KNOXVILLE, Tenn.(UT Release) -- Vice Chancellor and Director Athletics Dave Hart officially introduced Beth Alford-Sullivan as the Director of Track & Field and Cross Country on Tuesday afternoon at LaPorte Stadium and the Tom Black Track.
Dave Hart opening statement:
"Well thank everybody for your attendance today, which is a great day on Rocky Top as we have the opportunity to introduce our new Director of Track and Field/Cross Country Beth Alford-Sullivan. As I said when Beth accepted the job, I am absolutely ecstatic that she did accept our offer to come and provide us the leadership necessary for us to make our move in track and field. There was a time when we dominated the landscape in this sport as all of you are all well aware.
Our chancellor Jimmy Cheek could not be with us today and he regrets that very much, but he is where he should be and needs to be as we've had a cloud of sadness over us with the passing of Senator (Howard) Baker and today is his funeral. Our provost is with us, Susan Martin, and we very much appreciate her presence today. It is my privilege in just a few moments to ask Beth to come to the podium.
As you know as we've gone into various coaching searches, the profile and template in many respects has a lot of similarities. That is looking for a coach who has experienced tremendous success and consistent success wherever he or she has worked. Certainly Beth more than fits that profile as she has had tremendous success everywhere she's been at various levels: at Stanford before going to Penn State and at Penn State as you are aware by now has been named multiple times as Coach of the Year. She has won multiple championships with the men's and women's programs, a combined program that has performed in the top 25 or higher on a very, very consistent basis.
I would also like to recognize Donna Thomas who oversees our track and field program. Donna did a tremendous job and played an integral role, as any sport oversight does going into a coaching search. She was integral in our ability to convince Beth to take our position, so I want to recognize Donna for her efforts. We have key staff here and they're smart enough to be in the shade. Today we had an opportunity which has been a part of our template as we have new coaches come aboard, we had an opportunity to for our staff (administrative, clerical, coaching) to come and welcome Beth into the Volunteer family prior to coming over here for the press availability.
So without any further comments from me, I know you're tired of hearing me talk and want to hear what Beth has to say, it is my absolute privilege to introduce the director of our track and field and cross country programs - Beth Alford-Sullivan."
Beth Alford-Sullivan opening statement
"Thank you all for being here today and for the great introduction and welcome from Dave (Hart). On behalf of my husband Jim who was unable to be with me today, he's overseas unable to change his plans. I would really like to extend a thank you to our Chancellor Jimmy Cheek, Dave Hart, and Donna Thomas on all of the efforts that they put forward in including me in this process and giving me the awesome opportunity to be at the helm of track and field here at Tennessee. This has been a process and it's been a whirlwind, but it is something I have been welcomed into this Volunteer family immediately and consistently. It's been a wonderful experience thus far.
The leadership that was demonstrated in this process has inspired me that there is a strong commitment to track and field here at Tennessee, and a fresh and new vitalization to bring us back to the top. I am thrilled to able to do that and create a staff and atmosphere here that brings this program back to where it has been. It was an unrivaled program in its history, almost compared to no one in the history of track and field at the collegiate levels. This is an opportunity to be amongst the best to grow it back to where it should be.
I looked around and outside of Coach (Chuck) Rohe, I know the rest of these coaches behind me very well. It is an honor to be in their presence at the same level in this day of change today. I am thrilled with this decision and my husband as well, even though we think he has not been to Knoxville since 1983 when he was pole vaulting here. We are thrilled to be a part of the community here at the university but also in Knoxville as well. Track and field is very much alive as a sport in our world, and we want to bring it right back here to UT and Knoxville.
So thank you all for being here today. I am certainly excited and have an opportunity to answer any questions or concerns, and I really appreciate this opportunity."
On process of restoring program
"My general thought on this is staff is phase one. We are working to finalize the staff and get the staff into position and get us to the next step. Today is July 1, recruiting opens up so we are in a fast and furious mode to get going onto that. First we want to get the staff, sorting that out, making sure we have a top notch and unbelievable staff to take this place forward. From there on, we'll get organized and get ready obviously with this recruiting process, and that's probably the biggest key right now. We need to recruit. We need to bring in the caliber of excited athlete that wants to be the foundation for where we want to take it and where it needs to be. Those are the first thing on my brain and some of the logistics of everything else need to come together as we go forward."
