Berea College Athletics Dedicates Elvin Combs Fieldhouse 

Berea College Athletics Dedicates Elvin Combs Fieldhouse 

Elvin Combs, a 41-year equipment manager at Berea College, is remembered by one former student for a unique reasonhis need for a very large pair of tennis shoes. 

“He had to find a large enough shoe for me to play basketball in—and somehow he did,” said Berea College Trustee Vance Blade, a 1983 Berea College graduate and member of the Berea College basketball team. “Those shoes are gold.”

Last month, Berea College dedicated a new indoor athletic facility to honor the legendary equipment manager. The Elvin Combs Fieldhouse is the first-ever training facility at Berea College, offering a turf area, weight room, indoor pitching mounds, batting practice stimulations, conference rooms and more. 

Blade brought those tennis shoes with him to the recent building dedication—in the gold bag in which he stores them—and shared the story with Combs’ son John Combs, a 1969 Berea College graduate. 

“There was a calming force in the Seabury Center, and it was Mr. Combs,” Blade said. “He knew when you had a bad day, and he was able to fix it.” 

The new Elvin Combs Fieldhouse has been several years in the making, and Berea College Athletics Director Ryan Hess said naming the building after Combs will help carry on his legacy, dedication and service to students. 

“Elvin Combs was a tremendous individual,” Hess said. “When you’re trying to train student athletes, it’s about hard work. Elvin Combs exemplified that with his service, which was priceless.” 

Hess said the facility will serve students as more than just a place to train. 

“This place has been a dream, and it has everything we need,” Hess said. “It’s more than a practice area—it’s a gathering space where athletes from different teams can interact and create the bigger Berea family.”

Elvin Combs grew up in Happy, a town in Perry County in eastern Kentucky. Combs decided to leave high school before graduating to became a soldier, serving in World War II and working as a coal miner back in eastern Kentucky. 

Combs’ 41-year journey at Berea College began when his family moved to Berea and his sister, Faye, attended the Berea Foundation School. He began his career at Berea College in 1947 as a painter before being hired as equipment manager. His work as equipment manager went above and beyond the job description, as he could often be found driving students to games and supervising students working at the Seabury Gym. 

Combs said his father was more like a father to students.

“Dad took them under his wing,” John Combs recalled. “It amazes me how many people remember my dad. They come up to me and confess that he was the reason they stayed in school. He was not only known on campus but also in the Berea community. He was active in the community and had great friendships with so many Bereans. 

“He was a very humble person,” John Combs added. “He would not think he deserved to have a building named after him.”