NASHVILLE, Tenn. – March 2, 2021 - Cathy Bender, Vanderbilt University’s women’s basketball standout, and Tommy Woods, first African American basketball player at East Tennessee State University, are the latest 2021 Inductees of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. Bender and Woods were both made aware of their inclusion Monday at a surprise meeting at their respective Alma Maters.
Cathy Bender was a trailblazer in her family and for other high-achieving student-athletes that would follow in her footsteps in the decades to come. A basketball player at Vanderbilt from 1978-1982, Bender was the first African American woman at Vanderbilt to receive a full athletic scholarship. Her senior year washer most impressive season, setting the team record for assets with 262 in a season. In a game against University of? Tennessee, she set the record for most assists in a game with 14.
During Bender’s tenure, the commodores improved every season and reached 20 wins for the first time in 1981-1982. She helped the team make post-season Association for the Intercollegiate Athletics for Women, 1979-80, and 1980-81. Bender was an active member of the Vanderbilt and Nashville community as a board member of the Vanderbilt Alumni Association, co-chairing the school’s first African American endowed scholarships, and serving on the Metropolitan Nashville Sports Authority Board.
Tommy Woods played for the Buccaneers from 1963-1967, after prepping at Hall High School in Alcoa. Woods was not only the first African American player at ETSU, but also the first African American player at a non-African American Tennessee public institution. As a freshman in 1963, Woods was subjected to catcalls, bigotry, and discrimination. Although facing this adversity, by his senior season at ETSU, Woods was a beloved figure and a transcendent athlete. Woods was named All-OVC in 1966 and 1967, and still holds records for rebounds (1034), rebounds per game average (10.2), and single game rebounds (38).
After an injury-shortened career with the ABA’s Kentucky Colonels, Woods entered a life of public service in Louisville. For over 30 years, Woods was a probation officer for troubled youth, and upon retirement, he served as the Athletic Director of the Louisville Police Department Athletic Programs, and after a second retirement, he is now a special assistant to the Mayor of Louisville.
“Tommy Woods is a shining example of what makes up a Tennessee Sports Hall of Famer. His contributions to the sport, ETSU, and his community embody the true spirit of athletics,” said Brad Willis, Executive Director of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. “Cathy Bender led the way for so many athletes that came after. Her playing career is made even more impressive knowing that she was the first African-American female with a full athletic scholarship at Vanderbilt.”
Bender and Woods join President of US Soccer Cindy Parlow Cone, former MTSU defensive standout Mike Caldwell, and wheelchair basketball champion Brandon Rowland as announced inductees of the Class of 2021. The full class of 11 will be announced over the coming weeks.
Established in 1966, the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame honors figures from every sport including basketball, baseball, football, golf, soccer and track & field, along with coaches, teams, sports writers and others who made an impact. The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development oversees all operations at the Hall of Fame, along with the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame Board of Directors.
For more information, visit www.tshf.net.
About the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame
Established in 1966, the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame enshrines and honors athletes, teams, coaches, sports writers and sports administrators who have made an impact on the history of Tennessee sports. The Hall serves as a platform to connect athletes, coaches, sports fans, and supporters by acknowledging life achievements implemented through sports. The Hall celebrates athletes of all forms, from all across the state. Additionally, Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame aspires to educate youth about the importance of healthy habits and the positive impact they have on lifestyle choices. The Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame is located at 501 Broadway, Nashville, TN 37203. Hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday. Tickets are $3 for adults and $2 for children and can be purchased at the Visitor Center in Bridgestone Arena, right outside of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. Group rates are available for 10 or more. For more information, visit www.tshf.net.