Cheatham County wrapped its community arms around its basketball history – and some boxing, media and coaching stars as well – as the first class of the Cheatham County Sports Hall of Fame was inducted last Saturday night at Gateway Church in Ashland City.
The event was scheduled for last spring but was postponed for COVID-19 precautions. About 100 people attended the hour-long ceremony at the church.
The first induction class was: Mildred Sanders Bidwell (basketball), Agnes Cagle Loyd (basketball), Corkey Albright (broadcasting/contributor), Caleb Plant (boxing), 2019 Cheatham County girls basketball state championship team, Ralph Spangler (coach), Ryan Stack (basketball) and Pat Head Summitt (basketball).
“The idea for this has been floating around in my head for about 20 years. I kept waiting for someone else to do it and it just never happened,” Hall Chairman Tim Ray said.
According to Ray, the Cheatham County Museum, located on the lower level of the Cheatham County Library, has provided exhibition space for the sports hall of fame. The organization also has a Facebook page with approximately 1,500 followers. A nomination form for future inductees is available there or send the information to Ray.
“There is a lot of sports history in Cheatham County. We want to maintain that sports history,” Ray said at the beginning of the ceremony. “We want to not just recognize the elite athletes and coaches and teams, but also recognize their teammates and people who helped them to get there.”
Mildred Sanders Bidwell and Agnes Cagle Loyd were teammates on the U.S. team that won the world championship of women’s basketball in Chile in 1953.
They were two of the seven Nashville Business College players selected for the team. Their blue team jackets with red and white stars were on display at the ceremony.
“I traveled quite a bit to places that I never would have had a chance to otherwise. It was an outstanding thing that happened to a little old country farm girl,” Bidwell, who played in every game in the 1953 world championships, said in her induction speech.
Loyd, who passed away in 2019, played on the 1944 Ashland City High district championship team.
Richard “Corkey” Albright was the play-by-play announcer for football and basketball games at Cheatham County Central High, Sycamore High and Harpeth High for 28 years.
Every Saturday morning, he hosted the “Sports Roundtable” radio program in which he interviewed student-athletes and coaches.
WQSV went on the air on Dec. 17, 1991. The radio station was named Small Business of the Year by the Cheatham County Chamber of Commerce and received the TSSAA’s Bridges Award as Contributor of the Year in its district.
Caleb Plant started boxing at age 9 and won the IBF super middleweight world title in 2019. Since earning the title belt, Plant, nicknamed “Sweethands”, has successfully defended it twice.
The 2010 Sycamore High graduate had an amateur record of 97-20 and won a Golden Gloves national title in 2011. He was also named an alternate for the 2012 Olympics.
In a video accepting his induction, he said he was unable to attend the ceremony because he is training for his next fight. He said he is not sure of the location, but a Nashville venue is on the list of possibilities.
Ralph Spangler is considered the coach who had the greatest impact on Cheatham County sports.
The TSSAA Hall of Fame member and a player on Alabama’s 1943 undefeated Rose Bowl champion team was a fixture in Cheatham County Schools for over 40 years. He served at Cheatham County Central High and Sycamore Junior High as a teacher, coach, assistant principal and athletics director.
Although he coached basketball (both boys and girls) at Cheatham County High School until 1969, football was the sport in which he had his greatest success. He compiled an overall record of 111-49-7, and three of his teams were undefeated (1956, 1959 and 1968).
He also was one of the organizers of the first youth baseball program in Ashland City.
Three county facilities have been named in honor of Spangler: the Cheatham County Central High baseball field, the Sycamore High football field and the old Ashland City High School football field.
Spangler passed away at age 86 in 2013. It was noted during the ceremony that he gave two of the inductees a job when they were teenagers — Stack mowed the coach’s lawn and high school student Summitt was hired as a groundskeeper when Spangler ran the city’s parks department.
The Cheatham County Central Lady Cubs gave the county its first high school team state championship by winning the 2019 Class AA tournament. The team, which also played in the 2018 state tournament, finished the championship season with a 31-3 record.
“As long as we could keep the score within a few shots, this team had a chance to win,” Lady Cubs head coach Jim Gibbs said. “They just refused to lose and were great representatives of the community.”
Two of Summitt’s great-nieces, Alli Douglas and Abbi Douglas, played on the state championship team.
“She (Summitt) would have absolutely loved and been honored to know that she was in the same induction class as the girls state basketball championship team from Cheatham County,” Summitt’s sister, Linda Head, said.
Ryan Stack played on the 1994 Cheatham County Central High School district championship team and was named district MVP. He then played at South Carolina, helping the Gamecocks win the 1997 Southeastern Conference title.
Stack was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers and also played internationally in Spain, Israel, Greece and Ukraine.
“I look back at what the game of basketball has done for me and it is humbling,” Stack said in his induction speech. “I am just so impressed with the community here tonight.”
Stack expressed his appreciation for the county’s basketball community by noting the connections he has to some of the other inductees. He said the Stack and Head families are close, Albright broadcast his high school games, he went to school with parents of some of the players on the girls basketball state championship team and some of his family members are friends with Bidwell.
Pat Head Summitt (everyone referred to her as “Trish” during the ceremony) won Olympic medals as both a player and a coach, created a national brand in the Tennessee Lady Vols (often called the New York Yankees of women’s basketball) and won eight NCAA titles with 18 Final Four appearances.
In her 38-year coaching career, Summitt had a record of 1,098-208. She coached 21 All-Americans, 12 Olympians and every player who completed her eligibility at Tennessee graduated.
In 2012, Summitt received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, a year after she announced her diagnoses of early onset dementia.
Summitt has been inducted to the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, the International Basketball Hall of Fame, and the Tennessee Women’s Hall of Fame.
“She would think this is truly wonderful. She was from Cheatham County and didn’t ever forget her roots,” Linda Head said of her sister. “She would have been honored as much or more than all of the other halls of fame she is in combined because her roots are here.”
Summitt’s niece, Lindsey Carney, accepted the induction for the former coach, who passed away in 2016.
“This is like a family reunion and a class reunion,” said Carney, also noting people at the ceremony who knew Summitt for many years. “Even when everyone knew her name, she still was a country girl from Henrietta. I want to thank you not just for this induction but thank you for being her people.”
The Pat Head Summitt Historic Marker will be unveiled in Henrietta on Highway 12 near Hazel Drive. The unveiling is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 31 at 10 a.m. The public is invited.