The 100 Moments of TSU Athletics presented by Taco Bell® series continues by recognizing a Tennessee State pioneer that set a new precedent for women in college athletics.
When Tennessee State University joined the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference in 1986, then-Athletic Director Bill Thomas traded the University's swimming program for a men's golf team and called on the leadership of Dr. Catana Starks to guide the program. Starks, who holds a bachelor's ('69), master's ('73) and doctorate ('80) degree from TSU, then made history, becoming the only African-American female to have coached a men's golf team in the country.
In 2005, Starks led the Tigers to a win in the National Minority Championship, a tournament for golf teams from historically black colleges and universities. It was the first time TSU had won the tournament, and it also was Starks' last year coaching.
Under her guidance, the team also produced the first African American men's head coach for Michigan State University (Sam Puryear), a top swing coach of professional golfers in Canada, including Tiger Woods (Sean Foley) and an All-American who is a member of the European Tour (Robert Dinwiddie).
Now, as head of TSU's Human Performance and Sport Sciences department, Starks has updated the curriculum, grown the number of students matriculating through the department and increased graduation rates in both the bachelor's and master's degree programs.
Recently, Starks' story has been featured in the sports film 'From the Rough' starring Oscar nominee Taraji P. Henson.
According to BVonMovies.com, Henson will play a fictionalized version of Starks named Cassandra Turner, who parlays a successful stint as coach of the women's swim team at a historically black college into a shot at building the men's golf team. With available black players scarce, Turner scours Europe, Australia and Asia for hidden talents and constructs a uniquely multi-racial team.
The film's portrayal of Starks and the team she built provides audiences a glimpse of how the team overcame their differences to nab a NCAA Regional Championship invitation and a Division I-record win for the National Minority Championship.
"Hopefully this will draw more African-American females into coaching on the collegiate level and coaching the opposite sex," Starks said. "Men have been doing it for many years and I think there are a lot of great women out there who probably could do a much better job than I have done. I hope this film inspires other women to try their hand at coaching."
Watch the trailer for the movie "From the Rough" below:
The 100 Moments of TSU Athletics presented by Taco Bell® highlights some of the greatest moments in honor of Tennessee State's centennial celebration. A new moment will be released each weekday for a total of 100. These moments were chosen by the TSU 100 Moments committee, which consists of alums from various departments. TSU has so many great moments, not all can be represented in these 100.