BRENTWOOD, Tenn. – Former Murray State coach and administrator Margaret Simmons and former Tennessee Tech President Dr. Robert “Bob” Bell have been elected into the Ohio Valley Conference Hall of Fame. They will be officially inducted at the annual OVC Honors Brunch which will be held Friday, May 30 at the DoubleTree Hotel in downtown Nashville.
The Ohio Valley Conference Hall of Fame was organized in 1977 with the intent of honoring the coaches, administrators, faculty and staff who have been associated with the OVC for at least five years and provided extensive and outstanding service to the Conference. With the induction of this year’s class, the membership will reach 73.
Simmons is the sixth woman elected to the OVC Hall of Fame. She became the first head coach of the women’s track and field team in 1968 and started the women’s cross country team three years later. During her 23-year tenure as head coach, she led the Racers to eight OVC titles and two runner-up finishes, was named OVC Coach of the Year six times and Kentucky Women’s Athletic Conference Coach of the Year on two occasions. Her cross country teams never finished lower than second in the OVC after the championship began in 1979.
She coached four OVC Outdoor Women’s Athletes of the Year, three OVC Indoor Women’s Athletes of the Year and two NCAA All-Americans in Stephanie Saleem (Indoor & Outdoor) and Heather Samuel (Outdoor). Samuel would go on to ultimately bring home five OVC Women’s Athlete of the Year recognitions and compete in the 1992 Olympics.
Simmons served as the women’s editor of the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Track and Field Rules book from 1983-85 and as the editor of the same publication from 1988-2004. Simmons has served on numerous NCAA committees including the NCAA rules committee at the NCAA National Cross Country Meets (1981-2004), NCAA Track and Field Sport Committee (1982-2004) and NCAA rules committee at the NCAA Indoor Track Meets (1982-2004). She was also an official at the Division II NCAA National Championship in 1983 and 1984. Simmons served as the co-regional chair for Region 3 in cross country regional meets in 1982 and 1983
Simmons’ dedication to the sport has brought her several honors including being inducted into the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Hall of Fame in 2003, she was the fifth woman to be inducted. She was inducted into the Murray State University Athletic Hall of Fame in 2004 and into the Kentucky Track and Cross-Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2008.
Bell served as President of Tennessee Technological University from 2000 until his retirement in 2012. Overall he spent 36 years at Tennessee Tech, serving as a professor and dean of the College of Business prior to taking over as the University’s eighth president on July 1, 2000. Under his leadership the Tennessee Tech athletic department boasted 35 conference championships from nine sports and he helped provide an emphasis on growth in helping the athletics department add the 25,000-square foot Athletic Performance Center (APC) during his tenure.
Bell also orchestrated the hiring of Tech’s current Director of Athletics, Mark Wilson, who has named one of four winners of the Athletic Director of the Year Award for the Football Championship Subdivision by NACDA last June. He also championed efforts to boost the economies of Cookeville and Putnam County by making sure the University was a strong partner in bringing the TSSAA football championship to the TTU campus.
Throughout Bell’s tenure student enrollment reached record numbers for 10 consecutive years and surpassed the 11,000 mark for the first time. Under his oversight, TTU boasted the highest graduation and retention rates in the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) system. In 1988 he was recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce for his work in serving on the Board of Examiners for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award four times. Bell also served as a state delegate to the White House Conference on the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and was appointed by the governor as a charter member of the Tennessee Quality Award Board of Directors.