Update: Funeral arrangements have been finalized and are at the end of the release
AUGUSTA, GA – Former Peach Belt Conference commissioner Marvin Vanover passed away in the early morning hours of May 19 after a brief illness. The longtime men's basketball coach and athletic director at Augusta University was the first commissioner of the Peach Belt, serving in that capacity from 1990 to 2007.
"Marvin was a great man and a great commissioner," said PBC commissioner David Brunk, who came to the league after Vanover retired in 2007. "I worked with him when I was the commissioner of the Northeast 10 Conference and when I arrived in Augusta he was so kind to me and my family as we made the transition. The foundation and legacy he left at the Peach Belt was tremendous and I am personally thankful to him for the work he did for all of us at the league and beyond."
Beginning in 1989, Vanover became involved with the initial planning of the Peach Belt Conference and was asked to serve as an interim commissioner in April of 1990 for one year. He was named the PBC's first full-time commissioner in June of 1991.
Under his tenure, the Peach Belt Conference grew into one of the preeminent Division II Conferences in the nation with 24 National Championships in only 16 years. Peach Belt Conference won national titles in men's basketball, women's tennis, men's tennis, softball and baseball. Over 300 PBC student-athletes were named All-Americans in Vanover's tenure.
"Marvin's greatest strength was in the relationships he forged," said PBC assistant commissioner Ken Gerlinger, who joined the league in 2000. "No matter where he went, there was somebody he knew or wanted to know. He was a very outgoing and generous person and I will be forever thankful to him for giving me the opportunity to become a part of this league. He has had a big impact on my life."
Vanover served as men's basketball coach and athletic director at Augusta University for 25 years before becoming PBC commissioner. He led the Jaguars for 23 years including two straight NAIA District 25 championships in 1970 and '71. Aside from winning the regional and advancing to the NAIA national tournament, the 1969-70 team was ranked #5 in the nation with a 27-3 overall record, the best by a Vanover-led team. In 1978 he led the team to their first NCAA Division II Tournament appearance, where the Jaguars faced current Division I power Central Florida.
"He is one of the nicest human beings I have ever known," said PBC associate commissioner Diana Kling, who Vanover hired in 2005. "He took a chance on someone who was out of the business and raising a family at the time. I wanted to get back to collegiate athletics and he gave me that opportunity. I wouldn't be here today if it were not for him."
Vanover served as the commissioner of the South Atlantic Conference in 1981-82 and was instrumental in moving the Augusta College program up to the NCAA Division I level as a part of the newly formed Big South Conference in 1983.
A native of Harlan, Ky., Vanover graduated from Georgia Southern University with a B.S. in Physical Education and has served on the GSU alumni board. He was awarded the Lettermen Club Award from his alma mater in 1980 and also holds a master's degree in Physical Education from Peabody College. He is the proud father of two children, a daughter, Holly, and a son, Derek.
"It is hard to fathom how many lives Marvin touched," said Brunk. "When you think of the student-athletes and coaches he recruited and taught, the staff and administration at Augusta University, and then the thousands of student-athletes at the Peach Belt Conference, you begin to understand just how impactful one person can be. That was Marvin Vanover. Add to it the generosity, humanity, humor and compassion he brought to all of those relationships and the scale of what we have lost becomes clear."
Vanover was inducted into the inaugural class of the PBC Hall of Fame in 2016 as a Founding Father, part of the league's 25th anniversary celebration. The road to Augusta's Christenberry Fieldhouse was named in his honor in 2003. The PBC officially renamed its basketball championship the Marvin Vanover PBC Men's and Women's Basketball Tournament in 2008.