Coach Eli Camden ‘‘Cam’’ Henderson (February 5, 1890-May 3, 1956) was born in Joetown, Marion County. He was an innovator in basketball and football. In basketball, he is widely credited with pioneering the zone defense as well as the modern fast break. In football, he reportedly helped originate the double-wing offense. He is a revered figure in Marshall University sports history.
Henderson grew up in Harrison County and attended Glenville State Normal College (now Glenville State College), where he played football, basketball, and baseball. Two years after graduation, Henderson was the principal of Bristol High School where he initiated the school’s athletic program. Henderson’s first college coaching position was at Muskingham College, Ohio. After three years, he returned to West Virginia to coach at Davis & Elkins College. In 12 seasons, he posted an 83-33-6 record in football and a 220-40 mark in basketball.
In 1935, he moved to Marshall College (now University) to coach football and basketball. The high point of his basketball coaching career came in 1947 when Marshall won the NAIB national tournament in Kansas City. Later that year, Henderson led the football team to a 9-2 regular season. The team was invited to play in the Tangerine Bowl on January 1, 1948, at the same time Marshall’s basketball team was playing in the Los Angeles Invitational Tournament. Henderson traveled with the basketball team and sent assistant coach Roy Straight to handle football. The basketball team won its tournament, but the football team lost the bowl game 7-0.
Henderson resigned as the football coach following the 1949 season but continued to coach basketball through 1954–55. Henderson remains Marshall’s all-time winningest basketball coach (362-16), and his record in football (68-46-5) held until 2001. The college’s basketball arena, the Cam Henderson Center, is named for him.
This Article was written by Clark Haptonstall
Last Revised on November 30, 2012
Clagg, Sam. The Cam Henderson Story. Parsons: McClain, 1981.
Toothman, Fred R. Wild Wonderful Winners: Great Football Coaches of West Virginia. Huntington: Vandalia Book Co., 1991.