RB native makes UNA Hall of Fame
The 30th class of inductees for the University of North Alabama Athletic Hall of Fame has been selected, and it includes a former student-athlete from Red Bay.
The student-athletes selected are alumni of the Lions’ football, women’s basketball baseball and men’s golf teams.
Noteworthy for Franklin County, the UNA Athletic Hall of Fame Class of 2019 includes women’s basketball standout Renae Cody of Red Bay.
“When I received the phone call from Jeff Hodges, UNA’s senior associate athletic director for communications, it was totally unexpected,” said Cody, who is now a programmer and customer service representative for Central Service Association in Tupelo, Miss. “Jeff is an Athletic Hall of Famer himself and has preserved so many memories for us through his photography.”
Cody said Hodges offered his congratulations on her induction into the Hall of Fame – and the rest of their conversation is barely more than a blur. “I quickly grabbed a pen and paper to write down some information Jeff was giving me and then couldn’t even read most of what I had written down. I remember responding to Jeff at some point in our conversation, ‘Jeff, when I get off this phone, I think I am going to cry.’”
Cody was a four-year member of UNA women’s basketball teams, from 1981-84. She was a member of UNA’s 1982 AAIAW Northern Division Championship team under Gary Elliott and a member of UNA’s first NCAA Division II Tournament team as a senior in 1983-84 under Wayne Byrd.
“When I read the achievements of such outstanding people who have taken their place in the UNA Athletic Hall of Fame, and think about my many talented teammates and the opportunity we had to be coached by two of the most winningest coaches in UNA history, Coach Gary Elliott and Coach Wayne Byrd – I have an overwhelming feeling of gratitude,” said Cody, who was selected first-team All-Gulf South Conference in 1983-84. The Lions had a combined 79-39 record in her four years in the program.
Thinking back on her days at UNA, Cody said she cherishes the memories she made both on and off the court.
“As teammates, when you live in the dorm together, practice and play ball together and ride on the bus together, you get to know each other better on and off the court, and friendships are made for a lifetime,” said Cody. “We certainly made extra time for extracurricular activities and found ways to make LaGrange dorm life exciting.”
Memories that standout include her family – her brother, mother and father.
“One evening I walked into my dorm room, and there sat my older brother. I asked him how he gotten into my room, and he said he just got in the elevator and came to my room,” said Cody. She was horrified. “You can’t do that in an all-girls dorm!” she told him. “You have to check in at the front desk.” Her brother was unperturbed, changing the subject to share that he had invited a couple of her basketball buddies to come home with them that weekend to play a little ball together. Cody was not to be distracted. “I told him that was great, but we had to go see somebody at the front desk and sign him in.”
Cody said going home was always a delight “because my mother is a fabulous cook, and I was always hungry. My mom brought and sent food and homemade goodies to UNA quite often, and I am so thankful for all the times she did.” Her father had his own hand in trying to help improve her college experience. “Once my Dad brought me a banjo and wanted me to learn to play it to help take care of the college ‘down time’ I had,” Cody joked.
Cody currently ranks as the fourth-leading scorer in UNA women’s basketball history with 1,294 points – all in the era prior to the three-point shot. She made 559 career field goals and 176 free throws in 118 career games. She still ranks as UNA’s career leader in steals with 208 and is second in career assists with 477.
Her top scoring game was 30 against Stillman in 1983-84.
In addition to cherished memories of her teammates and her family, Cody said she also holds dear memories of Elliott and Byrd and the way their coaching impacted her.
“Coach Elliott was a very disciplined coach, and he didn’t mind sharing those disciplines with us,” Cody said. “He had a play for ‘every moment’ – even if it meant for a player to lose a contact, and the player didn’t wear contacts, so he could motion one of us to the sideline for a new play or a strategic instruction.”
When Elliott took over boys coaching duties, Byrd took the reins of the girls program.