On retaining current coaches on staff:
"I've had the opportunity to meet with John Newell, Rodney Stoker and Barbara Powers are all going to stay on board at this point. In the next few days we will have everything else sorted out as well."
On if current staff had to interview:
"We had that opportunity over the weekend. Those have been retained, and I'm really excited to start the process with them."
On whether she will recruit in the South or nationally:
"That's a great question. Certainly we need to pay attention to local and the local track and field community in the South is very strong, but Tennessee and UT Track will go nationally."
On what she will pitch to recruits:
"It sells itself in my opinion. Tennessee track, I want to win and bring us back to the podium and get the teams back to where they belong. This is going to be a great challenge. We not only have a great institution. We're going to have a great coaching staff. We're going to have a great conference to compete within, and we have a great sport. We need to infuse that. We need to bring back that ideal of being champions and grow the program to that."
On communication with current players:
"Right now, I've had the privilege to be with a few of the athletes out at USA Championships, and they're in a great spot. The rest of the athletes I get a chance to meet with the kids that are here in town tomorrow night. The reception has been nothing but positive."
On communication with incoming athletes:
"It has been the same thing. They've been holding steady and feel really good about the first phase of this."
On her impressions of the track program prior to taking the position:
"I've been a fan of Tennessee Track for a long, long time. This has been a program that I remember when I was young and participating in track and field that was a standout program. When you enter into the business of our world, you know who has what it takes to win and who has what it takes to be a prominent program. I've been a fan of this program forever. These people like I said, Terry Crawford and J.J. Clark and all of these coaches, have been instrumental in my career as I've come through. I've known Tennessee Track from the outside, and I've loved Tennessee Track from the outside. I've taken Penn State down here over the years, had a competition here with the Sea Rays and it's just a wonderful place. My impression is if we infuse it, it will come back to life."
On the combination of cross country and track and field:
"Track and field at the collegiate level is now a combined program. That is where 90 or 95 percent of the programs with cross country are combined. Being a director of that is all about having a great staff and being able to make things work in a manner that we can get all the needs met. It's the way to go. It's the best use of resources. It's the best use of putting everyone under one umbrella and going forward together. I see the program as two teams, one program. I certainly don't feel too stretched. It's all about getting the right people to work with and moving forward."
On the interview and selection process:
"In talking to people I really trust, who have led championship level track and field programs, when I brought up Beth's name, they could not say enough about her as person, as a competitor, as a leader. They were extraordinarily high. Their qualification was you probably can't get her but a good thought. But she's here. I also want to congratulate J.J. As you know, J.J. has landed on his feet like he knew he would. He's a great person, and he is the women's track and field coach at the University of Connecticut, so we're excited for him as well."
On meeting with athletes during the interview process:
"We did. That's a good question. That's part of our transition template. We always meet with the present team because it's a tough time for them. Transitions are hard on everybody but they're particularly hard on the student-athletes. That reaction is pretty typical. Some are visible hurt, upset. Others are kind of shocked. Others are looking for what is going to happen now, what happens to me now. So yes, we met with the team and talked through that. We also met with our staff because it's hard on them as well and talked them through it. We told them what we tell all teams in transition. To the best of our ability, we will keep you apprised of where we are. If you have any questions, come and see us. Some of them always chose to do that."
On if he believes all of the athletes will return with the coaching change:
"That's hard to call because at that moment there's always emotion. There's always anxiety. It's hard to gage how many of them and probably honestly at that moment few of them have gotten that far in their thought process. In this day in age you always almost can calculate that there will be some, maybe one or two of them, maybe none, but one or two who will want to sit down with Beth and talk to her and get to know her before they go through that thought process in their own minds. But we hope they will all elect to stay and be a part of what is going to happen to our track and field and cross country programs.