NCADA announces Hall of Fame class of five athletic directors
Wilmington, NC — NCADA announced its 29th Hall of Fame class on Thursday, and five athletic directors will join the ranks.
Neil Blankenship, Michael Gainey, Troy Lindsay, Jamison “Jay” Smith and Jim Taylor make up the class of 2023.
The honorees will be inducted into the Hall of Fame at a banquet on Monday, March 27 in Wilmington.
Here’s a closer look at this year’s award winners:
Neil Blankenship, CAA
Neil graduated from Swain County High School in 1988. Neil was team manager and athletic coach for the Mars Hill Football program from 1988-1992. He was also an NAIA National Qualifier in the inaugural season of men’s cross country at Mars Hill in 1992.
Neil returned to his alma mater and has served the Swain County community since 1993. He began his career as an assistant soccer coach and was the head women’s basketball coach for seventeen years. He served as the middle school AD for six years and landed his dream job as head football coach for Swain County High School in January 2012. He was also promoted to high school AD later that spring. He served in those two positions for ten years before retiring from football at the end of the 2021 season. As a head football coach, his record is 95-40, with three conference titles and a state runner-up.
Since becoming AD at Swain, he has served on the NC Athletic Director’s Association Board, the NC High School Athletic Association Board of Directors, the NC Coaches Association Board (President 2021), the NC Football Coaches Association Board and the Southwestern Officials Association Board . He is a Certified Athletic Administrator (CAA) and Level 3 Coach from the NFHS. Neil has been awarded: the Gerald McGee Award of Excellence in 2022, the NIAAA State Award of Merit in 2021, the Charlie Adams Distinguished Service Award in Region Eight in 2020, Region Eight Athletic Director of the Year in 2016 and the 2015 NCHSAA Special Person Award.
Blankenship is revered by players, coaches and other sporting directors as a passionate leader who brings energy and enthusiasm. Making his presence known, regardless of what role he is fulfilling at the time.
Neil is married to Sonya Blankenship (age 26) and they have three children: Darren, Cameron and Arizona.
Michael Gainey, CMAA
Michael Gerard Gainey is from Suffolk, Virginia. He was born in 1965 to Sylvia and the late David Gainey. He has three siblings (Shawn, Joy and Vonnie). Michael attended John Yeates High School where he played football, basketball and track. He attended Ferrum Jr. College and East Carolina University on a football scholarship, graduating in 1988. He is married to Pamela Williams Gainey, who teaches health and physical education at Rocky Mount High and is the head girl’s basketball coach. They have two wonderful children, Michael “MJ” Jr. (27) and Michelle (23).
He began his teaching career in 1989 at Edwards Jr. High School in Rocky Mount, where he coached boys’ basketball and supported the Rocky Mount Sr. High football team. He began teaching at Rocky Mount Sr. High in the 1995-96 school year and was an assistant boys’ college basketball coach. In 1997, Michael was named the Head Boys collegiate coach and led the Gryphons to numerous conference season and tournament titles. Under his leadership, the Gryphons have qualified for multiple state playoffs and regional appearances, and won two regional titles and state championships. In 2010, Michael was the head coach of the Boys Basketball East/West All-Star Team and in 2012 he served as an assistant coach at the NC/SC Carolinas Basketball Classic.
He has been a member of the North Carolina Coaches Association since 1989. Michael became athletic director in 1999. In 2008 he joined the North Carolina Athletic Director’s Association and the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association. He has also served on the North Carolina High School Board of Directors of the Athletic Association (2018-2022). He has received numerous awards from the North Carolina High School Athletic Association and the North Carolina Athletic Director’s Association; His most recent honor was the Merritt Leadership Award in 2022.
He genuinely enjoys seeing young people excel in school, extracurricular activities, and post-secondary endeavors. His biggest highlight during his coaching career came at the 2010 NCHSAA 3A State Championship Game. He was amazed at the community support for the game. The atmosphere was electric and truly unforgettable.
Troy F Lindsey, CAA
Troy is currently the Assistant Principal and Athletic Director at Gray’s Creek High School. He has held this position for seven years. During that time he has overseen numerous projects to improve facilities and has continued to provide inter-school programs for all student athletes. Troy helped implement Unified Track for all comprehensive schools in Cumberland County, where the Gray’s Creek team won the state championship in its inaugural year. Lindsey was recently elected Committee Chair of the North Carolina Athletic Directors Association Awards Committee and serves a four-year term on the North Carolina High School Athletic Association Board of Directors.
