Sports: Former Catawba football coach enters Stanly County Hall of Fame

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 6, 2024

By Mike London

MISENHEIMER — Retired now in Blowing Rock, Billy Joe Mauldin still answers to “Bill.”

He is remembered as the head football coach who helped end a long skid of losing Catawba College seasons in 1988.

Mauldin. who was in his early 40s when he coached Catawba’s stellar 1988 season, is still spry and still active at 78. He was inducted into the Stanly County Hall of Fame in ceremonies held on Monday at Pfeiffer University.

Mauldin earned seven letters at Albemarle High in football, basketball and track and field and graduated in 1963. While he would become a notable football coach, the man he wanted to emulate was Ken Frazier, the coach of Albemarle’s basketball team.

Mauldin played tight end for the football team at Appalachian State, when the Mountaineers were still one of Catawba’s biggest rivals. He was a senior leader in the fall of 1966 and graduated in the spring of 1967 with a Health and Physical Education degree.

Mauldin’s teaching and coaching career began at Burns High in Cleveland County. He assisted with track and football.

He switched to Watauga High in Boone prior to the 1969-70 school year. That move gave him a chance to earn a masters degree in P.E. from Appalachian State.

Mauldin paid a lot of dues from 1969-76 as a head coach of track and golf and an assistant football and basketball coach. His first championship team was Watauga’s 1974 jayvee basketball squad. His first varsity conference championships came with the 1975 golf team and the 1977 track and field team.

He became the head football coach at Watauga in 1976 when his mentor, football coach Jack Groce, became the full-time athletic director.

Mauldin did so well that he was elected to the Watauga Sports Hall of Fame in 2022. He served as Watauga’s head football coach from 1976-83 and his teams were 53-31-1.

Mauldin was Northwest Conference Coach of the Year in 1977, 1978 and 1980. He was a Shrine Bowl coach in 1980.

He was honored as Western North Carolina Coach of the Year in 1978.

Mauldin’s 1978 team is legendary in the mountains. That 13-0-1 team survived battles with Brevard in the semifinals and Williams (Burlington) in the finals to take the NCHSAA’s 3A state championship.

That game against Williams— a 34-28 victory for Watauga’s Pioneers on a frigid Friday in a game played at Appalachian State’s stadium — changed the direction of Mauldin’s life because the head coach on the opposing sideline was Pete Stout. Stout was impressed by his opponent and he knew he would hire Mauldin if he ever got the chance.

That chance would come.

Mauldin’s wife, Linda, graduated from Appalachian and became a teacher. Their daughters were born while he was coaching at Watauga. Both were born on football Fridays.

On the Friday that Katie Mauldin arrived, Watauga wasn’t in the playoffs despite an 8-1-1 record.

Mauldin’s second daughter, Meleah, was born four years later on the same auspicious day in 1978 that her father coached Watauga to the state title.

East Rowan fans will remember Meleah as a very good athlete for the Mustangs in the mid-1990s.

Stout, a Catawba All-American in the 1950s who had tremendous coaching success at Salisbury High before moving on to make Williams a force in NCHSAA football, was hired to  revive Catawba football prior to the 1983 season.

Stout hired Mauldin during the summer of 1984 to coach Catawba’s linebackers. Mauldin became defensive coordinator in 1985 and also served as recruiting coordinator.

Stout made progress with the Indians, laid a foundation for better days, but the bottom line wasn’t close to what he was accustomed to or what he had hoped for.

He was 13-29-1 after four seasons at Catawba, and he’d given himself a timetable of four seasons to start winning.  Stout returned to the high school ranks at Freedom High in Morganton and he would win big there. But Catawba’s program had experienced 10 losing seasons in a row when Mauldin was elevated to head coach in late November 1986.

The Catawba Indians were 4-7 in 1987 but enjoyed a breakthrough season in 1988, their first winning season since 1976.  Catawba won its first league championship in 25 years.

Catawba’s final record of 8-4 included a loss in the NAIA playoffs at Central State (Ohio). Catawba had ventured to bowl games in the old days, but that 24-10 loss to Central State was Catawba’s first ever playoff game.

Catawba players on that team included four All-America honorees — safety Keith Henry, quarterback Mike Warfield, linebacker Rodney Goodine and kicker Randy Brown.

But the good times never last. The Catawba Indians were 4-7 in 1989 and 5-6 in 1990.

Mauldin resigned in March 1991 after four seasons at the helm, making a move to the insurance business, and then into school administration.

But he made his mark with the Indians as a no-nonsense coach who produced the only winning season of the 1980s.and always put academics first.

Catawba graduation rates went up exponentially during his tenure.


The Stanly News and Press contributed to this story.