MURRAY, KY (KFVS) - Bennie Purcell, a multi-sport legend at Murray State University, has passed away at the age of 87.
A native of Mount Vernon, Ill., Purcell came to Murray State in the fall of 1948, beginning an association with the athletic program that would bring both national acclaim.
Purcell was named all-conference twice while guiding the Racers to the league title in 1951, the first year that Murray State won an OVC Championship.
"It's difficult to win any championship," Purcell said, adding that it was a "great feeling" to be on the first MSU team to win the OVC title.
In 1952, he was named the MVP in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Basketball Tournament and an All-America player by the Converse, United Press International and Associate Press.
Purcell was named to the MSU Hall of Fame and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame.
He still holds school records for the most games played in (118), the most games started (82), and the most field goal attempts in one game (45) and is tied for the most games played during one season (34).
At one time he held the records for scoring for a season and a career.
He played in every game for four years and scored 1108, the fifth most ever scored by a Murray player.
He was the first to score 600 points in one season, accomplishing the feat in 1952.
He is also ninth overall in free throws with 258.
His #21 jersey has been retired by the school and the Murray State University tennis courts have also been named after him.
Purcell received his bachelor's degree from Murray State in 1952, followed by a master's degree in 1961.
After two years of service in the U.S. Army and five years of professional basketball experience, Purcell spent six years as a high school basketball coach before returning to MSU to teach in 1963, when he also took on the duties of assistant basketball coach, a role he served in until 1971.
During the five seasons he spent playing professional basketball, he played for the Washington Generals among other teams.
In 1966, he began coaching the tennis team, and the promise his teams held was demonstrated immediately as his squad won the OVC title in his first year, the first of eleven such championships.
His Racer teams swept the decade of the 80's in OVC men's tennis, winning the crown every year during the period.
Purcell is an eight-time OVC Coach of the Year, the dean of OVC men's tennis coaches (222-93 record) and in the top five on the active collegiate tennis coaches' list for career wins.
His teams have had fourteen 20-win seasons and two 30-win campaigns. In 22 seasons, he has led his teams to a record of 459-202 in dual matches, including an NCAA record 59 straight conference wins during the 1980s.
Purcell would go on to be named to the OVC 40th Anniversary all-time basketball team.