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.
The team experienced a resurgence in the 1996 season. Cash's Lady Tigers set school records in 10 events in 1996 and had its first two NCAA provisional qualifiers in six years. Despite lack of depth at the distance events, the team placed third in the inaugural C-USA championship meet.
New school records were set in the indoor 5,000m, distance medley relay, long jump, shot put and 20 lb. weight throw. Outdoors, the team set records in the 10,000 meter run, long jump, shot put, discus and hammer. The trend of improvement and teamwork can be traced back to the 1994-1995 season, when the team set records in six events while capturing conference championships in two events.
Her 1992 team won the Great Midwest Conference Outdoor Championship, earning her GMC Coach of the Year. In 1993, her squad placed second in the GMC championships and, in 1991, placed second at the Metro Outdoor Championship, earning Cash her first coach of the year title.
Cash is 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 landed her a scholarship at Arizona State, where Cash 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 participating 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 Cash set Connecticut high school state records in the 100 yd., 200 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, Cash 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 is married to Joseph Cash. The couple has two daughters, 10-year-old Tiara and six-year-old Breana-Lee.