Before Gray’s Creek High, he was the assistant principal and athletic director for Douglas Byrd High School from 2006 to 2016. He helped transform the athletic program into financial stability while providing state-of-the-art equipment and facilities to all students and athletes. Professionally, Troy became an active member of the North Carolina Athletic Directors Association for leadership development and growth, attending state and national conferences and earning credit in 39 NIAAA leadership development courses. He was elected to the NCADA Board of Directors as a Region 4 representative in 2011 and served until 2017. As a member of the NCADA Board of Directors, he was a member of the Awards Committee and Mentoring Committee, as well as Co-Chair for the Mentoring Committee and Eastern Chair of the Awards Committee.
From 1989 to 2006, he taught science classes at Pine Forest High School, Westover High School, and 71st High School while coaching soccer, men’s and women’s basketball, and men’s golf. Troy was the head men’s basketball coach at Westover High School and an assistant coach at 71st High School from 1996-2000 when the women’s basketball team won its first state championship in 2003.
Academically, he earned a master’s degree in school administration from Fayetteville State University in 2009, a bachelor of science degree with a major in biology from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 1988, and an associate degree in science from Wytheville Community College in 1985.
Lindsey grew up in Rural Retreat, a small town in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, and graduated from Rural Retreat High School in 1983. Troy has been married to Patricia Bill Lindsey for 26 years and has two children: Savannah and Chase.
Jamison “Jay” Smith, CAA
Jay Smith has been working with children and families for 28 years. He worked with the Department of Juvenile Justice and Department of Social Services in the Catawba Valley for 15 years before returning home to enter the education field. For the past 13 years he has been a vocational counselor at Avery County High School. During this time, he also served in a variety of other roles: County Athletics Director (12 years), Women’s Golf Coach (6 years), and Assistant Baseball Coach (5 years).
During his time at Avery County High School, Jay led many teams to achieve great things. The Vikings won their first state title, 16 Western Highlands Conference titles, eight western regional titles and three other state titles.
Jay has been a member of NCADA for 11 years and NCCA for 13 years. He served two terms as Region 8 representative on the NCADA Board of Directors, six years as Secretary of the Western Highlands Conference and the NCHSAA Golf Committee. He has also been named Western Highlands Conference Golf Coach of the Year (4 times), Region 8 Athletic Director of the Year (2017), NCADA Special Commendation, NCADA Athletic Director of Excellence, NCADA Brave Heart Award and is a NIAAA Certified Sports Administrator .
Jay graduated from Avery County High School (1991), received his bachelor’s degree in family studies from Montreat College (1995) and a master’s degree in professional school counseling from Appalachian State University (2010).
He lives in Cranberry Township, Avery County, with his 25-year-old wife, Kelly, and their three children, Katie, Nolan, and Darla.
Jim Taylor, CAA
After playing football and track at Gardner-Webb and then Western Carolina University, Jim Taylor began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Western Carolina University under Bob Waters and Dan Robinson, where he coached football.
In 1970, Jim was hired at Polk Central HS (now Polk County) as head football coach, head track coach and athletic director. In four seasons, Jim’s football team had 28 wins – 12 losses.
Jim joined Shelby HS in 1974 as an assistant football coach (3 years) and track and field coach (15 years). He became head football coach in 1977 and spent 21 years in that position, winning 201 and losing 54. He won (3) state championships, (2) state runners-up, and (11) conference championships. He coached in the East-West and Shrine game and was named State Coach of the Year.
Jim’s leadership and influence has been highlighted as NCCA President, NCCA Board Member and Executive Secretary of the NC Football Coaches Association (2007-2014). Co-Chairman of the Cleveland County Sports Hall of Fame (1990-2019), Shrine Bowl Outstanding Player Committee.
Jim was Athletic Director at Shelby HS for 17 years, leading the school’s athletic programs and athletic teams with positive and consistent leadership, and hiring outstanding coaches who developed and maintained strong athletic teams for both men’s and women’s sports.
In January 2004, Kings Mountain, Shelby and Cleveland Counties merged into the Cleveland County School System over community opposition. In 2005, Jim Taylor was hired as County Athletic Director, a position he held for eight years. Jim was hired because of the respect and influence he offered in Cleveland County and NC. As in his role as coach and former athletic director, Jim continued to provide positive and consistent leadership.
Jim made contributions to the development of the Cleveland County Athletic Handbook. During his time as County AD, Jim became involved with the City/County Athletic Directors and reached out to others for information and ideas on how to stay on top in the changing sporting environment.
Jim has been inducted into several athletic HOFs – Franklin HS, Cleveland County, Western Carolina University (as a member of the 1969 WCU football team) and the NCHSAA Sports Hall of Fame.