Memorial Day serves as a holiday where we honor and remember those who were lost in the that have passed away.
The sports world is no different, particularly when it comes to college athletics.
We pause to remember former Illini men’s basketball player Matt Heldman, who died in a car accident in October of 1999. The University of Iowa lost a popular member of its men’s basketball team, Chris Street, in a tragic accident in January of 1993. Northwestern football coach Randy Walker died of a heart attack in July of 2006 at the age of 52. And Indiana lost football coach Terry Hoeppner to brain cancer in 2007. All left us way too soon.
In regards to NCAA collegiate tennis, Ohio State lost former women’s tennis player Leann Grimes Davidge on Jan. 27, 1985. The 1978 summa cum laude grad won four Big Ten titles and was an Academic All-American. In 1979, the Middletown, Ohio, native was named coach of the Miami (Ohio) women’s tennis team. Davidge guided the RedHawks to four consecutive MAC titles, compiled an overall record of 93-50 and a staggering 25-1 league record. She died from injuries sustained in a car accident while returning from a recruiting trip. She was only 29 years old; was married to Miami’s assistant men’s hockey coach, Bill Davidge, and had a 1-year-old son, Rob. Leann Grimes Davidge was my coach.
Besides being an outstanding academic school, Leann was a main reason I attended Miami, as she was young, knew tennis inside and out and knew how to blend and mold a team, which isn’t always easy in college tennis. She was a teacher, coach, mentor and friend to all of us and helped guide and prepare us for life after tennis. An injury ended my career prematurely my junior year, yet she never gave up on me and my senior year asked me to be a student coach. I was to have been in the car with her that fateful day but plans changed and instead I was to run my first practice. That practice never took place. Instead, my first duty as a student coach was to tell my team we had lost our coach.
There are several scholarships and awards given in Leann’s name. The MAC gives out the Leann Grimes Davidge Sportsmanship Award to an outstanding MAC women’s tennis player. At Miami they give out the Leann Grimes Davidge Award to an outstanding upper-class female student-athlete. And at Ohio State, an award is given annually to a female student-athlete who has completed her eligibility and exemplifies Leann’s numerous outstanding qualities. According to Vicki Melnick, associate director of Ohio State’s Student-Athlete Support Services Office, the Grimes family, plus husband Bill and son Rob, sit in on the interview process, and Rob always presents the award. He, a son who only knows his mother through stories and numerous awards given in her name. Melnick shares, “I‘ve had the pleasure of working with the families on the selection process for 10 years. It’s always touching to watch Rob present the award to the winner. I only wish I’d known Leann as well.”
And on this Memorial Day, tennis is once again the guiding light on Leann Grimes Davidge’s life and legacy.