Texas Men’s Track and Field Head Coach Bubba Thornton, who led the Longhorns to 12 conference championships and 19 NCAA Top 10 finishes, has informed Men’s Athletics Director DeLoss Dodds that he will he retire effective August 31, 2013. Thornton just completed his 32nd year as a head track and field coach and 18th at Texas. This year, Thornton has guided the Longhorns to Big 12 Indoor and Outdoor Titles and a sixth place finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Thornton and Dodds agreed mutually to terminate the coach’s contract at the end of this fiscal year so that Dodds and UT Women’s Athletic Director Chris Plonsky can proceed to reorganize the Men’s and Women’s programs in the most optimal way for the future. Going forward, Texas will combine its Men’s and Women’s Track and Field programs under the direction of one head coach. As per his agreement, Thornton will be paid his annual rate for the final year of the contract.
“Not only has he amassed a notable record here at UT, but his capabilities have been recognized internationally when he was named Head Coach of Team USA’s 2008 Olympic Men’s team,” Dodds said. “We wish Bubba and Kay all the best in his retirement and that he finds time to enjoy his wonderful daughters and grandchildren, Sam and Sophie.”
Thornton, a former NFL wide receiver, said, “It has been a singular honor to serve as Track and Field Coach for The University of Texas Men’s Indoor and Outdoor Track teams as well as oversee the Cross Country team for the past 18 years. It was a privilege to serve this great university with its extraordinary heritage of developing scholar-athletes.”
Thornton continued, “As any university coach will tell you, seeing young men come in as freshmen, wide-eyed and enthusiastic, and leave as more mature men, prepared for the world, is one of the great satisfactions in life. Many of the young men I have coached have gone on to have meaningful impacts in the business world and in their communities.”
While at Texas, Thornton has helped produce 26 NCAA individual champions, a relay champion and 94 student-athletes who have combined for 222 All-American honors. He was voted the Big 12 Coach of the Year 10 times.
On the international scene, Thornton served as Team USA’s Head Track and Field Coach at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Team USA claimed the most Track and Field medals of any country with 14, and sweeps of the 400-meters and 400-meter hurdles. Thornton also served as the USA Head Coach at the 2003 World Championships where the Americans claimed a meet-high 20 medals, including 10 golds.
“I admire Bubba so much,” said Martin Smith, Head Track and Field Coach at the University of Oklahoma. “When we compete against UT, I see a cohesive, confident team that’s always well prepared and well coached. They are tenacious competitors and have fierce pride. He and his staff do a tremendous job recruiting outstanding athletes, with good character and academic record. He has had a storied career and is extremely well regarded among his coaching peers.”
Aaron Fox, Director of Track and Field/Cross Country at UT San Antonio, and a member of Thornton’s Longhorn team from 1995-1999, said: “He has been like a father figure to me. I still check in once a week for advice. He’s one of those coaches that genuinely cares about student-athletes. He wanted us to excel not only on the track, but also in class so that we would be prepared for real life. As far as track goes, well, his record speaks for itself. To be named Olympic coach is such a rare accomplishment.”
Horatio Porter, CFO of the North Texas Tollway Authority and a member of Thornton’s team at TCU, said: “For Bubba, our education came first. I remember having accounting lectures during practice, and he would always say, ‘take care of your business. We’ll be here when you come back.’ He encouraged us to rechannel our competitive nature to the classroom because he knew one day we’d run the race called ‘life’ and we needed to be equally prepared.”
“Bubba has been a great contributor to the sports of track & field and cross country at all levels during his career,” said Sam Seams, CEO, U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. “He’s been a high school coach, a coach at a private university, a coach at one of the nation’s largest public universities and the head coach of our country’s World Championship and Olympic teams. At each stop or task along the way, he’s achieved success. However, I would say his lasting memory of coaching will be that he had the opportunity to teach and mentor young men and women.”
Thornton, who expects to devote more time to his family and community interests added, “My decision to retire this year was made easier by the work this staff and team have put in. They have a tremendous foundation for great success next year. I want to especially thank Mario Sategna, John Hayes, and all the staff. I am extremely proud of the record we have amassed. To finish 6th in the nation in the recent NCAA Outdoor Championships with two individual champions is a wonderful way to go out. I’m as proud of this team as any that I have coached.”
“I give special thanks to DeLoss, the Texas Relays officials, and the thousands of student-athletes, coaches, fans, friends and family, including my wonderful wife Kay, who have been part of this journey,” remarked Thornton.