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UTM and Surrounding Area Mourns Passing of Former Vice Chancellor and Athletic Director Phil Dane

Phil Dane

The following was submitted by the University of Tennessee at Martin via Ryne Rickman; Sports Information Director

MARTIN, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin is saddened to announce the passing of Phil Dane, who dedicated 41 years of service in a variety of roles on campus. He was 68 years old.

A Martin native who lived in Memphis in recent years, Dane landed his first of many positions at UT Martin in 1979. His job titles included internal auditor, director of financial affairs and assistant vice chancellor for business and finance before he was elevated to the role of vice chancellor for business and finance in 1987. He was appointed as the university’s director of intercollegiate athletics by Chancellor Philip Conn in 2000, a position he held until Dec. 31, 2013. Following his retirement, he returned to campus as a student-engagement consultant from 2014-19.

In his role as athletic director, Dane helped transform the Skyhawks into a perennial Ohio Valley Conference contender in mostly every sport. During his 14 years leading the athletic department, 10 different UT Martin sports programs combined for 34 conference or regional championships. That number includes 20 OVC championship squads – 14 of which came over his final five years in that role. Five Skyhawk sports programs (volleyball, football, men’s basketball, softball, soccer) won their first-ever OVC title under Dane’s watch as athletic director while UT Martin additionally produced 19 All-Americans during his tenure.

Academically, the Skyhawks set school records for OVC Medal of Honor (perfect 4.0 Grade Point Average) recipients and OVC Commissioner’s Honor Roll winners (at least a 3.25 GPA) in three straight years under Dane. He also oversaw 10 of UT Martin’s 18 all-time OVC Scholar-Athletes, an award which is considered as the league’s highest individual honor.

Dane was inducted into the UT Martin Athletics Hall of Fame in 2015 and was just enshrined in the OVC Hall of Fame last year – becoming only the third Skyhawk representative to earn that honor.

To this day, Dane’s impact is still felt on the UT Martin campus. A big part of his legacy was a $50 student fee increase in the fall of 2007, which generated roughly $600,000 annually and provided salaries for five additional positions within the athletic department. Almost $2,000,000 in private funding was raised while Dane was in charge of Skyhawk Athletics, leading to facility upgrades at Hardy Graham Stadium and the Rhodes Golf Center, amongst other amenities. The Graham Stadium pressbox, a facility that was spawned by Dane, opened in time for the 2016 football season and includes the “Phil Dane Athletic Director Suite” on the third floor.

An Air Force veteran, Dane was a three-year letterman in baseball at Tennessee Tech before graduating in 1978. He earned his Master’s degree from UT Martin in 1984. He is survived by his wife Debbie and daughters Shelly, Katie and Abbey.


Murphy Funeral Home has an obituary that reads as followed:

Coach. Veteran. Golfer. Hall of Famer. #57. Camper.

Phil Dane had many titles, but there were three that made him most proud: Debbie’s Sweetie,

Dad and Papa.

Phil was born on April 4, 1954, to Willie Paul and Mary Lou Dane in Martin, Tennessee. His 68 years on this earth were not enough to tell all the stories he had accumulated during his childhood, with his family, and during his career at The University of Tennessee at Martin. Shortly after graduating from Westview High School he began dating and soon married his best friend. Several years into their marriage, three daughters were added. He was extremely outnumbered, but he was always up for an adventure. They were the joy of his life.

After more than 20 years in business and finance at UTM, he pursued his dream job, assuming the title of Athletics Director. A role that was so successful, he was inducted into the UT Martin Athletics Hall of Fame in 2015 and was then inducted into the Ohio Valley Conference Hall of Fame in 2021. When he retired from UTM, he and Debbie began traveling the country in their camper, and Phil continued to fine-tune his love for golf. This love grew even deeper as he had the opportunity to invest in up-and-comers through Memphis-Area Home Education Association’s golf team and the inaugural Lakeland Preparatory School golf team.

The most important title in Phil’s life was “Believer.” When Phil was in the Air Force, stationed in Colorado Springs, he and Debbie began feeling the tug of the Holy Spirit on their hearts, and they realized they had never fully surrendered their lives to Jesus. After meeting with their pastor, they put their faith in Him—a fact that is a source of great hope now that he has been fully healed by the hands of his Lord and Savior. Phil was a member of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, where he served as a deacon, sang in the choir, served with ARISE2Read, and loved to fellowship with his Life Group.

Phil’s has been a Colossians 3:17 man to his family, his friends, and to all who knew him personally. He is survived by his wife, Debbie; his daughters Shelly (Adam), Katie, and Abbey; his grandson Tucker; and his two brothers, Ronnie (Sarah) and Greg (Gina). He was preceded in death by his parents, Willie Paul and Mary Lou.

Phil kept the following summary of Proverbs 4:20–27 on his calendar as a daily reminder:
“Consume His Word. Control your heart. Consecrate your speech. Commit to your walk.”

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to either of the following:

Greater Memphis Fellowship of Christian Athletes:


Baptist Collegiate Ministry at the University of Memphis where Phil served with Jeff Jones on the Board:


Arrangements are as follows:

Saturday, October 1, 2022: The family will receive friends in the Special Occasions Room at Bellevue Baptist Church between noon and 2:00 p.m. Bellevue is located at 2000 Appling Road in Cordova, Tennessee. The Special Occasions Room entrance is located on the west side (Appling Road entrance) at a portico to the right of the West Entrance.

Sunday, October 2, 2022: The family will receive friends in the sanctuary of First Baptist Church in Martin, Tennessee, between 2:00–4:00 p.m., with a funeral service beginning at 4:00. Burial will follow the funeral service at East Side Cemetery in Martin. First Baptist Church is located at 123 University Street in Martin, Tennessee.

1 Comment

  1. Jimmie Williams on September 29, 2022 at 11:42 am

    He will be missed!

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