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The Apprentice School Athletics Traditions

The Early Years

Since its beginning, Newport News Apprentice School has fielded intercollegiate athletic teams. Mr. Homer L. Ferguson, then general manager of the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, issued Executive Order No. 24 on July 1, 1919, establishing The Apprentice School. The School's tradition of fielding collegiate-level sports teams derives in large part from Mr. Ferguson, who wholeheartedly believed in the value of athletics. As Mr. Ferguson observed in Manufacturers Record in 1926, "Anyone who neglects the athletic side of training boys neglects about 50 percent of the whole proposition....they learn to play a clean, fair game....and any man who learns the same squarely is an asset to his employer. I think it is the most important single thing that a man can learn."

The 1920 football team holds the school record for single season victories with 11 and fewest points allowed with 25. 

Through the years, Builder teams have been a source of pride to both the apprentices and the company -- from the 1919 football team that went undefeated and the outstanding 1937 basketball team that won the state tournament and represented Virginia in the Amateur Athletic Union championship tournament held in Denver, Colorado, to exceptional football and tennis teams in the 1980s and recent national championship teams in women's and men's basketball. Athletics have been crucial in the training of the "head, heart, and hand" of apprentices.

Among the numerous coaches and athletes associated with The Apprentice School, probably none were more famous than Gordon E. "Pop" Lamkin, who coached many sports throughout his long career; Norm Snead, former NFL quarterback and coach of the Builders' football team for 10 seasons; Bob Lincoln, a football Little All-American at Randolph-Macon and retired orthopedic surgeon; Elroy Kersey, former apprentice craft instructor and track and field coach; Glenn Heath, former academic instructor and golf coach; and, Frank Dobson, football coach whose coaching career included the University of Richmond and the Washington Redskins.

 The 1937 men's basketball team won the State AAU Championship and qualified for the AAU Nationals in Denver, Colorado.

One of the most significant events in the history of Apprentice School athletics occurred in 1986. In June of that year the School received official notification from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) that its Administrative Committee had ruled that NCAA member institutions may count contests with The Apprentice School for purposes of championships selection and NCAA statistics. This formal ruling was an affirmation of the long tradition of Apprentice School athletics and greatly facilitated the School's effort to solidify a small college level of competition with four-year institutions.



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 Modern Era

The 1981 football team had the second best record in school history (8-1).
The 2001-02 men's basketball team had its best season ever with a 23-5 record and won the United States Collegiate Athletic Association national championship.
The 2007 baseball team went 30-15 and captured the first baseball national title when they won the United States Collegiate Athletic Association national championship.
The 1986 tennis team ended with a school best 15-1 record.
The 2006-07 wrestling team had its best finish ever in the annual Virginia Duals event coming in second place after defeating Davidson and James Madison.
The 2000-01 women's basketball team rewrote the school record book en route to the first women's national championship in school history by winning the National Small College Athletic Associaton title.


The modern era of Apprentice athletics is one that can be characterized by continuous improvement in facilities, scheduling, and support services, and the welcome addition of a number of coaches with both collegiate and professional experience. These contributed to solid successes in a number of sports.

A new modern recreation center, the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company Activities Center, was dedicated on May 19, 1972 and completed in August of that year. This facility, known today as the Apprentice Athletics Center, is the focal point for all athletic programs. Located on a six-acre site adjacent to the Company's engineering building, the 22,000 square-foot building includes a regulation basketball court, wrestling room, well-equipped strength training area, lockers, showers, equipment storage areas and administrative offices. Outdoor lighting enables evening as well as daytime activities on the football field, recognized as one of the best playing surfaces in the state. Since its beginning, the center's facilities and grounds have been well-maintained and continuously upgraded to meet the program's requirements.

Perhaps one of the biggest boosts to the Apprentice athletic programs was the appointment of Norm Snead as head football coach in 1977. A prominent local figure and a former National Football League player, Snead brought national attention to apprentice athletics. In one week in November 1977 both the Wall Street Journal and Newsday featured articles on Apprentice football. Succeeding Snead in the 1980s and 1990s were Phil Janaro and Paul Hoffmann, both with connections to William and Mary. Football was highly competitive in the 1980s and 1990s, posting season records of 8 and 1 and 8 and 2 in the highlight years.

In baseball, Doug Burroughs started the successful climb of Builder teams and his protégé, Bryan Cave, continued the winning tradition established by his former head coach. Beginning in 1975, and continuing through the 2002 season, the Builders won over 550 games. In 2005, catcher Darrell Taylor became the first Apprentice School athlete to earn national academic recognition through the College Sports Information Directors Association as he was named to the third team Academic All-American team

Although it was a short-lived sport in the Apprentice program, tennis enjoyed considerable success in the 1980s. Under the coaching of Mike Flanagan and Bryan Kersey, both Apprentice alumni, the team competed well against Dixie Conference and Old Dominion Athletic Conference competition. The 1986 team completed a 15 and 1 season that included a dramatic win over Roanoke College, in which the Builders were clear underdogs.

Conference affiliation was embraced enthusiastically by Apprentice to provide opportunities for post-season tournament competition. In 1999 the School became a member of the National Small College Athletic Association in women's and men's basketball. This group later reorganized as the United States Collegiate Athletic Association. Also in that same year, the wrestling program joined the National Collegiate Wrestling Association. In 2001, football became part of the Atlantic Central Football Conference. To support the growing national stature of Apprentice athletics, a Sports Information Director was hired. More coordinated and expanded coverage has resulted.

Men's and women's basketball teams achieved national rankings and championship successes at the beginning of the new millennium. Under the coaching of Karen Barefoot, former Division III star player for Christopher Newport University, the Lady Builders quickly achieved respectability and captured Apprentice's first national title in 2001 by winning the National Small College Athletic Association tournament. They repeated in 2002, winning the national tournament of the United States Collegiate Athletic Association. Not to be outdone by the ladies, the men's team garnered a national championship trophy in 2002.

The School's wrestling program thrived under the head coaching of Keith Mourlam (later named head coach at Virginia Tech) and won two major collegiate tournaments in addition to the State Division II and II Championship in 1993-1994. In 1999, after joining the National Collegiate Wrestling Association, the Apprentice grapplers finished second and third in their first two national tournaments and fielded several national champions.

In August of 2011, much like with the NCAA, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) ruled that members' contests with the Builders would count statistically.

The Apprentice School has also played a role in revitalizing the Oyster Bowl, long an annual Norfolk fixture. In 1999 and 2000, the Builders tangled with Wesley College and Methodist College in the first two such "classics" played in Hampton. The Builders played in the game again in 2002 and for six years from 2005-10, before the game moved to Old Dominion University in Norfolk.

Athletic teams at The Apprentice School today have achieved at levels higher than ever before. Over the last three years, the Builders have placed second, third and third in the Virginia Sports Information Directors' rankings of Division II and III-level colleges and universities based on overall winning percentage.

On January 17, 2014, The Apprentice School basketball teams played in their brand new home as they hosted the annual Martin Luther King Classic.  The gymnasium is home to a 600-seat arena and includes concession stand, cardio room and an athletic office.