By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Five individuals who helped shape the history of Tennessee Tech Athletics, contributing to the many successes and achievements both on and off the playing surfaces, have been selected as members of the 47th class for induction into the Tennessee Tech Sports Hall of Fame.
From breaking barriers to smashing records to establishing new standards, the Class of 2021 racked up an array of accomplishments throughout the years. This year's class includes Frank Harrell (men's basketball head coach/athletics administration), Morris Irby (baseball), Leah Meffert (volleyball), Chad Oberacker (baseball), and Ashley Potts (softball).
"One again, our Hall of Fame Committee worked through an increasingly impressive group of nominees and delivered on the challenging task of selecting a class most deserving of induction into the TTU Sports Hall of Fame," Tech director of athletics Mark Wilson said. "We are very honored and humbled to welcome the 47th class into our Hall of Fame. This group contains so many great individuals and their stories help tell the story of Tech Athletics. We are also excited to officially induct our Class of 2020 this year as well, with four more very deserving Golden Eagles set to be honored."
After forgoing last year's induction ceremony due to the ongoing factors surrounding COVID-19, the Tennessee Tech Sports Hall of Fame returns in 2021 and will hold its 46th and 47th inductions during Homecoming weekend, Nov. 12-13. In addition to the Class of 2021 being recognized, the Class of 2020 will also be honored and officially inducted, with A.J. Kirby-Jones (baseball), Stephanie Place (women's cross country/track & field), Thomas Squires (football), and Borja Zarco (men's tennis) all set to join this year's class as the newest members of the TTU Sports Hall of Fame.
The Hall of Fame Dinner will be held on Friday, Nov. 12, at 6:30 p.m. CT in the Multipurpose Room of the University Center. Tickets are available through the Hooper Eblen Center ticket office by calling 931-372-3940 or by visiting TTUSports.com. Both groups will also be recognized at the Homecoming football game on Saturday afternoon against UT Martin, which features a 1:30 p.m. CT kickoff.
The Class of 2021 includes:
Frank Harrell | Head Coach (Men's Basketball), Administration | 1980-Present
For more than 40 years, Harrell has called Tennessee Tech University his home, arriving in Cookeville as an assistant men's basketball coach under Tom Deaton in 1980. Harrell was elevated to the program's head coach abruptly during the 1988-89 campaign following the resignation of Deaton during a tournament in Hawai'i. Following an 8-17 debut the remainder of that season, he turned things around to the tune of a 19-9 record in 1989-90, including a 9-3 mark in Ohio Valley Conference play. He had four seasons where he won nine or more league games – not an easy task in one of the most competitive eras in the conference. He earned Coach of the Year honors from the Tennessee Sports Writers Association in 1991. Teams Harrell coached or helped coach had nine of the top 12 seasons against OVC competition in program history, five of the 10 OVC tournament wins to that point, and seven of the top 14 regular-season finishes. He ended his coaching career with a 128-154 record and, in conference play alone, his teams trailed just Murray State in OVC wins in that span. In his time at Tech, Harrell has worn many hats – associate basketball coach, then head coach, compliance coordinator to interim athletics director to associate athletics director, sports supervisor, fundraiser, marketer, and the list goes on. He now serves as a special assistant to the athletic director.
Morris Irby | Baseball | 1968-71
A true pioneer. That was Irby's destiny whether he asked for it or not. But rather back down, he faced every challenge with his head held high and often found himself in ground-breaking territory. A member of a poor family and in need of a chance at high education, he opted to stay in town and attend Tennessee Tech, becoming the school's first black player recruited for a baseball scholarship, a challenge in and of itself. A sophomore in 1969, Irby posted the fourth-lowest single-season ERA in program history (sixth today). Tossing 31 frames over six contests, including five starts, the right-hander dominated to the tune of a 1.74 ERA. That was just a taste for Irby, who followed up a great campaign on the hill with a record-setting showing in the field a year later. Moving off the mound for the 1970 season, he set new program standards for runs scored (39), stolen bases (21), walks (28) hit-by-pitches (five), and assists by a third baseman (83). He also led the team with five home runs as part of an offense that set seven program records. For his efforts, the junior was named All-OVC Honorable Mention. His work ethic and clutch play down the stretch, which included three home runs during the streak, also earned him team MVP honors as voted on by his teammates. He was also voted as a team captain for his final season in 1971.
