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Duane Ross named as new Tennessee track and field head coach


Tennessee Vice Chancellor/Director of Athletics Danny White announced Tuesday that he has selected 1995 NCAA champion, 2004 Olympian and 2021 Co-National Coach of the Year Duane Ross to oversee UT’s combined men’s and women’s track & field program.

White introduced Ross—who has agreed to a five-year contract through June of 2027—to Tennessee’s track & field team members Tuesday.

Tennessee will be in action the 2022 NCAA West Preliminary Rounds and you can watch all the live streaming coverage on SEC Network+ from May 25-28 in Bloomington, IN.

In addition to building out his track & field coaching staff, Ross will work closely with White to aggressively canvas the worldwide track community for an elite distance coach to oversee Tennessee’s cross-country program.

A native of Dallas, North Carolina, who became an NCAA champion hurdler and seven-time All-American at Clemson in the 1990s, Ross has overseen the track & field and cross-country programs at North Carolina A&T since 2012. Earlier this season, his men’s team earned the No. 1 indoor national ranking.

With 25 Aggies student-athletes—12 women and 13 men—set to compete at this week’s NCAA East Preliminary Outdoor Championships in Bloomington, Indiana, Ross will make his transition to Tennessee following the completion of North Carolina A&T’s NCAA outdoor season.

“When researching the best track & field coaches in the world today, it doesn’t take long to find the name Duane Ross,” White said. “He’s built a profile that allows him to be incredibly selective in choosing his next move.

“Thankfully for us, the University of Tennessee has a track & field program with an extraordinary history of national championship teams, individuals and dozens of Olympians. Finding a coach with commensurate credentials was our priority, and Duane Ross is that coach.

“Tennessee track & field has been all about greatness for most of its history—both men’s and women’s. Duane knows what that takes and is poised to restore our program to consistent, elite-level achievement. Fitting for a hurdler, Duane has a unique personal journey marked by adversity, accountability and inspiring bounce-back. His experience and empathy resonate with young people, and the results speak for themselves.”

Ross led the North Carolina A&T men to a third-place finish at the 2021 NCAA Outdoor Championships, resulting in co-National Coach of the Year honors. The Aggies men took it a step further this March when they posted a second-place team finish at the 2022 NCAA Indoor Championships—the best-ever finish by an HBCU program.

“I’ve had the unique opportunity to watch and experience the athletic and coaching growth of Duane Ross,” Tennessee track legend Justin Gatlin said. “I have had the honor of being an Olympic teammate and training partner with Duane.

“I truly believe that to be great at something, you need to be able to experience it firsthand, and that is a big reason why Coach Ross has been a truly successful athlete and coach. Whatever he touches will be successful.”

Having built a world-class reputation for elite performance development, Ross has earned three United States Track & Field Cross and Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Region Coach of the Year honors—twice for his men’s team’s performance and once for women’s performance.

Under his leadership, the Aggies were dominant in Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) and, more recently, Big South Conference track & field, capturing 17 team conference championships—four men’s indoor titles, five women’s indoor titles, four men’s outdoor titles, three women’s outdoor titles and one men’s cross-country title.

From 2017 through 2020, North Carolina A&T won four consecutive MEAC indoor championships in both men’s and women’s track & field.

And in 2021, the Aggies pulled off an impressive double in the men’s 4×100-meter relay, winning conference championships at both the indoor and outdoor meets.

In addition to regularly stepping to the top of the podium at conference championship meets, Ross’s student-athletes also have claimed multiple NCAA crowns. At this year’s NCAA indoor meet, his son, Tokyo Olympian Randolph Ross Jr. (400m), and sophomore Javonte Harding (200m) won individual national championships, while freshman Leonard Mustari finished second in the 60-meter hurdles.

At the 2021 NCAA Outdoor Championships, Ross coached his son to a national crown in the 400 meters, with the third-fastest time in collegiate history (43.85). At those same championships, A&T women’s standout Cambrea Sturgis won NCAA titles in both the 100- and 200-meter sprints.

North Carolina A&T was the only school in the country to place its men’s and women’s squads in the top five of the final team standings at the 2021 NCAA Outdoor Championships, as the women tied for fourth.

North Carolina A&T’s men’s 4×400-meter relay squad won the 2021 NCAA titles at both the indoor and outdoor championships. And in 2019, women’s phenom Kayla White won the NCAA indoor title in the 200-meter sprint and also finished second in that meet’s 60-meter hurdles before being named the 2019 NCAA Division I Indoor Female Track Athlete of the Year.

Through 10 years as a Division I head coach, Ross has developed more than 30 first-team All-America performers.

Prior to taking over the track & field programs at North Carolina A&T, Ross was the director of track & field at Division III Methodist University in Fayetteville, North Carolina, for five seasons.

“This is a great hire by Tennessee,” CEO of the USTFCCCA Sam Seemes said. “Duane was someone who was very successful as a student-athlete and as a professional athlete. He has brought that same competitiveness and level of success to his coaching profession. Duane has proven himself at North Carolina A&T with the success of both the men’s and women’s teams there. Tennessee is lucky to hire someone as proven as he is and someone who cares deeply for his student-athletes.” 

A North Carolina state champion hurdler at North Gaston High School, Ross competed collegiately at Clemson. Starring for the Tigers, he earned seven All-America certificates, was a five-time Atlantic Coast Conference champion and won a national title in the 110-meter hurdles (13.32) at the 1995 NCAA Outdoor Championships, hosted at Tennessee’s Tom Black Track.

Selected as Clemson’s 1994-95 Athlete of the Year, Ross was inducted into the Clemson Athletic Hall of Fame in 2014.

As a Nike professional track & field athlete, Ross competed internationally for close to a decade and participated in multiple IAAF World Championships. He made the USA Track & Field Olympic team in 2004 and competed in the 110-meter hurdles at that year’s Summer Olympiad in Athens, Greece.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in Financial Management from Clemson in 1996 and later completed a master’s degree in Sport Management and Physical Education from Aspen University in 2016.

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