Tom Hodges is quite alright with others laughing at his expense if it brings attention to the Morehead State women’s basketball team.
And that is exactly what his gaudy checkerboard suits are doing.
When Hodges took over the Morehead State program last year, becoming the nation’s youngest head coach at 28 years old, he was looking for a way to promote his team and put fans in the seats. He quickly found one when he watched golfer John Daly compete in the British Open in colorful, tacky apparel.
Hodges contacted Daly’s PGA clothing sponsor, LoudMouth Golf, and the company quickly agreed to form a partnership with Hodges and his staff.
The Shelbyville native now has five complete garish suits along with 15 pair of flamboyant pants. The suits range from a purple, yellow and white pattern, to blue and white with yellow socks and white shoes.
“We always try to spice it up a little bit,” he said.
At every game, he will wear at least a flashy suit jacket or pants to go along with the rest of his attire. But for the big games — like the Eagles’ season opener against Kentucky when Hodges debuted the attire, much to his team’s surprise — he brings out the “full monty” and goes “head-to-toe with it.”
Hodges and the third-seeded Eagles opened up the Ohio Valley Conference tournament on Thursday with an 82-67 victory over Jacksonville State at Municipal Auditorium. The league’s leading scorer, Chynna Bozeman, scored 35 points and made nine 3-pointers, which tied her own school record and set the tournament mark.
Morehead State moves on to play No. 2 seed Tennessee-Martin in a semifinal at 3 p.m. Friday.
Hodges' outspoken fashion statement is very different than the self-described conservative Hodges who spent the five years on Rick Insell’s coaching staff at Middle Tennessee State.
“That didn’t surprise me because he has had that part in him,” Insell said. “He is a business person and he wanted to bring some attention to Morehead State. It is not about bringing attention to Tom Hodges, I can assure you. ... I applaud him for it. He has a lot more guts than me.”
Hodges’ plan has worked. His suits have drawn attention nationally, including from ESPN, USA Today and Sports Illustrated. Plus, attendance at home games was up from an average of 939 last year to 1,269 this season for a Morehead State program that is on the cusp of back-to-back 20 win seasons and hoping to reach its first NCAA Tournament in school history.
“I think [the increase in attendance] probably has a lot more to do with our play but if the suits get one or two extra people in the stands, then, in my opinion, that is well worth it,” Hodges said. “Because hopefully those one or two will tell one or two others and we build our program from there. We want a program that is symbolic of the suits, which is fun, exciting, different and flashy.”
• No. 5 Austin Peay 78, No. 4 Eastern Illinois 72: After letting an eight-point halftime lead evaporate, Austin Peay rallied in the last two minutes to pull away and win its second game in as many days.
The Lady Govs (15-17) were paced by Jasmine Rayner, who had 17 points, eight rebounds and three rebounds. Ta’Kenya Nixon had a career-high 27 points for the Panthers (18-12).
Austin Peay advances to play top-seed Tennessee Tech at noon on Friday.
• No. 4 Tennessee Tech 83, No. 8 Tennessee-Martin 59: Tennessee Tech ended the first half on a 26-6 run to turn a six-point deficit into a 14-point lead at halftime.
Kevin Murphy led the Golden Eagles (19-11) with 24 points. Terence Smith and Benzor Simmons each had 16 points for the Skyhawks (12-21).
Tennessee Tech will play No. 1 seed and defending tournament champion Murray State in a semifinal at 7 p.m. on Friday on ESPNU.
• No. 3 Austin Peay 76, No. 7 Southeast Missouri 60: Austin Peay grabbed a nine-point lead and never let it get lower than six in the second half, cruising to a victory behind a career-high 28 points from Caleb Brown.
Brown was 9-of-11 from the field and 9-of-12 at the free-throw line for the Governors (20-12). Anthony Allison had 24 points for Southeast Missouri State (10-22).
Austin Peay advances to play second-seeded Morehead State at 9 p.m. on Friday on ESPNU.