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Football Operations Center - Donor Stories

Golden Eagle football alumni look to honor Don Wade with memorial in Football Operations Center 

A black and white photo of Don WadeEver since Tennessee Tech announced plans for a Football Operations Center, dozens of former players have stepped forward to say, “I want to be a part of this.”

One of those former players is Sam Smith, `83 geology. When Smith saw that the new facility included opportunities to name spaces both inside and outside, he knew he wanted to do something to honor Don Wade. Wade served as Tech’s head football coach from 1968 to 1982, and as athletic director from 1974 to 1980.

“In my four years at Tech, I learned that Coach Wade was genuine,” said Smith. “He was tough, sarcastically funny, loyal and loving – albeit tough love. Coach Wade’s impact continues to influence my life today.”

Smith began making phone calls to former teammates, and soon he had organized a group of dedicated football alumni who plan to raise $500,000 for a Don Wade Memorial inside the Football Operations Center.

On Nov. 30, the Football Operations Center was the focus of Tech’s Giving Tuesday fundraising efforts. The Golden Eagle community came together to raise $105,000 for the facility in just 24 hours. Much of the day’s success is due to Head Football Coach Dewayne Alexander’s promise to match up to $35,000.

And Alexander’s match inspired another match. In the days following Giving Tuesday, an anonymous donor reached out to Athletic Director Mark Wilson and promised to give $25,000 if Tech could raise another $25,000 in a week.

Smith said he would make a gift to the Don Wade Memorial to help secure that match, and former teammate Jack Kelley made a gift as well. Thanks to Smith and Kelley, the $25,000 match was secured.

But Smith knows they have a lot of work left to do to reach their $500,000 goal.

“Don Wade earned the right to have his name permanently inscribed in the new facility,” said Smith. “I am grateful to the steering committee for giving me the opportunity to rally my teammates and others before me to contribute and honor Don Wade. Our individual contributions may be small, but when added together as a team, our contribution will be significant.”

The Football Operations Center steering committee hopes other football alumni will collaborate to do something similar to honor their coaches as well.  

For more information about the Football Operations Center, to view the naming opportunities or to make a gift, visit tntech.edu/foc.