Associate Head Coach George Watts is in his 16th season in charge of the Tennessee men's distance corps and cross country squad and in his 26th season overall with the Tennessee program. Both as an athlete and a coach, Watts has been an integral part of the proud distance tradition at Tennessee.
As an assistant coach with the men's team, Watts played a crucial role on coaching staffs that directed the Vols to NCAA Outdoor Championships in 1991 and 2001, in addition to an NCAA Indoor title in 2002. Watts has been on board as an assistant for 10 SEC titles, most recently the 2007 outdoor championship.
He also has guided a number of athletes who excelled at UT as well as post-collegiately. Watts-coached individuals have captured 33 All-America honors on the track and won 21 SEC titles. He coached 800m school record-holder José Parrilla and 1,500m school record-holder Tim Pitcher. Four of his former charges have competed in the Olympics, most recently Anthony Famiglietti in the 2004 and 2008 Games. Famiglietti qualified for the steeplechase finals in Beijing.
Among Watts' current pupils, Joe Franklin was the runner-up in the 800m at the 2009 SEC Outdoor Championships and an NCAA Outdoor qualifier, and he notched sixth in that event indoors and outdoors last season. Michael Spooner also is a multi-time conference scorer, placing in the 10,000 the past two years and in the steeplechase in 2010, while Peter Sigilai was sixth outdoors in the 5,000m last year.
In 2008, 800 specialist Yarrick Kincaid posted an eighth-place finish at the NCAA Championships to earn All-America honors, and Andrew Dawson finished fourth in the 1,500 at the SEC Championships to contribute five points to the Vols' third-place team finish and become the second UT distance runner to qualify for the NCAA Regionals.
Watts led Tennessee's DMR team of Jeff Day, Samdi Fraser, Andrew Dawson and Tyler DeVault to the 2007 SEC Indoor title, breaking Arkansas' stranglehold on the event and claiming UT's first DMR conference championship since 1996. He then directed Day, Fraser, Yarrick Kincaid and DeVault to a school-record clocking of 9:33.61 one week later. Outdoors, he coached Kincaid to All-America honors and 10th on Tennessee's all-time performance list in the 800.
Watts led three athletes to the 2006 NCAA Outdoor Championships in three different events. Following the season, he was named Mideast Region Male Assistant Coach of the Year (Distance) by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. Watts' middle distance and distance runners were represented in the indoor and outdoor NCAA meets in 2005. Paul Cross contested the indoor 800 meters, and Zach Sabatino raced the steeplechase outdoors.
In 2004, freshmen Cross and Marc Sylvester, both 800 men, led the Vols in scoring with third- and fourth-place finishes, respectively, at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. Cross also won the SEC Outdoor title in the 800.
During the 2003 season, Watts had an athlete qualify for the NCAA Outdoor meet in every event he coached. Three-time All-American Sylvester won the SEC 800 outdoor crown, while Patrick Gildea authored the finest season for a UT 10K man in nearly a decade.
Watts molded Sylvester into an 800 force in 2002. He captured All-America honors both indoors and outdoors, aiding greatly in Tennessee's quest for the 2002 NCAA Indoor title. Additionally, Watts coached freshman Frank Francois to the 2002 World Junior Championships in the 800.
In addition to tutoring the current Volunteers, Watts continues to work with steeplechaser Famiglietti, 800 runners Sylvester and Jebreh Harris, and distance specialist Jeff Day. Watts directed Harris to a third-place finish at the U.S. Outdoor Championships in 2006 and Gildea to the World Cross Country Championships that same year. Harris also ran the first leg on the American-record breaking 4x800 relay team in 2006. Prior to his Olympic appearances, Famiglietti won the 2002 USA outdoor title and 2001 World University Games under Watts' tutelage.
Watts also worked with legendary Tennessee alum Todd Williams, a 1992 and 1996 Olympian and 10,000 school record- holder, during his professional career.
In addition to his associate head coaching duties for track, Watts heads the men's cross country program. As would be expected, UT also competes at a very high level during the fall season.
Under Watts' leadership, the Vols have regularly finished near the top of the SEC, including three second-place finishes. His athletes have competed in nine NCAA Championships, either as a team or individually. In cross country, Watts has coached 26 All-SEC and three All-America runners.
Recognizing his efforts in constructing a cross country resurgence, Watts earned South Region Coach of the Year honors in 2001 and 2002. Watts also took District III accolades in 1995.
In 2005, Tennessee notched its best NCAA Championship finish in more than five years. The Vols posted improvement in each of the three postseason races. Zach Sabatino earned All-SEC, All-South Region and All-America honors with a 23rd-place finish at nationals, the best by a Tennessee athlete in 10 seasons. Tennessee won three straight meets to open the season, also a feat not accomplished in the program since 1995.
During the 2002 campaign, Watts led the Vols to the NCAA Championship for the second time in as many years. The Vols, ranked fourth in the region, stormed to first place at the 2002 NCAA South Regional. A year earlier, the Tennessee harriers reached the NCAA Championship for the first time since 1998 despite not having a runner on the roster who had ever been to nationals.
Tennessee's NCAA highlight under Watts came in 1995 when the Vols charted a 12th-place finish and the District III team championship. Watts was tabbed district coach of the year that season. He also directed Tony Cosey to a second district championship and a seventh-place All-America finish at nationals in 1995.
Watts proved to be an integral part of the Volunteer program even before he was in a leadership position. As an assistant in the cross country program, he helped guide the Vols to SEC titles in 1985, 1989 and 1990.
During his days as a Vol from 1975-78, he established himself as an outstanding distance runner, earning All-America honors for cross country in 1977 and indoor track in 1978 (three mile). Watts captured four SEC crowns as a Vol, beginning with the 1976 outdoor three-mile and six-mile championships. He followed with the 1977 outdoor 10,000 and 1978 indoor three-mile titles. Watts remains the SEC record-holder in the three-mile run, clocking a 13:32.6 in 1978.
He also holds Tennessee freshman records in the indoor two-mile (8:42.6), three-mile (13:44.4) and outdoor 10,000 (29:04.05). A native of Alexandria, Va., Watts graduated from Tennessee in 1983. His distance athletes began what has turned into an annual tradition by helping out with event operations at The Race for the Cure, an event for those affected by breast cancer.
Watts is a graduate of Thomas Edison High School in Alexandria, Va., and possesses a B.S. in history, which he earned from Tennessee in 1983. He and his wife, Karen, have a daughter, Katie.
- Four-time coach of the year, including Mideast Region Male Assistant Track & Field Coach of the Year (Distances) in 2006.
- His list of cross country coaching honors includes 2002 South Region Coach of the Year, 2001 South Region Co-Coach of the Year and 1995 District III Coach of the Year.
- Tutored athletes who won 21 SEC titles and earned 33 All-America citations on the oval.
- Has helped produce three NCAA team titles while at UT.
- Coached 26 All-SEC or three All-America cross country runners at Rocky Top.
- Has been on staff at Tennessee since 1985, serving as an assistant (1985-92), administrative assistant (1992-95), assistant head coach (1996 to 2009) and associate head coach (2009 to present).