Bahnsen named to WCJC Hall of Fame

Published 2:51 pm Sunday, November 21, 2021

Special to the Daily News

Former Wharton County Junior College coach and athletic director Gene Bahnsen, a former star athlete at Vinton High School, was selected as part of the school’s inaugural group of inductees to the WCJC Athletic Hall of Fame.

Bahnsen was a Class B all-state fullback for the Lions in 1950.

Bahnsen was a well-rounded athlete who earned All-Texas honors while playing football for North Texas State University in the mid-1950s.

He came to WCJC in 1959 as a coach, initially helping mentor the college’s basketball, football and track programs. At that time, WCJC had what Bahnsen deems “the most diverse junior college athletic program” in the country, offering baseball, basketball, football, tennis, track and volleyball.

Bahnsen’s family inhabited the dormitory as one of the coach’s duties included supervising the athlete’s dorm.

In 1965, Bahnsen was promoted to head football coach and athletic director, along with continuing his duties as coach of the basketball team.

Bahnsen continued as WCJC’s athletic director for a remarkable six decades, retiring in 2019.

During his tenure, Bahnsen guided WCJC’s athletes to numerous state championships and national playoff berths. He also served as the football commissioner of the Southwest Junior College Football Conference and spent decades officiating at the high school and senior college levels. He holds an honorary lifetime membership in the Texas Association of Sports Officials and was a member of the Texas High School Coaches’ Association for six decades.

In 2012, Bahnsen was inducted into the National Junior College Athletic Association’s Men’s Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

In 2019, the WCJC gymnasium was renamed the Gene Bahnsen Gymnasium in his honor.

Bahnsen currently lives in Wharton with his wife, Jan. The couple has four children: Bonnie, David, Nancy and Billy.

Bahnsen maintains that staying at WCJC for the bulk of his career was a wise decision.

“I had lots of other offers over the years but felt I needed to stay here,” he says. “I don’t regret that one bit.”