Skip to navigation Skip to content Skip to footer
Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles

Harrell to be inducted into TTU Sports Hall of Fame Friday night

Harrell to be inducted into TTU Sports Hall of Fame Friday night

By TTU Sports Information

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – As Frank Harrell prepared to turn the light off in his Hooper Eblen Center office and shut the door one last time as Tennessee Tech's Associate Athletic Director for Sports and Compliance, the expectation was to be a bittersweet moment.

That would be understandable – after all, Harrell, spent more than half his life in Cookeville, devoted countless hours to Tennessee Tech Athletics, and worn nearly every hat, performing almost every role one can take in the department.

Yet, for the veteran coach and administrator, retirement just presented the start of a new chapter as he took on a new role. With the transition, there also came a sense of familiarity – it's a situation Harrell has been in before. Harrell retired from his post on July 16, 2020, then took on a new role as the Special Assistant to the Athletic Director, one he still currently holds for the Tech Athletics Department.

He is one of five inductees into the 47th class of the Tennessee Tech Sports Hall of Fame. 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 2020 being recognized, the Class of 2021 will also be honored and officially inducted, with Harrell, Morris Irby (baseball, 1968-71), Leah Meffert Turner (volleyball, 2007-10), Chad Oberacker (baseball, 2008-11), and Ashley Potts Williams (softball, 2004-07) all set to join last year's class, consisting of A.J. Kirby-Jones (baseball, 2008-10), Stephanie Place Buchanan (women's cross country/track & field, 2005-10), Thomas Squires (football, 1985-87), and Borja Zarco (men's tennis, 2005-08), as the newest members of the TTU Sports Hall of Fame.

In his time at Tech, Harrell has worn many hats – associate basketball coach, then the head coach, compliance coordinator to interim athletics director to associate athletics director, sports supervisor, fundraiser, marketer, and the list goes on.

In 2019-20 alone, Harrell helped secure over $50,000 in gifts-in-kind and monetary donations to the department.

Before coming to Cookeville, Harrell spent three-and-a-half years at Tennessee – half a year as a graduate student and two years as a full-time assistant. Harrell then went to Clinch Valley College (now Virginia-Wise) as both the head men's basketball coach and athletic director.

He joined the staff at Tech as former Tennessee assistant Tom Deaton became the Golden Eagles' eighth men's basketball head coach in 1980, joining future Belmont legend Rick Byrd and volunteer assistant Tony Royster on the court at the Hooper Eblen Center.

Harrell was on the Tech staff as an assistant for eight years – including a regular-season Ohio Valley Conference title in 1984-85 – and the start of a ninth, then became the Golden Eagles' ninth head coach on Dec. 10, 1988, following Deaton's resignation in the middle of a tournament in Hawaii.

His first season ended with an 8-17 overall record, 3-9 in the league, but it went uphill from there. The 1989-90 team finished 19-9, 9-3 in the OVC for a second-place finish. In his 10 seasons at the helm, six of them saw the Golden Eagles win 13 or more games as well as finish with a winning record in the OVC. 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.

As a coach, Harrell was able to push his players to reach new heights. A 1993 Hoopscoop ratings index noted the Golden Eagles' projected talent on the lower end of its scale, but its power index wound up much higher, the top increase in the conference. The Golden Eagles also finished consistently in the top half of the league during that time.

The number of players among Tech's top all-time scorers that played during Harrell's tenure is staggering as three of the top five and 14 of the top 36 Tech scorers were on the roster. All-time leading scorer Earl Wise (1986-90) played under Harrell's guidance.

Many of the players that were under Harrell's guidance are still among the leaders in the Tennessee Tech record book – Wise, Lorenzo Coleman, Stephen Kite, John Best, Boone, Marc Burnett, Anthony Avery, Steve Taylor, Jimmy Elliott, Rob West, Carlos Floyd, Mitch Cupples, Jason Embry, Bobby McWilliams, Van Usher, Greg Bibb, Wade Wester, Wesley Whitehorn, Milos Babic, Carlton Clarington, Maurice Houston, Alex Franco, Charles Edmonson – and not even mentioning the team records still held to this day, of which there are numerous.

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.

Each season, Harrell's teams played at least five guarantee games and the Golden Eagles collected wins over Tennessee, Northwestern, Auburn, Vanderbilt as well as Top 25-ranked Southern Mississippi and Western Kentucky teams.

Even after he stepped down and Jeff Lebo took over with Mike Sutton, Steve Payne, and now John Pelphrey leading the program onward, Harrell took a lot of pride still in the Tech men's basketball program but directed his gaze over the department as a whole.

Following the end of Dr. David Larimore's tenure as athletic director, Harrell was named the interim athletics director in early 2004, a position that he held for six months. Even as he filled the post, Harrell had a vision for what he felt Tennessee Tech Athletics needed – a full-time athletics director who could focus on fundraising, improvements, and enhancing the student-athlete experience. He helped sell that vision to University president Dr. Bob Bell. In July 2004, he got his wish as Mark Wilson was named Tech's Director of Athletics.

Under Harrell's watchful eye as sports supervisor, the Tennessee Tech teams have won 38 regular-season championships and 20 tournament championships.

In his compliance role, Harrell worked long days and nights making sure all 14 programs were in strict compliance in the ever-changing structure of NCAA rules. He has also played a role in making sure Tech's teams achieve high Academic Progress Report and Graduation Success Rate marks. He helped oversee the transition of Mandy Thatcher into the Assistant Athletic Director for Compliance.

In that task, he also worked hand-in-hand with the Academic Advising staff from Dolores Wheatley to Dr. Leveda Birdwell.

As the Director of the Athletics Foundation, he helped guide the fund to its first year over the $1 million mark, then to its peak over $3 million in 2013-14 as it built on the interest invested. He personally solicited and established 13 endowments that are worth $413,700 and growing. As he transitioned it from a non-investment to an investment-based foundation, it has brought in nearly $1.5 million in interest.

Harrell established partnerships with local radio stations and the Cookeville Herald-Citizen for coverage, advertising, and rights in coverage.

He led Tech through an NCAA Certification process in 2004 and served two terms on the NCAA Legislative and Interpretations Committee, while also implementing a review and rewrite on Tech's Drug Testing Protocols and oversaw the development of Tech's Mental Health Protocols and Best Practices for Student-Athletes.

In addition to those roles, he also served as the chairman of the University's Conflict of Interest Committee for 14 years, overlooking outside employment and business interests to prevent any conflicts of interest by university employees.

Harrell has also been a part of the True To Tech program for 38 of his 40 years at the University.

After taking over direction of the annual Pepsi Bobby Nichols Golden Eagle Scramble presented by Michelob Ultra from Jim Ragland and Randy Smith, Harrell helped grow the event from its humble beginnings all the way to one of the largest golf tournaments in the Southeast with nearly 520 golfers on 260 teams at its peak. Already built on a solid foundation, Harrell helped cultivate it by paying out more money back to the winners and by adding more major prizes and contests.

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.

© Tennessee Tech Athletics

1100 McGee Blvd. // TTU Box 5057 // Cookeville, TN 38505

Privacy Policy