When the University of Memphis reinstated its women's track and field program in 1985, after a three-year hiatus, no better head coaching candidate could have surfaced than Brenda Calhoun-Cash. Cash, a native of Hamden, Conn., was hired on Aug. 12, 1985, as the youngest head coach in U of M history, and has faced many challenges in rebuilding the Lady Tiger program. Previously, Cash served as a graduate assistant track coach for the University of Iowa's nationally-ranked women's team while earning her master's degree in physical education.
In 2004, Cash was inducted into the Arizona State University Athletic Hall of Fame as well as being inducted into the Hamden High School Hall of Fame.
Two of the past three years have seen great success for Cash's Lady Tigers, particularily when it comes to individual honors. During the 2005 seasons the U of M squad saw eight school records, a conference championship, two NCAA Championship qualifiers, and its first-ever female All-American. Thrower, Gail Lee was responsible for many of those accolades, as she set school marks in the indoor shot put and weight throw, won the C-USA weight throw title, and earned All-American honors in the shot put. Lisa-Marie Hyman then became the second athlete of the year to qualify for NCAA Championships, doing so in the outdoor triple jump, while also claiming a runner-up finish at the C-USA meet. That gave the heralded jumper three second-place tallies to go along with three conference championships in four years under Cash's tutiledge. In addition, distance runner Daniele Riendeau added three school records of her own during the 2005 campaigns.
The 2003 season was a resurgent one for the Lady Tigers as they had their highest finish in C-USA since 1995 and produced their first NCAA Qualifier in sprinter Keenan Gibson. Gibson qualified for the NCAA Championships in the 100m and 200m, while Hyman won her third C-USA Triple Jump crown. The 2003 squad also produced five new school records
Prior to that, Cash's most success in Conference USA came during a 1996 season in which her Lady Tigers set school records in 10 events and had their first two NCAA provisional qualifiers in six years. Despite a lack of depth in the distance events, the team placed third in the inaugural C-USA championship meet and set U of M records in the 10,000 meter run, long jump, shot put, discus and hammer. That trend of improvement and teamwork can be traced back several seasons before Memphis joined C-USA.
In 1995, Cash's team set records in six events while capturing conference championships in two events. Two seasons earlier, the 1993 squad placed second in the Great Midwest Conference, while the 1992 team won the GMC Outdoor Championship, earning Cash GMC Coach of the Year honors. A year before that, the Lady Tigers placed second at the Metro Outdoor Championships, earning Cash her first Coach of the Year title.
Before her coaching career, Cash herself was no stranger to success on the track. She ranked among the top 12 nationally in both the 100m dash and the 100m hurdles from 1976-1981. In 1976, she was an Olympic trials semifinalist in the 100m dash. Her propensity for speed proceeded to land her a scholarship at Arizona State, where she went on to earn All-America honors the next four years. Cash also set the Sun Devils' school records in the 100m dash and 100m hurdles, along with partipating on the 4x100m relay team that set a national record.
Cash earned her bachelor's degree in broadcasting in 1981. After graduation, she served as a volunteer coach for the Sun Devil women's track team, assisting the hurdlers, before heading to Iowa.
Cash's high school career was also one for the record books, as she set Connecticut high school state records in the 100 yd., 220 yd. and 80 yd. hurdles. Her name also became known on the AAU circuit when she made the finals of both the senior and junior national championships in the 100m, 200m and 100m hurdles.
In 1976, Cash was named the National Multiple Sclerosis Society Outstanding High School Woman Athlete in America. In the past, she has worked at the Memphis All-Sports Camp. She also participated in the Tennessee SportsFest and is the record holder in her age group for the 100m hurdles, 100m dash and triple jump.
Cash is the daughter of former Olympic champion Lee Calhoun, who struck gold in the 110 yd. high hurdles at both the 1956 and 1960 Olympic games. Over the years the Lady Tigers have competed in the Lee Calhoun Invitational in Macomb, Ill., where Calhoun was head men's coach at Western Illinois University. The meet was first run in 1990.
Cash and her husband, Joseph, have two daughters, 16-year-old Tiara and 12-year-old Breana-Lee.