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Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame a 'best kept secret'

Article Published: Jun. 30, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011

The Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame has been around since the 1960s, but Dr. Bill Emendorfer thinks it might be one of the best kept secrets in the state.

As president of the Hall of Fame Board of Directors, and now serving as interim executive director as well, Emendorfer is out to change that perception.

A former standout football player from Athens, Tenn., who played for the University of Tennessee, Emendorfer was in Greeneville, Tenn., last week to take part in the annual Bob Kesling Boys & Girls Club Golf Classic. He also took time out to boost some of the things going on at the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame, which is housed in Bridgestone Arena in downtown Nashville, Tenn.

He talks about the Hall of Fame with the same enthusiasm as he showed when he went after an opposing Alabama lineman.

"We've got 7,500 square feet in the Bridgestone Arena (for the Hall of Fame)," Emendorfer said. "There's a renovation project going on right now. Our idea is to expand the lobby area as well as other things."

The Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame Board of Directors consists of 25 citizens from the state, eight from each grand division (east, middle and west) of Tennessee. They are appointed: Eight by the governor, eight by the lieutenant governor and eight by the speaker of the house. The 25th member of the board is the state treasurer.

Jerry Fortner of Greeneville is an appointed member from the East Tennessee division.

The sole purpose of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame is to honor the sports heritage of the state.Since becoming interim executive director in February, Emendorfer has been traveling across the state in support of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame.

"It's a great place to visit, but unfortunately, there are so many people who don't even know it's there," he said. "We want to change that."

A primary goal for Emendorfer is to reach out to all colleges, large and small, across the state. He said highlight videos from the colleges are being sought in hopes of preparing them for use at the Hall of Fame.

"That means that visitors might come in to the Hall of Fame and see a video of Tusculum College, or Milligan College, or King College ... not just the larger universities," he said. "We honor our amateur teams of the year, and this past year Union College and Lee University won national championships and were honored. The Hall of Fame has something for everyone."

The Hall of Fame contains plaques of each member, along with memorabilia and videos.

"Take Tennessee State for example," Emendorfer said. "People in East Tennessee don't think much about Tennessee State, but did you know that they have had 34 Olympians at that school that have won 35 gold medals? They've got more medals than a lot of countries. Most people don't know that." Two years ago, Harley "Skeeter" Swift of Upper East Tennessee basketball fame was inducted.

"Skeeter was a big believer in the Boys & Girls Club," Emendorfer noted. "Without the Boys & Girls Club, he said he wasn't sure how he would have turned out. Basketball kept him off the streets. That's the kind of stories that are so great in the Sports Hall of Fame."

Emendorfer said he would be available to travel across the state and speak with civic clubs, high schools and other groups to express the attractions at the Hall of Fame.

"School groups often visit Nashville, and when they come here to go to the Capitol Building, why not make a visit to the Hall of Fame?" he said. "We're attempting to put together senior citizens' programs as well. The TSSAA (Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association, that governs high school sports) ... we want to embrace them, too."

There's a list of all the honorees, as well as lots of other information about the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame, online at

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