Tennessee Tech’s campus has undergone a rapid transformation over the last decade

By M. Dianne Murphy, Ph.D.

Cookeville – When the Tennessee Tech football team steps onto the artificial turf for the first home game of the 2023 season September 16, it will represent far more than just the start of another game. It will also mark the final season that our Golden Eagles will play at the current Tucker Stadium, a fixture of the Upper Cumberland for more than 55 years.

Tucker Stadium has been the site of countless victories on and off the field, including OVC Football Championship titles, but the stadium, which predates the 1969 moon landing, is also showing its age.

Tennessee Tech’s campus has undergone a rapid transformation over the last decade, with state-of-the-art buildings, beautiful green spaces and technological enhancements that put students first and bolster our ability to recruit and retain Tennessee’s brightest. Those improvements have not always extended to our NCAA Division I athletics program – until now.

As the current Tucker Stadium looks ahead to its final kickoffs, Tech has embarked on a bold initiative to construct a new west side stadium and dedicated football operations center befitting of the state’s No. 1 public university. These venues will serve student-athletes, the campus and the Upper Cumberland community for decades to come.

This isn’t just about playing football. Tech football players, like our campus population, are bold, fearless and confident lifelong learners that add to the vitality of our region. Tennessee Tech student-athletes just posted their 29th straight semester with an average GPA exceeding 3.0. Tech also captured the OVC Women’s Basketball Championship and beat Monmouth University in the first round of the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament earlier this year.

Among our Golden Eagle football alumni are names like NASA Captain Barry Wilmore, chart-topping country music singer Jake Hoot, and former NFL player turned local educator Frank Omiyale, to name only a few. When we invest in our student-athletes by providing them new state-of-the art venues to practice, compete and learn, we lay the groundwork for more Golden Eagles to follow in their footsteps.

Even if you’re not a college football fan, you have reason to cheer for Tennessee Tech’s new stadium and dedicated football operations center.

The new stadium will be the Upper Cumberland’s place to gather. It puts our region on the map for bowl games, conferences and live entertainment events that stimulate our economy and deliver a positive economic impact to our local taxpayers.

The football operations center will be invaluable to the university’s recruiting efforts. Complete with a new locker room and meeting rooms, a players’ lounge, theater-style auditorium, sports medicine center and turf practice field, this venue will show student athletes committing to Tech that we are committed to them.

A venue like this could be decisive in persuading an athlete to choose Tech versus in-state and out-of-state competitors. That matters to all of us because more than 75% of Tech students stay in our state after graduation.

As a community member and former Tech student-athlete who now serves as chair of the university’s foundation board, I know what Tech’s athletics program means in my own life. This new stadium and dedicated operations center can be a catalyst for a reinvigorated athletics and football program that will impact students far into the future with a ripple effect that benefits the entire Upper Cumberland in a myriad of ways.

This fall, I hope you will join me on campus as we give a proper Tech send-off to the current Tucker Stadium. More than that, I hope you will join me in rallying around these much-needed improvements and believing in the difference they will make for our campus and Upper Cumberland communities.

Dr. M. Dianne Murphy holds a B.S. and M. A. from Tennessee Tech and is chair of the Tennessee Tech Foundation board of directors. She previously served as athletic director for both the University of Denver and Columbia University.

Photo courtesy of Tennessee Tech.

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