June 22, 2009
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- J.J. Clark, who led the Lady Volunteers to a pair of NCAA National Championships and six Southeastern Conference titles during his seven seasons as head coach, has been chosen to lead a combined men's and women's track & field/cross country program at the University of Tennessee, Director of Men's Athletics Mike Hamilton and Director of Women's Athletics Joan Cronan announced jointly on Monday.
"It's a great honor to be entrusted with the combined men's and women's track & field program at the University of Tennessee," Clark said. "I have great respect for the tradition of the men's program at UT. I recognize the responsibility associated with leading this program. We intend to compete for championships."
Clark will assume the title of Director of Track & Field immediately and begin assembling his staff. He takes the reins of one of the most storied collegiate track & field programs in the nation. Combining women's and men's achievements, Tennessee has won seven national championships and claimed 51 SEC titles (22 indoors/29 outdoors) in track & field through the years. The women's program most recently added to those gaudy numbers when it captured NCAA and SEC Indoor trophies during the 2009 campaign.
The Vols and Lady Vols have been big contributors when it comes to producing track & field Olympians. A total of 36 Tennessee competitors have represented various countries at the Games, including gold medalists Benita Fitzgerald, Justin Gatlin, Tim Mack, Sam Graddy and DeeDee Trotter; silver medalists Gatlin, Graddy, Lawrence Johnson and LaVonna Martin; and bronze medalist Gatlin. In 2008, Clark served as the women's middle distance coach for Team USA at the Beijing Olympiad, joining former UT skippers Stan Huntsman, Terry Crawford and Dorothy Doolittle as members of previous U.S. staffs.
The cross country programs also have thrived, boasting a national championship and 30 SEC titles since their inception. The men's and women's teams have made a combined 44 appearances at national championship meets and hosted the NCAA Championships together in 1990 at Pine Lakes Golf Course.
The merger makes Tennessee the ninth school in the conference to utilize the combined approach, and it marks the first sport at UT to move in that direction.
"The philosophical decision to combine the programs was challenging, but we believe it is in the best interests of our track & field program moving forward," Hamilton said. "It does not diminish in any way the great tradition of the men's program. This will help us maximize our resources for the betterment of the overall program.
"We felt like we had very established leadership here, especially with J.J. Clark and the great work he has done as the Lady Vols' head coach. We think he's very capable of meeting this new challenge. We recognize and value the leadership that George Watts has provided with the men's team and hope that he will consider playing a significant role in the new staff."
Cronan, who brought Clark on board to lead the Lady Vol program in 2002, amplified Hamilton's assessment. "I'm excited that J.J. Clark is taking the reins of the combined track & field program at the University of Tennessee," she said. "He has proven himself as one of the finest young head coaches in the country by what he has accomplished in his seven seasons with the Lady Vols.
"I've said before that some people are born to run, but J.J. Clark was born to coach. I look forward to seeing his leadership and expertise shared with both teams as he works to build upon the proud and very successful legacies of UT men's and women's track & field."
Since taking over a struggling Lady Vol squad in May of 2002, Clark wasted little time in returning Tennessee to the national stature it enjoyed in the 1980s and early 1990s. Twice in the past five years (2005, 2009), he directed the Big Orange women to NCAA Indoor Track & Field National Championships. In 2005, 2007 and 2009, he also guided his squad to the victor's hardware at the SEC Indoor meet.
In cross country, he was equally as successful, spurring a run of three straight SEC crowns from 2003 to 2005 and a four-year spree of NCAA South Regional victories from 2002 to 2005. His teams have made five NCAA Championship meet appearances and have produced 27 All-South Region awards, 19 All-SEC citations and the program's first All-American since 2000 in 2008 recipient, Sarah Bowman.
Including a 10-year stint as cross country coach at Florida, when he guided the women's team to SEC trophies in 1996 and 1997 and South Region crowns in 1997 and 1998, Clark has been named coach of the year in track & field and cross country 21 times in his career. Eighteen of those awards have come in the past seven seasons, including USTFCCCA National and South Region, and SEC Indoor Coach of the Year in 2009. He also merited that trio of honors in 2005.
The athletes Clark has coached range from multi-time Olympians, such as wife Jearl Miles-Clark and sisters Joetta Clark-Diggs and Hazel Clark-Riley, to former walk-ons like Phoebe Wright, whom he developed into an NCAA and SEC champion and world-class competitor. He also has recruited blue-chippers such as Sarah Bowman and Chanelle Price into the program and saw his squad produce greats like Olympic gold medalist sprinter Trotter, world champion long jumper Tianna Madison and collegiate indoor 800m record-holder Nicole Cook.
There also have been a number of male athletes who have benefited from Clark's tutelage. Among them was Mark Everett, a three-time Olympian who ascended to a No. 1 U.S. ranking and fourth-place world rating in the 800 meters. Clark's efforts in developing world-class athletes like Everett earned him 1998 Nike/USA Coach of the Year accolades.
