May 18, 2009
Bill Webb, who has spent the last 24 years with the Tennessee men's track and field program, announced Monday he is retiring as head coach at the end of the 2009 season.
"I'm proud of being a part of the great track and field tradition at Tennessee," Webb said. "I have many fond memories of working with such fine coaches and athletes at this University."
Webb's 14 seasons as Tennessee's head coach have produced many of the program's proudest moments, including two NCAA and four SEC team championships. He became the first coach in program history to win back-to-back NCAA titles after following up the 2001 NCAA outdoor crown with the 2002 NCAA indoor championship.
Webb trails only Gen. Robert R. Neyland in the national title rankings in the Tennessee men's athletics department. Neyland won four national football titles (1930, 1940, 1950 and 1951). Webb directed two NCAA track and field championship efforts (2001 outdoor and 2002 indoor) and served as assistant head coach for Tennessee's 1991 NCAA outdoor championship run. Tennessee coaching hall of famer Stan Huntsman also notched two NCAA titles during his stint in Knoxville.
Tennessee athletes under Webb's direction marched among the national elite. In his 14 seasons as head coach, 18 UT athletes were crowned national champions in individual events, and 137 earned All-America honors. As a nationally-renowned field event and multi-event instructor, Webb personally instructed 13 NCAA champions, 57 SEC champions and 82 NCAA Division I All-Americas. His athletes have also rewritten the all-time top-10 lists at Tennessee, a feat made even more impressive considering the program's storied history and the caliber of competition.
The primary reason for those stellar team and individual accomplishments is that Webb placed an emphasis on fielding a complete track and field team across the full spectrum of events. Further evidence of that is the fact that Tennessee earned 10 dual meet championships under Webb, including eight in 11 years from 1996-2006. The dual meet championship provides the best indicator of a complete track and field team. Webb's dual-meet record, compiled in non-championship scored meets of eight teams or fewer, reflected the Volunteers' versatility. Webb rang up a sterling 52-1 record in such meets for a .981 winning percentage.
Tennessee's excellence in evaluating, signing and developing talent in every event area ranks as one of Webb's proudest accomplishments. Though not surprising for one of the nation's most respected multi-event coaches, Tennessee's strength and balance across all the events resulted in the Volunteers earning All-America acclaim multiple times in every event area -- sprints, hurdles, middle distance, distance, relays, vertical jumps, horizontal jumps, throws and multi-events -- during the Webb era.
Nurturing Tennessee's tradition of track and field excellence, Webb's four SEC titles as a head coach kept the Volunteers in front of the pack in the nation's finest conference. Many track and field observers believe assembling a team to capture the SEC title ranks as a more daunting prospect than winning NCAA gold because of the depth needed to scale the team awards stand in the SEC, which has been the best among track and field conferences during the entirety of the Webb era. Webb set the tone for his head coaching career early as his charges took the 1996 SEC indoor title in his inaugural conference championship as head man for the Vols. Webb went on to assemble some of the deepest and most talented squads in program history to capture SEC outdoor crowns in 2001, 2002 and 2007. He is the only coach in the SEC to top Arkansas at both the indoor and outdoor conference championship, winning three times outdoors and once indoors. He also 10 times directed the Vols to the highest finish among eastern division teams at a conference meet.
Webb intended for his athletes to leave Tennessee with not only school records and All-America certificates, but also a diploma. Since Webb became head coach in 1996, Tennessee leads the conference with 197 selections to the SEC Academic Honor Roll for track and field/cross country, including 15 in 2008. During most of the decade, the track and field/cross country Vols averaged about 20 members per semester boasting GPAs of 3.0 or better.
On the international stage, Tennessee's pipeline to the Olympics and world championships has never flowed stronger than during the Webb era. Webb has coached 36 Olympic Trials competitors since 1984. He personally instructed athletes at four Olympic Games and seven world championship meets.
