By Greg Russell
A Rubik’s Cube would have been an easier puzzle to solve than the task Tammy DeGroff
and her counterparts in athletics were faced with.
“When we started the project, the room was a big, empty box. It was really intimidating
trying to come up with a visual way to tell the story of Tigers’ athletics dating
back to 1912,” said DeGroff, assistant director of University of Memphis athletic
DeGroff, associate athletic director Bob Winn and historian John Guinozzo were the
main forces behind the creation of the new U of M/Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway Hall of
Fame building at 570 Normal Street. What the three delivered was an intriguing, detailed
history of Tiger sports, a must-see exhibit that Tiger fans can be proud of.
The building was made possible by a $1 million donation from Hardaway, a 1993 national
It includes part of the goalpost from Memphis’ win over Tennessee in 1996; Larry Finch’s
old jersey; NCAA championship medals from track and field; artifacts from DeAngelo
Williams’ playing days; the silver cup from the 1957 NIT; and hundreds of other items.
“Heading into the planning, we really needed a Hall of Fame that did multiple things,”
DeGroff said. “We needed a place to display the plaques for the M Club Hall of Fame
honorees as well as a place to honor all of our former student-athletes.”
DeGroff said the remains of the TOM mascots are in a display devoted to the spirit
“Our TOM mascots are something that our fans are very passionate about and that we
really wanted to find an appropriate way to honor and keep safe,” she said. “Putting
them in their own case was really the best solution we could think of.”
The overall history of Tiger athletics is given detailed attention.
“The center of the room is set up as a journey through Tiger athletics, beginning
in 1912, and as you walk toward the back of the room, includes some of the more recent
accomplishments, like women’s soccer’s four straight conference championships,” DeGroff
One of the three interactive databases includes the U of M’s all-time letter winners,
which features basic roster information and a photo of each person (when available).
The work, DeGroff said, was often tedious.
“Once every sport was accounted for, we were more than 3,000 athletes strong. We had
to scan and resize photos for about 60 percent of those athletes,” she said.
The exterior walls of the Hall of Fame each are themed. These include national champions,
national award winners, All-Americans, coaches, spirit squads, TOM, Academic All-Americans
and two panels for “players in the pros.” Each photo is on a changeable board, creating
a wall made up of individual pieces and panels that will be changed each summer.
“It was hard to come up with a plan that would make everyone feel like what they considered
to be the most important thing in Memphis athletics was represented,” DeGroff said.
“We tried to cover every sport, but with more than 90 years of athletic accomplishments,
we still have a lot of stories to illustrate in future panels.”
The Hall is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays with free admission.