Former Bellarmine athletic director, coach and basketball player Jim Spalding passed away Wednesday evening, after a lengthy illness. “The Bellarmine University community is deeply saddened by the loss of Jim Spalding, a consummate educator, and loyal and dedicated Knight,” said Bellarmine President Joseph J. McGowan.
Citing Coach Spalding’s “excellent leadership,” McGowan said, “Jim was responsible for building the foundation of the university's nationally distinguished and highly competitive department of athletics as we know it today. As an outstanding student athlete at Bellarmine, a successful coach and a first-rate administrator-- in addition to his outstanding success as a loving grandfather, father and husband--we will miss Jim greatly, but we will be ever grateful for his leadership, exceptional competence, integrity, friendship and gentle humor. “
A 1955 Bellarmine graduate, Mr. Spalding returned to his alma mater after completing his master's degree in education and served as a member of the biology faculty and as an assistant basketball coach. He became the head coach in 1966 and took on the director of athletics duties in 1971. During his 23-year tenure as A.D., Coach Spalding expanded Bellarmine's participation in intercollegiate sports from four to 16 teams.
As a Bellarmine basketball player, Spalding was chosen for the prestigious Kentucky College All-Star team in 1955. He also made his mark in Bellarmine's history books by positioning himself in the top forty on the all-time scoring list. As head basketball coach, Spalding compiled a record of 71-60 and led the Knights to the NCAA tournament twice in five years.
Coach Spalding was selected for induction into the Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) Hall of Fame in the spring of 2002. A staple of the Bellarmine University Athletic Department since his basketball-playing days (1951-55), he was a three-time Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference MVP, and led the Knights to three state tournaments. After receiving his bachelor's degree in biology in 1955, he earned a master's in Education from the University of Kentucky. He served Bellarmine as assistant baskeball coach (1957-66), head basketball coach (1966-71), men's cross country/track coach (1961-75), men's tennis coach (1961-62), men's golf coach (1996-97), and last but certainly not least, director of athletics (1971-94). He helped to found the Great Lakes Valley Conference, and served the GLVC in countless ways throughout the years.
After his retirement, he remained an ardent supporter of Bellarmine athletics and was a driving force in helping bring the NCAA Division II Men's Basketball Elite 8 to Louisville for a 6-year run from 1995 through 2000.
Visitation for Coach Spalding will be held Saturday from 5-8 p.m. and Sunday from 1-6 p.m. at Ratterman's Funeral Home at 3800 Bardstown Road in Louisville. The funeral Mass will be held at 11 a.m. on Monday (June 11) at Mother of Good Shepherd, 3511 Rudd Avenue in Louisville's Portland neighborhood. Burial will follow at Calvary Cemetery.
-Memorial gifts in Jim Spalding's honor may be made to the Conventional Franciscan Friars (Province of Our Lady of Consolation, Development Office, 103 St. Francis Blvd., Mount St. Francis IN 47146) or to the Bellarmine University Athletics Scholarship Fund in memory of Jim Spalding (2001 Newburg Road, Louisville, KY 40205).
Photo credits: Bellarmine University