The Legacy of Father Ryan Athletics
For nearly a century, Father Ryan High School has been the epicenter of Nashville's Catholic community, and since its founding in 1925, the school's athletic program has provided fans of all ages so much to cheer for.

So many young men and women have given their all to Father Ryan, be it on the field, the court, the mat or elsewhere. Student-athletes have spent countless hours training and competing while also excelling in the classroom, and our many dedicated coaches and administrators have given their all to ensure their success in both arenas. 

This page is dedicated to those who we will never forget. They are the Legacy of Father Ryan. 







Willie Brown '65 Memorial Basketball Tournament

This tournament is named for Willie Brown '65, who was, with Jesse Porter '64, the first African-American students to integrate sports in Tennessee, when they made the Father Ryan team in 1963. Brown went on to lead the Irish to two District titles, a Region V title and to the State Tournament in 1965 before signing with MTSU as the first African-American athlete in the OVC. 

Held annually in December, between Christmas and New Year's Day, the tournament has become a staple for the Middle Tennessee basketball community. 

Johnny Drennan '85 Memorial Wrestling Tournament

Much like Manning is with Tennessee Volunteers football and DiMaggio with New York Yankees baseball, the Drennan name is simply synonymous with Father Ryan Wrestling and Middle Tennessee high school wrestling as a whole.

This association began with Joe Drennan ’57, who coached the Irish to State Titles in wrestling in 1969 and 1971. These titles, along with Yogi Walsh’s ’67 individual State Championship victory in 1967 put Father Ryan on the map as the dominant wrestling program in the region, and their reign of success has rarely wavered.

Drennan’s love, passion, and commitment to the sport of wrestling proved to be genetic, and his son Johnny Drennan ’85 culminated an amazing career at Father Ryan with a State Championship in his senior season.

In honor of Johnny’s courage and ability, Father Ryan changed the name of its annual wrestling tournament, the Father Ryan Invitational, to the Johnny Drennan ’85 Memorial Wrestling Tournament in 2014. The tournament, which dates back to 1968 and is one of the oldest in the state, now honors and preserves Johnny’s memory, as a champion both on and off the mats.

Father Ryan Pearl Game

"In the locker room beneath the packed bleachers of the Municipal Auditorium here, Bill Derrick gathered the basketball players he coached at Father Ryan High School. They recited “The Lord’s Prayer” and said a “Hail Mary,” as they always did before tipoff. Then, with unusual emphasis, Mr. Derrick intoned two or three times, “Lady of victory, pray for us.”

On that night, Jan. 4, 1965, he was seeking intercession for more than one kind of triumph. In a racially polarized city, Father Ryan was fielding an integrated team. And in this particular game, his team was playing one from Pearl High School, which because of segregation was entirely black.

Nearly 9,000 spectators filled the arena to watch the first two high school teams to breach the color line in Nashville. They wondered which of these basketball powerhouses would win. They wondered, too, if the violence that had been rumored would erupt, especially as the two teams were in a tight game in the final seconds." - Samuel G. Freedman, The New York Times. 

For the full story, click here. 
    • Lou Graham '56

A star basketball player while at Father Ryan, Lou Graham graduated in 1956 as Father Ryan's first 1,000 point scorer. Sure enough, he was bound for life as a professional athlete - just not in basketball. Lou became a pro golfer, his career zenith being his victory in the 1975 U.S. Open. This victory, along with five other wins on the PGA Tour, made him one of the strongest and most successful golfers of his generation. 
    • The Magic of 8's

Winning championships in any sport is hard. Winning simultaneous championships in the boys and girls field of the same sport is even harder. Yet that's what Head Coach Robin Dieterich '73 did with Father Ryan's Girls and Boys Soccer Teams in both 1998 and 2008. An unheard of accomplishment! There must be something about the number 8!

TSSAA Hall of Fame Members

List of 7 items.

  • Vic Varallo '42

    One of the most respected coaches in Middle Tennessee sports history, Vic coached multiple sports at numerous area high schools. With East Nashville High School, his teams won two TSSAA State Championships. A mentor to thousands, Vic passed away in 2011.
  • Bill Derrick '48

    Beloved by all, Bill Derrick played in integral role in not only Father Ryan's history, but the State of Tennessee's. His Father Ryan coached basketball teams in the early 60s were the first to be integrated, paving the way for the end of segregation in high school sports in Middle Tennessee. Bill was a teacher and football coach for 36 years at Father Ryan, Lawrence Co. High School, and Hendersonville High School. He took all three schools to the TSSAA State Playoffs. Bill passed away in 2018 at 88 years old.
  • Vic Francescon '49

    A 1949 graduate of Father Ryan, Vic Francescon parlayed his lifelong passion for sports into a career as one of the TSSAA's most recognized and respected officials. He officiated football and basketball for 48 and 36 years, respectively. During this time, Vic won numerous awards of merit for his officiating and professionalism, and also served as President of the Middle Tennessee Basketball Officials Association.
  • Tommy Griffith '52

    An all-around coach and mentor to thousands in Nashville, Tommy Griffith was a teacher and coach for 38 years in Nashville public schools, at Cohn High School and John Overton High School. Not a one-sport coach, Tommy took four Boy's Basketball teams at Overton to the TSSAA State Tournament and won the TSSAA State Championship in 1985 with Girl's Track and Field. He ended his career by serving as Athletic Director for Overton from 1985-1996. During his tenure as a coach, he won Coach of the Year seven times.
  • Willie Brown '65

    Truly a part of national history, Willie Brown, along with his teammate and friend Jesse Porter '64, made history in December of 1963 when they took the court for Father Ryan, becoming the first two African Americans to suit up for a non-segregated high school. Aside from being an amazing player and a trailblazer, Willie is remembered for being a great student and friend to all who never lost his faith, despite growing up amid intense racial tensions in the 1960s. Willie passed away in 1971 in a motorcycle accident, leaving this world much too soon.
  • Scott Brunette '69

    Scott Brunette is a true educator with a profound understanding of secondary education as well as high school athletics. Scott began his career in 1973 when he began working for Metro Nashville Schools as a teacher and coach. He has served in a variety of roles around the Metro area, including Assistant Principal and Athletic Principal of Stratford High School and Athletic Director of Metro Nashville Schools, where he currently serves. Brunette has won numerous awards for his work as an administrator and a coach.
  • Robin Dieterich '73

    A 2018 inductee in the TSSAA Hall of Fame, Robin Dieterich's name has become synonymous with soccer at Father Ryan. He is one of the most accomplished and respected members of the soccer community and coach of nine State Championship Soccer Teams at Father Ryan. 

    Coach Dieterich helped establish the sport of soccer in its earliest days in Tennessee.  He was part of the first team at Father Ryan and was the goalkeeper for the Irish's 1972 and 1973 State Champions.  He returned to Father Ryan in 1979 as Head Coach, and has led the Boys Team to five titles and the Girls Team to four championships during that time.