Travis Chell, Director of Athletic Communications
BRISTOL – King University director of athletics David Hicks announced the hire of Lt . Col. Rodger Acklin to lead the Tornado tennis programs.
“Rodger’s career in the military makes him an excellent leader for the men and women in our tennis programs,” Hicks said. “In addition to his character and leadership ability, Rodger is a highly qualified coach who has done a remarkable job at Lees-McRae the past three seasons. He is a Bristol native, and well connected and respected in the Tri-Cities tennis community. He will have an immediate impact on the competitiveness of our programs, and an even stronger impact long term.”
Acklin is no stranger to Conference Carolinas as he joins the Tornado staff after spending the last three seasons leading the Lees-McRae College tennis programs. In that time he led the women’s team to 25 wins while the men’s team improved from one win in his first season to eight before the 2019-20 season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He guided both teams to Conference Carolinas Tournament berths for the first time in five years.
“I want to thank my tennis family who have allowed me to come home,” Acklin said. “Bob Helton and Jim Flannagan were instrumental in making this happen and I truly appreciate David Hicks and King University for allowing me to be part of this University. Most of all I want to thank the men and women of Lees-McRae and the local community for teaching me to be a collegiate coach.”
The retired Air Force officer has spent most of his life teaching tennis while serving. When he was 20, he was the assistant tennis pro at the Bristol Racquet and Fitness Club, giving private lessons and teaching at clinics. His teaching continued while on active duty as he served as the head coach at LAMP High School in Montgomery, Ala., leading them to their first-ever conference title. During that time he also taught high-level junior athletes in the state of Alabama.
Acklin played tennis at Lees-McRae, winning conference titles in 1996 in No. 1 singles and doubles en route to earning MVP honors. He then returned to his alma mater in 2017 and began to resurrect the tennis programs.
He earned his Bachelor of Science in History and Political Science from Lees-McRae in 1996 before earning a Master of Arts in Education from the University of Phoenix in 2008. He also earned a Master of Operational Art and Science from Air Command and Staff College in 2013.