AUBURN, Ala. (WRBL) — A successful businessman and Eufaula, Ala., native, Bill Neville cemented his love for basketball when the family name went up on what was formerly Auburn Arena.
Bill and his wife, Connie, recently made the largest single donation to Auburn athletics.
“I love basketball,” Neville said at Friday’s name-changing ceremony. “I love playing it. I love watching it. I love being a part of it.”
Neville, small in stature but large in brainpower, was never a player. His start in basketball came as a student at The Lakeside School in Eufaula.
He asked then-coach Wendell Barr if he could find a place on the team.
“Coach Barr thought about it, did some analysis and said, ‘I found a job for you. You will be the guy to keep the scorebook,'” Neville said. “I got to go to every game — home and away. And when you think about, forget the scoreboard, that book was the one source of truth.”
Barr was at the ceremony Friday, along with U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville, Auburn Coach Bruce Pearl and other celebrities. It’s been decades since Barr has seen Neville, but he got an invite to the party.
Barr’s reaction when he saw the Neville name on the arena: “Now, that’s big-time right there.”
When Neville called his old coach and asked him for an address for an invitation, Barr didn’t know what to think.
“I thought we were having a Lakeside reunion or something like that,” Barr said.
Neville made his fortune with a software company that designs products for television networks.
“I am not surprised he was successful,” Barr said. “This successful, yes. He seemed to always be smarter than the other kids. He always seemed to be ahead of the game.”
Barr tells a story from the eighth grade when he had Neville in a history class.
“His grades would run 75, 80, 85,” Barr said. “One day he made a 78 and I called him to the front of the class and told him he was the smartest guy in the class and he should try a little harder and make all-A’s. His reply was, ‘Coach, it doesn’t count until the ninth grade.”
Neither Bill nor Connie attended Auburn, but there is a deep family connection there.
His father, William Neville Jr., a Eufaula attorney who died in 2017 was an Auburn graduate. Both of his grandparents graduated from Auburn.
Bill said his dad would have appreciated seeing the Neville’s name on the arena.
“He was a very emotional guy,” Neville said. “He would probably get a little choked up right now. He would have some words of wisdom to do in part. He was a great Auburn man, very loyal. As great an Auburn man as anyone, I have ever met. He loved this place. His list of accolades I keep coming across as I go through his memorabilia. I think he would have loved this day. I think he’s responsible for this beautiful day we have.”