By D. Mark Mitchell
Sports Editor

Pardon Our Progress

Last week the Opelika School board voted to start the construction by accepting some of the bids to get the site ready.

Monday, construction workers and equipment started entering the campus. The next day workers were moving dirt, digging up asphalt and constructing a temporary kitchen to cook for students while building a new cafeteria.

If you love Opelika and want our city to grow and want businesses and industry come to Opelika, this is an important step — a huge step.

Dr. Mark D. Neighbors and the OCS staff have done an outstanding job operating our school system.

We are going through one of the worst economic times in many, many years, but our school system has been able to maintain courses, activities and other things that are important for our students.

The new high school will be a huge draw to prospective businesses and people to move to Opelika.

We all need to sit back and let the construction workers do their job and before we know it, Opelika High School will be renovated and we will all be proud!

A true ‘Hall of Famer’ lives in Opelika

I wanted to inform everyone that we have a “Hall of Famer” living in Opelika.

Coach Dan Washburn.

If you know him, you call him “Coach”; if you don’t know him, you would call him Dan Washburn.

Coach Dan Washburn and his longtime wife, Shirlene live in Opelika.

Born in Langdale — now known as Valley — Washburn grew up in Lafayette and graduated from Lafayette High School. He earned a football scholarship to U.T.C. (University of Chattanooga, Tenn.) and graduated with a bachelor’s degree, then earned his masters from Troy University.

Washburn began teaching and coaching at Valley High School in 1962. He was head basketball coach and assistant football coach under Doug Lockridge.

He accepted the job of head football coach and athletic director at Lanett High School after five years.

Fifteen years later, he was named superintendent of Lanett City Schools, a job he would have for seven years.

In 1990, Coach Washburn accepted the job as executive director of the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) and retired 16 years later after changing the culture of high school athletics in the state of Alabama.

Coach Washburn developed and changed many successful activities.

He started “Super 6,” where all six classifications play for the state football championship at a neutral location. The “Final 48” basketball tournament, where the final four girls and boys basketball teams in each of the six classification play for the championship at a neutral location, and many more championship events were moved to a neutral site.

As you can see, Coach Washburn changed the way high schools play for championships in Alabama. Most of the sports are now played at neutral locations.

Washburn has been inducted into many hall of fames since retiring.

Coach Washburn has been inducted into the following halls of fame: Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, National Federation of High Schools, Alabama High School Hall of Fame and Leadership Hall of Fame in Troy University.

Dan and his wife Shirlene have three children and eight grandchildren, five of which have or are attending Opelika City Schools.

Coach’s daughter and son-in-law teach and coach in the Opelika School System.

Washburn is guest host every Wednesday from 7 a.m. until 9 a.m. on my radio show “On the Mark,” on WTLM 1520 AM or on the web at


OHS graduate Jasmine Sydnor made the ASWA All-State softball team. Sydnor hit over .400 and broke the home run record at Opelika this season.

OHS Basketball Fish Fry Tomorrow, June 16

The OHS girls and boys basketball program are selling plates of fried fish tomorrow, Saturday June 16, at the Opelika Middle School cafeteria. Tickets are $5 per plate. You can purchase your plate from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturday.

Back to the Dawg House Football Camp

The annual “Back to the Dawg House” football camp will be held on June 30, at the Opelika Sportsplex. Camp founders SaJason Finley and Will Herring said that kids in the third through sixth grade can participate.

The camp will teach kids more than just about football. The guys will tell kids about choices in life, the importance of academics, respect, attitude and the fundamentals of football.

Players that will help this year include: Zach Clayton (Titans), Tommy Jackson, Brandon Thompson (Bengals), Corey Grant (Auburn University), Jamarcus Snipes, K.R. Snipes, Brooks Robinson, Jonathon Chandler, Derrick Sistrunk, Ashton Burton, Demius Frazier Dee Snipes and many other former Opelika graduates.

You can register at the Sportsplex or show up June 30 at 8 a.m.