Back in 1985, my good friend Ron Bishop resigned from his position as Head Basketball Coach at Tennessee Temple. He was getting out of the coaching business at the right time; his Crusaders had just won the National Christian College Athletic Association Championship and the timing seemed right. The timing was right, but not just for retiring from coaching. It was right because of what Ron Bishop planned to do next.
Coach Bishop wanted to start a sports missions’ ministry. His dream was to take young American athletes overseas, allow them to play against other young athletes, as well as witness the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them. Twenty-eight years later, SCORE International has grown into a very successful organization, with more than three million dollars of assets, and no debt. In all, SCORE has taken thousands of athletes on thousands of mission trips, and SCORE has also established major bases of operations in the Dominican Republic as well as Costa Rica. Their facility in the Dominican Republic has a world class baseball complex; one that several Major League Baseball teams have expressed an interest in using as a team training complex.
Almost two years ago, Ron Bishop retired once again. He stepped down as executive director of SCORE, and became the organization’s Chairman of the Board as well as founder. His long-time friend, John Zeller, a former baseball coach at Tennessee Temple, took over as the executive director. Just like the last time Coach Bishop retired, he has refused to stop or even slow down. He is now in great demand as a speaker for churches and revivals, as well as sports camps. He is also an NBA Chaplin for several teams.
Now that SCORE International is approaching its thirtieth birthday, it is very easy to see how successful it has become. Ron Bishop never lost faith in the vision that God gave him, even in the lean years when he and his wife Pat ran the business by themselves from their home in north Georgia. When things started rolling in the late 1980s, it soon became apparent more people with a similar vision from God, would be needed. A good example is SCORE’s National Basketball Director, Dave Conrady. Conrady went to Argentina with Coach Bishop in 1987 as a player, after graduating from Furman University. Conrady came to Chattanooga as an assistant coach at UTC for former Mocs’ Head Coach John Shulman, but left three years ago to join SCORE full time.
I have had the pleasure of going on two separate mission trips with SCORE International. The first was the same trip that Dave Conrady went on in 1987 to Argentina. I produced a recruiting video for SCORE on that trip, and I went again as Head Softball Coach for SCORE in the summer of 1994. We toured the Dominican Republic that year with the first outside softball team to ever play there. We took a girl’s sixteen and under team and played the Dominican National Softball team in a series of games in five different areas. We went five and five against them, and the great memories of that trip are too many to mention here.
I was reminded of that trip by one of my players on that team at church on Easter Sunday morning. Julie Coffman Griffith, one of our pitchers on the trip, laughed as we talked about the pigs and chickens we had to chase off the field before we could actually play one of our games. It’s hard to believe it has been nineteen years since we were there. Coach Bishop has invited me back several times, but I never seem to be able to fit it into my schedule. Maybe a twentieth anniversary trip would be appropriate in 2014.
Randy Smith has been covering sports in Tennessee for the last 43 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has continued his broadcasting career as a free-lance play-by-play announcer. He is also an author and is a media concepts teacher at Brainerd High School in Chattanooga. He is also the Head Softball Coach at Brainerd. Randy Smith's career has included a 17-year stint as scoreboard host and pre-game talk show host on the widely regarded "Vol Network". He has also done play by play of more than 500 college football, basketball, baseball and softball games on ESPN, ESPN2, Fox Sports, CSS and Tennessee Pay Per View telecasts. He was selected as "Tennessee's Best Sports Talk Show Host" in 1998 by the Associated Press. He has won other major awards including, "Best Sports Story" in Tennessee and his "Friday Night Football" shows on WRCB-TV twice won "Best Sports Talk Show In Tennessee" awards. He has also been the host of "Inside Lee University Basketball" on CSS for the past 11 years. He was the first television broadcaster to ever be elected to the "Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame", in 2003. Randy and his wife, Shelia, reside in Hixson. They have two married children (Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith). They also have three grandchildren (Coleman, Boone, and DellaMae).