webcasting, new athletic website, social media enhancements, press box for Tate Field, resurfacing of tennis and track complexes. Fencing for softball, signage in all areas of the complex and transportation upgrades.
The re-introduction of the Hall of Fame and establishment of a Bobcat Club has all been accomplished during his time at the helm, with membership growing by 20% annually.
Increased community efforts have increased attendance as the Bobcats have been a part of the Ride for Reading program (cycling), hosted clinics and camps, Golden Ticket campaign for elementary school students to attend games, Pack the Den for Dinner, White Outs and Green Outs have also been highly successful in drawing more interest to Lees-McRae Athletics.
The NCAA recognized the athletic department with the Award of Excellence nomination for men’s basketball Lunch Buddy program in 2017.
In 2015, McPhail was recognized for the highly distinguished Edgar Tufts Humanitarian Service Award for exemplifying a life of service in both the community and campus.
In 2011, the Bobcat Athletic Department reached new heights under his leadership as all five fall sports teams made the NCAA Tournament and for the first time in five years, both basketball programs reached the Conference Carolinas tournament.
The Bobcats have played for a NCAA Division II National Championship (men’s soccer 2009) and won several Collegiate Cycling National Championships during his tenure.
McPhail was selected by the NCAA to be a part of the 2015 Leadership Academy Workshop in Orlando and Charlotte. In 2016, he was a panelist for the NCAA Career in Sports Forum.
Currently, McPhail serves on the Conference Carolinas Championships and Awards Committee and is the Athletic Director liaison for cross country/track and field. He was recently named to the NCAA Olympic Sports Liaison Committee.
He has represented the College as a member of NACDA, CoSIDA, United States Cross Country/ Track Coaches Association, USA Track and Field, Conference Carolinas chair for both cross country and track and field, and was chair of the NCAA Division II Cross Country/Track and Field committee.
As the men’s and women’s cross country coach for 11 years, his teams showed greatness in and out of the classroom, with 13 conference championships in men’s and women’s cross country and track and field; McPhail also played an essential role in the re-instatement of the track and field program. He has coached 73 all-conference student-athletes, 31 all-region honorees, and has watched them regularly receive Academic All-America honors over the past decade.
McPhail guided 38 Lees-McRae student-athletes to the NCAA Division II National Championships. In doing so, he has been conference coach of the year 11 times, while earning regional coach of the year honors three times.
A member of several organizations, McPhail serves the community well for the local Young Life Organization, the Banner Elk Christian Fellowship Church and the Special Olympics Torch Run. He helped organize the Woolly Worm Road Race, Step Up for Yellow Mountain 5k and the Turkey Trot.
He earned his degree in mass communications (journalism) from Winthrop University, with a minor in interpersonal speech. His master’s degree in sport management is from Georgia Southern University.
McPhail is married to former Jill Clawson; they are parents of son Elijah Boggs McPhail.
|Craig and Jill McPhail with son Elijah|