Arkansas native played for Tigers in the 1950s
2014 Hall of Fame class includes Ken Irvin, Tamika Whitmore, Jenna Kubesch-Raizes and Lee Taylor Walker
Ralph Hatley, a college teammate of Cecil C. Humphreys at Tennessee, became the head football coach at then Memphis State College in 1947, resurrecting a program that had been dormant since the outset of World War II. Born in Trenton, Tennessee and raised in Jackson (TN), Hatley became a standout high school football player before signing with Tennessee in 1931. A tremendous blocker, he played both tackle and guard and was captain of General Neyland's Volunteers during the 1934 campaign.
After one season as the line coach at UT Martin, Hatley became the head football coach at Christian Brothers in Memphis. He remained in that position until he was hired at Memphis in 1947 and began moving the Tigers into the national spotlight. His 1947 team had 38 new players who had to be molded into a football team. Hatley brought in a young coach named Billy J. Murphy to assist. Playing with 38 freshmen, the Tigers posted a 6-2-1 record in `47.
Adding more players in 1948, the record slipped to 6-5-0 but media members realized they were seeing the birth of a strong program. By 1949, the squad had arrived. Memphis outscored their opponents 385 to 87 and were named the national scoring champions. 21-14 victory over Kansas State became the school's first win over a major opponent. The next season proved that 1949 was no flunk. The Tigers finished the season with a 9-2-0 and had the school's largest crowd with over 21,000 fans for the Memphis vs. Ole Miss game.
Hatley coached the Tigers for 11 seasons, retiring after the 1957 season with an overall record of 57-43-5. He took over the chair of the physical education department at Memphis and remained in that capacity for many years.