By Ron Wynn
NASHVILLE, TN — Longtime Tennessee State University Athletics Director (AD) Teresa Phillips, one of a select handful of women serving in that position at a major college, announced her retirement Thursday, effective June 2020. She’s been the Tigers’ athletic director since 2002, following her time as a head basketball coach at both Fisk and Tennessee State.
She’s also a pioneer as a coach, becoming the first woman to coach a Division 1 men’s game in 2003. That resulted from her replacing interim head coach Hosea Lewis for one game. He’d been suspended due to a fight that had occurred in a previous game. Phillips’ one-game stint received national coverage. She was also named by Sports Illustrated as one of its “101 Most Influential Minorities in Sports” for 2003.
Phillips had been athletic director for 17 years, longer than any other AD at a university or college in the state. She initially was named interim athletic director in 1997, doubling for three months as women’s basketball coach until Vivian Fuller was hired. Upon getting the job she became the only Black woman holding that position in any NCAA school that also had a football program. Two years later Phillips resigned once more as women’s basketball coach to become TSU’s associate athletic director under James Smith.
She was made interim AD again in 2001, after Smith was fired. She became permanent AD in 2002. Some of her top administrative achievements include the 20-win season posted by head coach John Cooper in 2009, and another 20 win season by head coach Dana Ford in 2014. Women’s head coach Larry Inman took the Lady Tigers to the NCAA Tournament as Ohio Valley Conference titlists in 2012.
Phillips has earned several honors and citations during her tenure as AD. These include serving on the Nashville Final Four Executive Board in 2014, and a number of NCAA committee boards.
This week’s TSU homecoming will be Phillips’ final one as AD.