Frank Harrell Basketball Endowment honors Tennessee Tech basketball coach and administrator’s 42-year career
When longtime Tennessee Tech Athletics coach and administrator Frank Harrell retired after 42 years with the university, Director of Athletics Mark Wilson and a few of Harrell’s friends knew they wanted to do something to honor Harrell’s legacy. At Harrell’s retirement brunch, Wilson surprised him with the Frank Harrell Basketball Endowment.
“I was humbled by the gift,” Harrell said. “Mark knows me well, and he saw moisture in my eyes when he told me about it. I love Tennessee Tech. I love what we stand for in Athletics. I love our desire to win championships. Tech has been my life.”
Wilson added, “He tried to keep the emotion in, but I saw it. I think it made him feel loved and appreciated. That’s what people can do through endowments. They can honor loved ones, whether it’s established for someone who has passed away or someone they want to honor while they are still living. And they can make an impact on any university program.”
The Frank Harrell Basketball Endowment will provide funding for the Tennessee Tech Men’s Basketball program, an area Harrell knows well. Harrell joined the staff at Tech in 1980. Following eight years as an assistant men’s basketball coach, Harrell became the head basketball coach and served in that role for 10 seasons. And Harrell served Tech Athletics in other capacities as well. He was named interim athletics director in 2004 and held the position for six months until Wilson was hired. Most recently, Harrell served as the associate athletic director for Sports and Compliance. Harrell retired in 2020 but continues to help Tech Athletics, working part time as the special assistant to Wilson.
The teams Harrell coached or helped coach had nine of the top 12 seasons against Ohio Valley Conference (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. As director of the Athletics Foundation, Harrell helped build the fund and established it as an investment-based foundation. He also led Tech through a National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) certification process and served two terms on the NCAA Legislative and Interpretations Committee. In 1991, Harrell was named Coach of the Year by the Tennessee Sports Writers Association.
Wilson and Harrell say a programmatic endowment like the Frank Harrell Basketball Endowment is important because coaches and programs always need funding, whether it be for team travel, recruiting, equipment or a unique opportunity that can’t be covered by the operating budget.
“The operating budgets from the university are generous, but there are always above-and-beyond needs where we need revenue generated from endowments,” Wilson explained.
Harrell says he hopes the endowment grows over time. He will continue to give to it and knows his friends will as well.
“I would encourage everyone to look into setting up endowments, because they last forever,” Harrell said. “I hope this gives the men’s basketball team more of a chance to be successful while chasing championships and having great academics and bringing talented students into the program. I hope this encourages other people to think, ‘If they gave that old guy an endowment, I need to establish one for me, too!’”
Harrell added that if it’s not possible to establish an endowment, he hopes people will consider supporting Tech Athletics in other ways.
“If you want to help Tech Athletics, buy season tickets,” Harrell said. “Make a gift. The programs need annual gifts as well as endowments. Where is your heart for giving? If you love basketball, give to basketball. If you love football, give to football. If you love history, that’s where you need to give.”
Wilson says Tech Athletics is a unique area on campus because, on almost a weekly basis, it brings together students, faculty, staff and the community.
“We are proud to represent Tennessee Tech, Cookeville, Tennessee and the Upper Cumberland,” Wilson said. “But it does take financial resources. Any investment people make into Tech Athletics is appreciated and put to good use by our coaches in running their programs.”
Wilson says he hopes the Frank Harrell Basketball Endowment demonstrates the significant impact Harrell has had on Tech Athletics.
“He served half his life at Tech,” Wilson said. “It’s important that his name be cemented with Tech Athletics and Tennessee Tech Basketball. Frank’s institutional knowledge can never be replaced. He has served here for so long. He has such a big heart for Tech Athletics and for our student-athletes. His service to Tech has been tremendous, and he’s worn so many hats here. From the bottom of my heart, I thank him. He has been really important to me in my years as director of Athletics.”