UTM and national pioneer for women’s athletics Bettye Giles was presented her Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame (TSHF) award Aug. 11 at the Dunagan Alumni Center. Giles is part of the distinguished TSHF Class of 2020.
The primary advocate for women’s equality in Tennessee sports, Giles was instrumental in the development of athletic opportunities for women throughout the nation. She served on numerous national committees promoting the growth of women’s sports, founded and served as the first president of the Tennessee College Women’s Sports Federation, and received the Pathfinder Award from the National Association of Girls and Women in Sports.
Giles started her UTM tenure as a professor of physical education in the fall of 1952, when she began the university’s women’s tennis program and served as the head coach for eight years. In 1956, the tennis program became UTM’s first women’s sport to achieve varsity status. In 1969, Giles was appointed UTM’s first and only director of women’s athletics, a role she proudly filled until 1994.
While director, Giles jokingly convinced a tall, skinny UTM freshman from Ashland City that she had to play volleyball as a “conditioner” for basketball season. That student-athlete was Pat Head Summitt, who went on to become one of the best coaches in the history of college basketball.
Giles’ leadership and activism for women’s athletics coincided with the Title IX movement, which was enacted by the U.S. Congress on June 23, 1972. Four years later, the first athletic grant-in-aid scholarship was awarded at UTM. Retired since 1995, Giles remains an avid Skyhawk supporter.
The TSHF Class of 2020 includes Giles, former NFL head coach Jeff Fisher, former NFL quarterback Heath Shuler, former NFL running back DeAngelo Williams, former NBA guard Tony Delk, former college head basketball coach Sonny Smith, former college head football coach Carl Torbush, former Tennessee Golf Association executive director Dick Horton, and Bristol Motor Speedway founder Bruton Smith. Current Vanderbilt head baseball coach Tim Corbin and current Nashville Predators sports analyst Terry Crisp also are inductees.
Established in 1966, the TSHF enshrines and honors athletes, teams, coaches, sportswriters, and sports administrators who have made an impact on the history of Tennessee sports. The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development oversees all operations along with the TSHF Board of Directors. For more information, visit www.tshf.net.