In the decathlon, Webb's success is staggering. He became the first person to coach an NCAA and world champion decathlete in the same year, as Stephen Harris and Tom Pappas accomplished the feat in 2003. Pappas, under Webb's direction, set the NCAA decathlon record at 8,463 and went on to post a top career score of 8,784, which ranks third on the all-time U.S. list. He coached 27 other athletes to scores of 7,250 or higher and five decathletes (Pappas, Brian Brophy, Aric Long, Harris and Jangy Addy) past the 8,000-point mark in the 10-event test of versatility and stamina. He coached four NCAA decathlon champions and 18 top-five finishers in the NCAA decathlon since 1990. Webb is the only person to coach three scorers in the NCAA decathlon in the same year -- and he did it twice (the NCAA championship teams of 1991 and 1992). Under Webb's direction, 13 Volunteers won the SEC decathlon title since 1989. Long and Chris Helwick were also high-point scorers at SEC meets, racking up 24 and 28 points, respectively.
Webb rarely tutored just one multi-event standout as in 1991 he had four athletes post an average score of 7,705 during the season, breaking a record held by Mt. St. Mary's for 10 years. In 1992, his decathletes broke their own record with an average score of 7,912. The 1992 group also set records for three-man decathlon scoring average at 8,128 and two-man decathlon scoring average at 8,257. Those feats were especially impressive considering that Webb's teams were the first to set such marks with every athlete being an American citizen.
In the javelin, one of his other specialty events, Webb coached Tom Petranoff to a world record and Bob Roggy to an American record. At Tennessee, Webb mentored Leigh Smith to a school record in the javelin. Webb also coached 10 shot putters beyond 60 feet and 14 high jumpers above seven feet.
Webb and former volunteer coach Jim Bemiller coached Tim Mack and Lawrence Johnson to lofty heights in the pole vault. Mack, an NCAA champion, won the gold medal with an Olympic-record clearance of 19-6 1/4 to highlight a 2004 dream season. Johnson, the former pole vault American record holder and four-time NCAA champion, went on to take the 2000 Olympic silver medal and 2001 world indoor championship. More recently, Webb has teamed with former UT All-America and SEC Champion Russ Johnson to coach Tennessee pole vault competitors to eight-consecutive conference championships (four indoor and four outdoor).
Webb earned nods from the U.S. Olympic Committee as its National Track and Field Coach of the Year in 2003 after being selected from a pool of top collegiate and professional coaches across the country. He was named NCAA National Coach of the Year for the national championship seasons of 2001 outdoors and 2002 indoors. Webb also garnered SEC Coach of the Year three times (1996 indoor, 2001 outdoor and 2007 outdoor).
Meanwhile, Webb had ample opportunity to build an international coaching resume as he was chosen by USA Track and Field to serve as head coach for the U.S. decathletes in a 2001 dual meet versus Germany. He also served as an assistant coach at the 1991 Pan American Games in Cuba and the 1993 World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany.
Webb's life's work consists of 39 seasons in the sport, 24 of those patrolling the infield at Tennessee's Tom Black Track at LaPorte Stadium.
Prior to taking the reins of the Tennessee program in the summer of 1995, Webb served 10 accomplished years as assistant head coach for the Vols. He tutored athletes in that span that contributed to four team conference championships and the 1991 national crown.
Before joining the Tennessee coaching staff, Webb coached at Florida, Southern Illinois and Indiana, which collectively captured nine conference titles during his tenure. Webb began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Indiana in 1971 before moving on to take the head coaching position in 1973 at West Georgia, where he was named the league's coach of the year in each of his two seasons there. He had assistant coaching stops at Florida (1975-76) and Southern Illinois (1976-78) before beginning a seven-year stint as head coach at Cal State Northridge in 1979. Webb was named the California Collegiate Athletic Association's Coach of the Year in 1985, and his teams finished in the top eight every year in the NCAA Division II meet.
He produced a total of 51 Division II All-Americas while at Cal State Northridge and West Georgia College.
Webb is married to the former Patricia Hill. They have a son, Kevin, who recently received his doctoral degree from the University of California-San Diego.
UT athletics director Mike Hamilton has named George Watts interim head coach. A former Vols track and field athlete, Watts has served as assistant coach since 1985. UT will conduct a search for Webb's replacement.