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This week’s Q&A is with iconic coach William “Corkey” Yankey, who not only made his name as a coach, but also had a big hand in advancing WCHS athletic facilities.
When did you attend Springfield High School and what sports did you play while there? What positions?
I attended Springfield High School from 1950 to 1954. I played three sports; football, basketball and track, doing each all four years. In football I played halfback, I was a forward in basketball and I ran the mile in track.
What kind of recognition or awards did you earn as an athlete?
I received honorable mention all-state in football and made the all-district and all-mid-Kentucky Conference team in basketball. I won the mile in a track meet at Lafayette High School in Lexington during my senior year.
Did you participate in athletics in college and what was that experience like?
I first decided to walk on in basketball at Kentucky Wesleyan in Owensboro. That was the same year that Adolph Rupp released Ken Snowden and Linville Puckett, who both came to Wesleyan, so I and about four others decided that would make our chances to make the team very slim. I then transferred to Georgetown College at the urging of Bill Sutton and was granted a small scholarship to play for the Georgetown Tigers. I played and lettered all four years and was a full-time starter for three years. At a scrawny 155 pounds, I lined up on offense as a left guard in an offensive line that averaged 265 pounds. Since this was still during the time when players played both ways, on defense I played middle linebacker and led the team in tackles my junior year. Those football years were a very character-building experience. The most memorable time of those four years was that Georgetown defeated Centre College in both my junior and senior years and the two schools never met again on the gridiron.
Did you get into coaching as soon as your playing days ended? What sports have you coached through the years and where did you see the most success?
My first teaching job was at Springfield High School in the 1959-60 school year. I was assistant football coach, head basketball coach and track coach. There were only two coaches at the school at the time. Roland Kimberlin was the head football coach and baseball coach and the assistant basketball coach. I had the opportunity to coach basketball at St. Catharine Junior College from 1970 to 1976. Our two most successful seasons were in ‘72-73 with a record of 15-10, and in ‘74-75 with a record of 18-11. After leaving St. Catharine, I coached boys’ middle school teams from 1984-86. I would consider the years coaching at St. Catharine as the most successful.
It’s hard to express how success is measured, but four of the former athletes with whom I associated during my coaching years are sort of the yardstick by which I measure my success. Dudley Hilton, once the winningest high school football coaches in Kentucky, and current football coach at Pikeville University, played football at Springfield High School while I was coaching there. Three athletes of note from my coaching years at St. Catharine were: Billy Reinle, who led the nation in scoring one year, C.K. Baker, who was the first St. Catharine athlete to be named a junior college All-American and Dale Mabrey, who is the head basketball coach at Pleasure Ridge Park High School, which has won several state titles.
What did it mean to you to be inducted into the WCHS athletic Hall of Fame last year?
Receiving that award was a great honor for me. I think we all like to be recognized for a job well done. Some of the accomplishments during my time with schools in Washington County went beyond coaching experiences. With the help of community volunteers like John White, Morris Sweazy and others, we were able to purchase and erect the scoreboard at the football field, and with school personnel like Jack Waff, the bleachers and press box became a reality. The batting cage at the park was also constructed during this time. Knowing that these facilities help to provide for the advancement of athletes in Washington County is very satisfying.
Where are you in your life now and how involved with sports are you?
I am now retired after 36 years with Washington County schools. My main athletic focus now is watching our five grandchildren participate in soccer, basketball, baseball, cross country and swimming. I’m still an avid fan of high school football and attend a high school game every Friday night during the football season.