A rising senior majoring in agricultural business management, with minors in economics, environmental science and agricultural entrepreneurship, Gilliam Tharpe is originally from Statesville, North Carolina.
Tharpe first got involved with NC State’s BassPack fishing team as a freshman. As a sophomore, he served as the team’s promotions manager. Tharpe is now serving as president of the team.
In the first of a 2-part series, we caught up with him recently to talk about the ins and outs of the team. That includes a memorable day at Kentucky Lake.
1. What were your duties and responsibilities as promotions manager? And as promotions manager, did you come up with new ideas for the club or does the team have set fundraisers/promotions that every promotions manager takes on once they’re in that role?
So my role was basically to assist the promotions manager from the previous year. He was great, and had a lot of strong connections with local businesses, but it could sometimes get overwhelmed planning things like fundraisers.
My job was to pick up the slack in calling people and checking in on involvement and donations and such. I think to further answer the questions, the club officers are always open to new ideas for events and fundraisers, but in my time in that position, we just focused on the kind of “set in stone” events we do each year. For example, our fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.
2. How did you ascend to team/club president? Do you prefer team or club?
I think we roll with club more often than team, even though it isn’t that important. I’d say after getting really close with the guys in the club when I first got to NC State, getting more and more involved in the club as I’ve grown up, I just felt I have invested a lot in this club. I looked up to this club growing up and even knew people on the club who were here during past national championships.
So, after my sophomore year, a lot of people in the club graduated, leaving it kind of up in the air as to who would be president. Due to how much the club meant to me, I wanted to make sure it was taken care of, and felt the need to step up and run for president. It wasn’t ever something I was dead set on doing, but something that felt right at the time.
3. What challenges, other than funding, does the team face being a club team that school funded varsity teams don’t have?
Our biggest thing is by far how many boats we have. Our club operates on the idea that if you want to go fishing, and don’t have a boat, this is an awesome way to get that chance and become friends and learn from people that do. My freshman year, our first club tournament we had almost 25 boats. If you have 25 boats, you can take 25 guys fishing that don’t have boats. There’s an easy 50 members. Fast forward to now; we have six boats in the club.
You can do the math. Participation has nose dived in the past years, and sadly, that’s just the nature of how our club goes. Obviously, the people who want to stick with it will, and we make the most of having many more non-boaters than boaters by doing a drawing system and all kinds of stuff. But in general, the more boats ya have, the better. We don’t have many – and State isn’t exactly chomping at the bit to buy us any like some other “fishing schools” that have taken over the sport in the past few years.
4. Are there any other advantages the teams that have boats supplied by their university have over teams who’s school doesn’t purchase them boats, other than the opportunity for more members? Just to elaborate, does having more members on a team give them the chance to fill up a regional qualifier leaderboard, or is there a maximum for how many pairs of anglers a school can send to the national championship?
There’s really no max. If you can qualify, you can fish. So, the more members that can fish and travel is definitely advantageous. The advantage for those schools vs. us would be that brand new boats, new trucks to pull them, coaches to run everything, weeks off from school to practice; the list goes on and on and on and on. Rangers — some schools have — and almost all of it on the school’s dime. For us, if you have a professor who won’t change a due date, tough.
If you don’t have enough gas money, tough. Every school handles their teams differently. For certain universities, their bass teams are a high priority, like they hand out fishing scholarships. I could go on and on about this. Now obviously, we are still very grateful for the support we do receive. I don’t want to seem ungrateful in any way. I’m just saying bass fishing isn’t a priority for NC State. At other places, it may be their biggest varsity sport — and we all compete in the same events.
5. The teams who enjoy the extensive university support, are they predominantly bigger universities or smaller universities who may see a fishing team as a relatively cheap team to fund compared to say, a football team?
A lot of the time, it’s small schools that people have never heard of that get unbelievable backing from their schools. However, some big name schools do really support their schools. Auburn is a good example.