“My first meeting with him my junior year was personal. My first day back at UNA, a couple of teammates and I thought we had the day to move in – not so,” said Cody. “Coach Byrd called us and said get to the gym – this was around 7 p.m.”
Cody said she will never forget that first meeting with her new coach. “As I sat down in the chair, he said, ‘Hello there girl – I want to ask you some questions. What has your free-throw percentage been since you have been at UNA?’” Cody told him she didn’t know, and the questions kept coming. “What has your field goal percentage been? How many steals have you had? How many assists? How many rebounds, and how high can you jump?”
“He tells me ‘Scholarships aren’t free,’ and at this point I am praying God will help me pass out or I am thinking this might be a good time to fake one,” Cody said. “Then I think, ‘This man is about to kick me off the team or remove my scholarship.’
“Somehow I managed to stand up and say, ‘Coach Byrd, I don’t know the answers to those statistics, but I just want to play ball, and I want to play here at UNA, and I will do whatever you tell me to do; I do not want to sit on the bench.”
Byrd had an answer for that. “He puts his hands together and says ‘There is something I want you to do. For the rest of your time here at UNA as a basketball player, either before or after practice, I want you to make 300 shots from your playing positions every day, and layups don’t count,’” Cody recalled – and, Byrd added, he wanted her to start that night. “It was about midnight when I left the gym that night, and I can still shoot hoops in my sleep.”
A native of Red Bay, Cody scored 294 in 1980-81, 264 in 1981-82, 357 in 1982-83 and 379 points in 1983-84.
Cody said she also looks back with fondness on her basketball days in Red Bay, which “is and was an awesome place to play sports.”
“Our community, principal, teachers, fellow students, our basketball bus driver and families were so supportive,” Cody said. “High school basketball was some of the best times of my life. My parents and my two brothers loved basketball as much as I did, and they were always a part of my basketball journey.
“My brothers – one older, one younger – taught me how to play basketball in the back yard on a dirt court,” Cody added. “They always wanted me on their team, and I wanted them on mine, because we hated to lose more than we wanted to win.”
Cody said she and her Tiger teammates loved playing together. ”Coach James Bostick led our team in back-to-back 2A State Championships,” Cody said. “We had a fundamentally sound team, and we had terrific rebounders who knew how to box out.
“If we were not practicing or playing, we were going to scout out other basketball teams,” she added. “My playing time at Red Bay with Coach Bostick and teammates was instrumental in preparing me for college basketball level. Playing basketball was my favorite.”
Although her high school and college playing days are over, Cody said she still enjoys the chance to relive those memories whenever she can.
“Red Bay Lady Tigers have had outstanding teams and athletes through the years, winning state championships and many more trips to state finals. I have attended some state final games and some home games, and every time I walk into the gym, I still want to play,” said Cody.
She recently got the chance to catch up with her Lion family when UNA hosted a Women’s Basketball Reunion in February. “The UNA staff treated us with such hospitality, and I had such a delightful visit with so many,” Cody said. “Coach Missy and the Lady Lions gave us a competitive basketball game to watch against Liberty. UNA continues to move forward with the transition to Division I; the gym and facilities have had quite a few changes since I played there, and the Lady Lions locker room is great.”
Other Hall of Fame selections are baseball All-American Mike Klug of Mandan, N.D., football standout Bobby Joe Pride, a Decatur native, and Muscle Shoals native and men’s golf All-American Justin Regan.
The group will be formally inducted into the UNA Athletic Hall of Fame in a ceremony at 9 a.m. Sept. 28 as part of UNA’s 2019 Homecoming celebration.
“In this process of being named to the UNA Athletic Hall of Fame, I have spent time reflecting on all the people who made a difference in my life,” said Cody, “and my heart is full of thankfulness for each and every one.”
Following its creation in 1990, the UNA Athletic Hall of Fame inducted four members each year through 2005. From 2006-2014 that number was expanded to six. Beginning in 2015 the induction class returned to four honorees per year.
This year’s induction brings the total number of inductees into the UNA Athletic Hall of Fame to 138.