Leah Meffert | Volleyball | 2007-10
One of the most offensively gifted players to don the purple and gold, Meffert was a force to be reckoned with in the Ohio Valley Conference for four seasons, littering her name throughout the Tennessee Tech volleyball record book. She established herself almost immediately as a freshman, claiming the program's only OVC Newcomer of the Year honor, an All-OVC First Team nod, and a place on the OVC All-Newcomer Team. She began her trek to the top of the career charts, racking up the most kills in a single season during the rally-scoring era (2001-present). Her 548 kills in 2007 also rank as the second-most in the entire history of the program. In 2008, Meffert helped lead the Golden Eagles to the OVC regular-season title, becoming just the third player in program history to collect OVC Player of the Year honors. She also led the purple and gold to the league's tournament title and a berth in the NCAA Tournament. Meffert became one of just 10 players in program history to join the Double Grand Club (two career statistical categories of 1,000 or more) and one of nine to boast at least 1,000 kills and 1,000 digs. She was a four-time All-OVC representative, earning First Team honors in 2008 and 2009, Second Team honors in 2007, and overall honors in 2010 (the league recognized one team from 1984-87 and 2010-15). Meffert was also a two-time OVC All-Tournament Team representative (2008 and 2010).
Chad Oberacker | Baseball | 2008-11
Oberacker was a key cog in the beginning stages of the most successful eras of Golden Eagle baseball, dominating at the plate and contributing on the mound from 2008-11. In four seasons, the Erie, Pa. native established himself among the all-time Tech, guiding the Golden Eagles to the 2009 OVC Tournament title and an OVC regular-season crown in 2010. Oberacker set eight program records and littered his name among the Golden Eagle record books throughout his career. An outfielder and left-handed pitcher, he delivered one of the most complete and statistically significant single seasons in program history during the team's 2010 run to the OVC title, setting three single-season marks and finishing in the top-three in six more categories. He set three program records that still stand to this day, including hits (108 – also an OVC record), doubles (29), and multi-hit games (36). Oberacker hit a whopping .452 on the year for the fourth-best average in school history and finished in the top-three with five triples, a .527 on-base percentage, 165 total bases, 67 runs, and 70 RBI. With his eye-popping 2010 campaign, he became the Tech program's fifth-ever All-American earning First-Team honors from Collegiate Baseball, Second-Team accolades from the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) and Ping! Baseball, and a Third-Team nod from the NCBWA.
Ashley Potts | Softball | 2004-07
An outfielder for the Tennessee Tech softball team, Potts still stands as one of the program's best hitters in its 33-year history. In the program records, Potts is third in total at-bats (785), eighth in hits (228), sixth in total bases (382), fourth in doubles (50), third in home runs (35), third in runs batted in (146). More importantly, she was a key offensive player on a Tennessee Tech squad that won three consecutive Ohio Valley Conference tournament championships from 2005 to 2007, as well as two regular-season championships in 2006 and 2007. The team appeared in three consecutive NCAA Regionals – Athens, Ga. (2005), Knoxville, Tenn. (2006), and Tuscaloosa, Ala. (2007). During that stretch, the Golden Eagles had a win-loss record of 179-87, 79-23 in the OVC, which includes two 50-win seasons in 2006 and 2007. In her career, Potts batted .288, scored 99 runs, collected 228 hits, including 50 doubles and 35 home runs, and drove in 146 runs. She was named to the All-OVC first-team roster three times from 2005 to 2007. Potts was named to the OVC all-tournament team in 2005. Throughout her career, Potts' numbers steadily rose. She had a solid freshman campaign in 2004, hitting .233 with 12 doubles, four home runs, and 25 RBI. In 2005, she hit .287 with 11 doubles, eight home runs, and 32 RBI. In 2006, she hit .339 with 15 doubles, 11 home runs, and 42 RBI. In 2007, she hit .294 with 12 doubles, 12 home runs, and 47 RBI.