UT Tyler athletics name first Hall of Fame inductee - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

UT Tyler athletics name first Hall of Fame inductee

UT Tyler Press Release

The University of Texas at Tyler Athletics Department has announced that former head tennis coach Fred Kniffen has been selected as the first inductee into the department's Hall of Fame.

Kniffen, who is one of the most honored coaches in Texas college tennis history and was twice selected as the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) National Coach of the Year, will be officially inducted during the University's 40th Anniversary Alumni Gala on March 30 at the Ornelas Activity Center.

"Although UT Tyler's NCAA athletic programs are only 10 years old, we have a storied past as a NAIA tennis power under Coach Fred Kniffen," said Dr. Howard Patterson, vice president for athletics and auxiliary services. "We could think of no better or more deserving individual than Coach Kniffen to be the very first inductee into the UT Tyler Athletics Hall of Fame."

Coaching at UT Tyler from 1985-1994, Kniffen led the University's men's tennis teams, then members of the NAIA, to two National Championships in 1989 and 1994. The teams also finished third in the country in 1987 and were national runners-up in 1988. He was inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame in 1996.

Besides the team championships, Kniffen coached Ken Olivier to the NAIA Singles Championship in 1989 and the duo of Olivier and Chris Harris to the doubles title that same year. Olivier would later become UT Tyler's first tennis coach of the NCAA era.

Under Kniffen's leadership, the Patriot tennis teams won the NAIA District 4 Championship every year he was head coach. In 1987, Kniffen was named the Wilson National Coach of the Year.

Kniffen was honored with induction into the Texas Tennis Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1993.

Kniffen came to Tyler in 1973 to begin coaching at Tyler Junior College. During his tenure at TJC, Kniffen won four National Championships and was named the National Junior College Men's Coach of the Year in 1980 and 1983, and the National Women's Coach of the Year in in 1983 and 1984. He helped 31 players to earn Junior College All-American honors. TJC inducted Kniffen into its athletic department Circle of Honor in 2001.

He has served as vice president of the Texas Professional Tennis Association and was named the organization's Outstanding Tennis Professional in 1971. The TPTA also honored Kniffen as its Coach of the Year in 1984.

Kniffen is originally from Clyde, Texas, and attended Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene.  As a player, he helped bring the HSU tennis program to national prominence as a player from 1954-1958. A member of the HSU Hall of Fame, Kniffen won Border Conference singles and doubles titles in 1957 and 1958. After graduating from HSU, Kniffen served as the first head tennis coach at Abilene Cooper High School from 1960-1965.

As a prep player, Kniffen was the University Interscholastic League Class B Boys Singles State Championship in 1954.

Kniffen and his wife Carolyn have been married for 54 years. They have four children, including daughters Janet (Kniffen) Scholl and Judy (Kniffen) Clardy who both were National Champions for their father at TJC.

"Under Coach Chris Bizot, the UT Tyler tennis programs have again earned national prominence as NCAA powers, but the foundation for great college tennis, and indeed great athletics programs in general at UT Tyler, was laid by Fred Kniffen," said Patterson. "We could not be more pleased or more proud to honor a great man and a great coach as the first member of our Hall of Fame."

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