Unique quilt incorporates iconic HPU basketball coach's neckties

Apr. 13, 2014 @ 01:00 AM

The framed quilt adorns a wall in a nondescript corner of the Millis Athletic and Convocation Center at High Point University.
It’s easy to walk right past the large quilt without noticing it. There’s not even a plaque anywhere explaining the significance of the quilt, though HPU officials say a plaque will be placed there this summer. Nonetheless, beneath that framed glass, woven like a thread into the ornate tapestry, lies a unique story almost as colorful as the quilt itself.
The story goes back more than half a century, when men’s basketball at High Point College — as the school was called then — was coached by Virgil Yow, a former three-sport letterman at High Point. Yow may not have been as well-known as another basketball coach in his family — Kay Yow, the legendary women’s coach at North Carolina State University, whose father was Virgil Yow’s cousin — but he’s still a bit of an institution in the history of High Point athletics, having won more than 300 basketball games during his coaching tenure.
That’s where that quilt in the Millis Center, um, ties in to the story.
Judi Bludworth, Yow’s only child, explains.
“Every time my father would have a game, he would wear a coat and a new necktie,” recalls Bludworth, now 73 and living in Lake Worth, Fla. “If he won the game, he would keep the tie, but if he lost the game, he would give it to the winning coach. When he retired, he had over 300 winning ties — he was a very winning coach.”
So what became of all those neckties?
“After my father died (in 1984), my mother kept all the ties in several cardboard boxes — she showed them to me,” Bludworth explains. “And then when she died (in 2004), I ended up with them down here in Florida.”
What does a woman do with 300-plus neckties? They were nice ties — worn only once, mind you — that ran the gamut from silk to wool, dressy to casual. They also had obvious sentimental value, but they were taking up a lot of space in Bludworth’s home.
That’s when she met Bette Haddon, a gifted quilter in Florida, and hit on the idea of having the neckties made into unique keepsake quilts.
“It just dawned on me that this might be a nice way to clean up my house and give some kind of remembrance to my kids and grandkids,” Bludworth says.
So she turned over the ties to Haddon, and half a year later she had seven colorful, eclectic quilts, each of them incorporating the neckties of Coach Virgil Yow. Bludworth kept one of the quilts for herself, gave one to her daughter, and gave one to each of her four grandchildren, who’d never gotten to meet their great-grandfather but for years had heard the stories about his success on the basketball court.
The seventh quilt is the one on display at HPU, a large, colorful spread made up of 36 individual squares, each one featuring fabric from Yow’s ties. In the center of each square is a black, rectangular label from a tie, bearing names such as Windsor, Andhurst, Arrow and Giovanni.
Until a plaque is placed beside the quilt, most students and passersby likely won’t know why it’s there, but school officials understand its significance.
“We appreciate the gift of this quilt, as it reflects our 90-year history and honors a man who contributed to what High Point University is today,” says Kevin Edwards, vice president of institutional advancement at HPU.
Yow coached basketball at High Point from 1932 to 1945 and again from 1953 to 1962, during which time he won 308 of his 499 games and won three conference championships. In 1959, he was elected to the Helms Athletic Foundation’s Hall of Fame, a coveted distinction for participants of collegiate sports during that era.
Yow is also known as the High Point coach who recruited senior Nancy Isenhour to play on his men’s squad in 1945, making her the first female player in the country to play on a collegiate men’s team.
Also, between his two coaching stints at High Point, Yow coached the women’s team for Hanes Hosiery in Winston-Salem, a dominant team that won three national championships under his guidance.
Bludworth believes the quilts are a fitting tribute to her father and his legacy — the legacy in his family and the one at High Point University.
“Each quilt is entirely different,” she says, “but they’re all beautiful.”

jtomlin@hpe.com | 888-3579