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Monday, April 17, 2006

UNCP dedicates Cox Field to a loyal alumnus

Cox Field at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke was dedicated April 4 on a perfect afternoon for baseball.

With an assist from a light breeze, Sammy Cox Jr. tossed out the ceremonial first ball, and the scoreboard was unveiled with a new nameplate. The naming rights were the result of a $75,000 gift to UNCP’s Campaign for Football and Athletic Excellence from Sammy and Onita Cox.

Cox Field dedicated: From left: donors Onita and Sammy Cox, Mike Colacchio, Jason Morales, Chancellor Allen C. Meadors and Chris Beck.

Cox Field dedicated: From left: donors Onita and Sammy Cox, Mike Colacchio, Jason Morales, Chancellor Allen C. Meadors and Chris Beck.

The Braves’ baseball team, which is having one of its finest seasons, caught the first pitch and blasted Pfeiffer University 13-8.

A Lumberton businessman and owner of Sammy’s Auto Sales, Cox was praised by University officials for his lengthy relationship with the University and his generosity to UNCP athletics.

“This gift is the high point of a relationship that goes back 30 years,” Chancellor Allen C. Meadors said. “It is a gift from a quality person and a quality family.”

Former UNCP athletic director and former baseball coach Ray Pennington said, “Cox Field has a good sound to it.”

“Sammy has set a fine example of loyalty to the University over a long period of time,” Pennington said. “As a former baseball coach here, this is the field I dreamed of 30 years ago.”

Cox is a 1976 graduate who became acquainted with UNCP athletics as a physical education major.

“I started school here in 1969 right out of Vietnam,” Cox said. “I shagged a few balls on this field.”

Sammy Cox

Sammy Cox

“I want to challenge all the athletes here today,” he said. “You may or may not be the greatest player, but if the Lord blesses you with the ability to make a little money, there is no reason why you can’t send some of it back.”

Three current UNCP team members are recipients of the Sammy Cox Endowed Baseball Scholarship – Mike Colacchio of Essex Junction, Vt., Chris Beck of Havelock, N.C., and Jason Morales of Fayetteville, N.C. It is the largest athletic scholarship at UNCP, said Athletic Director Dan Kenney.

“Sammy Cox was one of the early members of the Braves Club, and thanks to his dedication a lot of student-athletes have been able to attend UNCP,” Kenney said. “I hope this is a trait you can pass along.”

Cox said former Athletic Director Lacey Gane proposed the scholarship.

“Lacey Gane started me in the Braves Club,” he said. “He said we should start an endowed scholarship. I didn’t know what that was at the time. So, we set a goal of $5,000 and raised $7,500 the first year.”

Former baseball coach Danny Davis was also on hand.

“I met Sammy 20 years ago, and he has been a friend and supporter ever since,” Davis said. “This field is something to be proud of. It looks great.”

The dedication was a family affair with Sammy’s mother, Betty; daughter, Amanda Bunnell; granddaughter, Samantha; and sister-in-law, June Mills in attendance.

For information about UNCP’s First and Ten Campaign for Football and Athletic Excellence, please contact the Office for Advancement at 910.5216252 or email advancement@uncp.edu. For information about UNCP athletics, please contact 910.521.6227.

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