In all, Clark has produced 30 track & field All-Americans (earning 131 awards) since his arrival on campus. Additionally, he has developed 10 NCAA champions in eight events and 29 SEC champions who have won 34 events during the past seven years at UT.
His program has produced gold medalists at the Olympics, World Championships, Pan Am Games, Pan Am Juniors and NACAC U-23 Championships as well as the USA Senior and Junior Championships. Those student-athletes have broken 30 school records along the way in addition to several world, American, collegiate, American collegiate, NCAA, SEC, meet and facility records.
In 2009, the Tennessee women charted world, American and collegiate records indoors in the distance medley relay and outdoors in the 4x1500m relay. The Lady Vols also had American and collegiate records in the 4x800m relay outdoors and an NCAA meet record in the mile indoors by Sarah Bowman. The marks set inside helped Tennessee win the team title at the 2009 NCAA Indoor Championships, while those highly-publicized outdoor records propelled the Lady Vols to three baton-event victories at the Penn Relays in Philadelphia.
In the classroom, the Lady Vol track & field/cross country program has demonstrated prowess to match its precision on the oval. A perfect example of the balance is seen in Bowman, who has earned the SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year award the past two seasons and who garnered USTFCAA National Indoor Scholar-Athlete of the Year kudos a year ago. She, Phoebe Wright and Amanda Alexander were named ESPN The Magazine Academic All-Americans this season, and Clark's squad has been a regular among the USTFCCCA's All-Academic Teams, based on cumulative team grade point average.
J.J. Clark's Career Coaching Highlights
Guided UT to 2005 and 2009 NCAA Indoor titles and 2005, 2007 and 2009 SEC Indoor Championships
Directed the Lady Vols to 2005 NCAA Mideast Region title
Under his leadership, Tennessee has posted five NCAA top-four finishes, including NCAA Indoor first (2005, 2009), third (2007) and fourth (2004) and NCAA Outdoor fourth (2005)
Chosen USTFCCCA/USTCA National Indoor Coach of the Year in 2005 and 2009, USTFCCCA/USTCA South Region Indoor Coach of the Year in 2007, 2008 & 2009, and USTCA Mideast Region Outdoor Coach of the Year in 2005
Selected 2005, 2007 and 2009 SEC Indoor Coach of the Year
Voted 2009 UT Women's Coach of the Year at the VOLSCARS awards show
Received 21 total coach of the year awards during his collegiate career, 18 of them while in Knoxville
His indoor distance medley relay set the world record at the 2009 NCAA Indoor meet at 10:50.98
Coached Sarah Bowman to an NCAA Indoor mile title in 2009, with her clocking a meet-record time of 4:29.72
Prepared Bowman to win back-back-to-back SEC Indoor crowns in the mile and 3000m in 2007, 2008 and 2009, something that no woman in league history had ever done.
Coached Bowman to USTFCCCA South Region Athlete of the Year honors in 2008
UT's distance medley relay (DMR) units have won three NCAA Indoor titles, coming in 2004, 2008 and 2009
Clark's DMR quartets have won five of the past six SEC Indoor titles, with Bowman anchoring in 2007, 2008 and 2009
Tennessee has produced 30 track & field All-Americans (earning 131 awards) since his arrival on campus
His program has developed 10 NCAA champions in eight events and 29 SEC champions winning 34 events in seven seasons at UT
His program has produced gold medalists at the Olympics, World Championships, Pan Am Games, Pan Am Juniors, NACAC U-23 Championships as well as the USA Senior and Junior Championships
Overseen athletes breaking 30 school records as well as several world, American, collegiate, American collegiate, NCAA, SEC, meet and facility records
Collected three relay wins at the 2004 (4x800m/DMR/SMR) and 2009 (DMR/4x1500/4x800m) Penn Relays and posted single baton-event wins in the SMR (2006) and DMR (2007)
2009 Penn Relays baton units posted world record in 4x1500m event and an American record in the 4x8
Served as the women's middle distance coach for 2008 U.S. Olympic Team
Coached four of the eight 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials finalists in the 800m
Two of his pupils (Jearl Miles-Clark, Hazel Clark) made the 2004 Olympic Team, with JMC taking sixth, while Hazel made her third Olympiad in 2008
Guided "Team Clark" 800m family trio (Jearl Miles-Clark, Hazel Clark, Joetta Clark-Diggs) to 2000 Olympic Games
Coached UT cross country to NCAA South Region titles from 2002-05
Directed cross country program to NCAA berths from 2002-06
Led Lady Vols to the team title at the SEC Cross Country Championships from 2003-05
Produced his first XC All-American at Tennessee, when Sarah Bowman raced to national honors in 2008
|J.J. Clark's Coaching Career Year-By-Year|
|SCHOOL||YEAR||SEC (IN)||SEC (OUT)||NCAA (IN)||NCAA REGION.||NCAA (OUT)|
|(as a grad. assistant)|
|(as an assistant)||1994||7th||8th||N/A||N/A||t42nd|
|(as head coach||2004||2nd||6th||4th||2nd||t7th|
|of women's team)||2005||1st||3rd||1st||1st||4th|