Tabor College?s Athletic Banquet was more emotional than usual this year.
It?s not every day you induct a living legend and the most successful long-term coach in Tabor history into the Hall of Fame. And while Don Brubacher would never say it, that?s exactly what he is.
After leaving Tabor six years ago for reasons known only to a few Taborites, returning for the honor may have come with mixed emotions for Brubacher.
While on sabbatical in fall 2007, Brubacher probably anticipated finishing his career at Tabor. Now, it appears more likely that he?ll complete it as director of athletics and recreational sports and chairman of the sports studies department at Hillsdale College, where he?s served since 2008.
Rusty Allen, vice president for intercollegiate athletics at Tabor, introduced Brubacher and welcomed him to the college?s Athletic Hall of Fame. Allen rightly noted that Brubacher took a chance by hiring Allen as women?s basketball coach at Tabor years ago, even though Allen only had high school coaching experience at the time.
?Don Brubacher served Tabor College with excellence and hard work for better than 30 years,? Allen said. ?Personally, he was a mentor to me and I have deep appreciation for the time we worked together. God used his gifts in amazing ways. Not only in the Tabor Athletic Department, but the entire institution benefited from all that he gave.?
Following the introduction and a standing ovation, it was Brubacher?s turn to speak. He mostly kept his emotions in check, but he paused to compose himself on a couple of occasions. Most of all, he was gracious and moved by the number of former student-athletes who attended.
Brubacher congratulated the current student-athletes and coaches for their accomplishments. He expressed appreciation for the honor of being inducted into the Hall of Fame. And he shared several stories about his years at Tabor.
Brubacher even poked fun at himself for not knowing one of the unusual rules in college women?s basketball during the time (no over-and-back call at midcourt) when he coached the women?s team. After realizing he was wrong for questioning the call, he said he learned not to question officials? calls after that.
While he was a very good student-athlete, it was Brubacher?s long-term coaching success that set him apart from anyone in Tabor?s history.
Brubacher was named KCAC Men?s Basketball Coach of the Year nine times. His teams won 10 regular-season conference championships and two post-season tournament championships.
He also coached women?s soccer for three years and was named KCAC Women?s Soccer Coach of the Year two times.
When he stepped down after his speech, Brubacher received yet another standing ovation.
Prior to the event, Bru?bacher told me: ?I accept it as an honor, deserved or not, for efforts made to contribute to the mission and goals of the college.?
Editorial comment: Brubacher is far too humble. If he doesn?t deserve the honor, you might as well throw out the Hall of Fame altogether. Sustaining success for that long doesn?t happen very often at any school.
What we know now is that Rusty Allen is successfully leading Tabor?s athletic programs while Brubacher continues his outstanding career at Hillsdale College.
Whatever happened in the past, both Tabor and Don Brubacher have moved forward. And both made the Hall of Fame induction a night to remember.
Now that the Hall of Fame honor is in Tabor?s rearview mirror, the natural step would be for the school to name the gymnasium or basketball court in his honor, because it?s the right thing to do.