RollTide.com contributor Pete LaFleur is profiling four of Alabama's qualifiers in the 2013 NCAA Outdoor Track Championships - Diondre Batson, Elias Hakansson, Alexis Paine and Krystle Schade - over the course of the national championships.
Following a Hall of Fame coaching career that included the last four years at Alabama, Dick Booth begins a new role with the Alabama track and field program in 2015-16, serving as the Director of Operations and Special Events for the Crimson Tide.
“We are very excited to have Coach Booth continue with our program following his retirement from coaching,” head coach Dan Waters said. “His knowledge of the sport and what it takes to be successful will transition well to the demands that come with helping our program continue to flourish and grow.”
As one of the world's most successful jumps coaches, Booth's career included 49 NCAA individual champions and 168 All-America performances. Under Booth's direction, Alabama jumpers earned 14 All-America citations (six indoor, eight outdoor) and one Southeastern Conference champion in his four years coaching at the Capstone. In 2014-15, his final coaching season, Booth mentored Jeremiah Green, the 2014 SEC Freshman Field Athlete of the Year, to First Team All-America honors after he finished sixth at the 2015 NCAA Outdoor Championships in the triple jump.
In the summer of 2012, Booth received one of the highest honors in collegiate coaching as he was named to the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Hall of Fame for a nearly 40-year career that has established him as one of the preeminent jumps coaches in the world.
"I've been extremely blessed in my career to work with tremendous athletes that possess great work ethic," Booth said upon earning the honor. "That's what my career has been, coaching great athletes who are willing to work hard. I've always aimed to build a culture where athletes are willing to work hard, whether it be at Alabama or during my time at Arkansas and Florida. You obviously can't coach talent, but it's a nice combination when you have exceptional talent and exceptional work ethic. That makes coaches look good."
Booth joined the UA staff after two seasons at Florida where his jumpers helped the Gators to the national championship at the 2011 NCAA Indoor Championships. Two of his pupils in the triple jump, Christian Taylor and Will Claye, finished first and second at the NCAA Outdoor Championships as the Gators placed third in the team standings. Claye and Taylor repeated that performance at the USA Championships to earn a spot on the U.S. team for the IAAF World Championships. The NCAA title was Taylor's second straight outdoor championship and third overall under Booth. Claye was also named the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association's Field Athlete of the Year during the outdoor season. At the 2012 London Olympic Games, Taylor and Claye won gold and silver, respectively in the triple jump while Claye also picked up bronze in the long jump.
"I was at Arkansas when the program got rolling, then at Florida for the first two national championships in program history," Booth said. "There is that same kind of energy here at Alabama. With everything that is in place at this point, there's not any reason we can't be extremely successful. From the beginning, when I saw Dan's enthusiasm and met the staff, I thought `this is something I want to be a part of,' and that’s still the case today."
During the 2011 indoor season his jumpers scored 30 of the Gators' 52 points that helped the squad win the NCAA Indoor National Championship. Booth had three triple jumpers finish in the top five, led by Claye's national title which he followed with a runner-up finish in the long jump.
In just two seasons his men's jumpers re-wrote the UF record books, recording the top three triple jump marks in school history and two of the top three long jump standards during the indoor season. Outdoors, he coached three of the top four triple jumpers and two of the top three long jumpers in program history.
Prior to joining the Gators, Booth spent a combined 27 seasons as the men's field-events coach at the University of Arkansas with a four year-hiatus between Razorback tenures to serve as the head coach at Louisiana-Lafayette. Every Arkansas school record-holder in the men's field events was either coached or recruited by Booth. During his four-year tenure as head coach at Louisiana-Lafayette from 1985-88, Booth was responsible for two individual national championships, five All-Americans and 19 school record-holders.
Booth served as field-events coach at the Arkansas from 1978-84 and 1988-2009. During his second stint at Arkansas, the Razorbacks captured 14 NCAA indoor track titles with a string of eight consecutive outdoor championships between 1992 and 1999 and another championship streak from 2003-06.
Booth also coached 45 individual national champions and 137 All-America honors at Arkansas as well as 11 Olympians. In addition to his current Florida standouts, Booth's former student-athletes include track and field icons such as Mike Conley, Erick Walder, Hollis Conway, Robert Howard, Edrick Floreal, Brian Wellman, Jerome Romain, Ray Doakes, Matt Hemingway, Melvin Lister and Kenny Evans.
Conley won the gold medal in the triple jump at the 1992 Olympic Games with what remains the second longest wind-aided jump in history. A year later he won the World Championship in the event and had previously won a silver medal in the 1984 Olympics. Conway, one Booth's NCAA Champions at ULL, went on to win a silver medal in the high jump at the 1988 Olympics and a bronze medal in 1992 to become one of just two Americans to medal twice in the event. Conway still holds the American indoor record in the event.
A native of Blue Mound, Kan., Booth completed collegiately in the quarter mile at Ottawa University. He began his coaching career in the Kansas high school ranks with positions at Wellington (Kan.) High School, Fort Scott (Kan.) High School and Shawnee Mission South. He gained a reputation as one of the premier prep field events coach in the country while working with four state record holders in seven seasons at Shawnee Mission South.
He earned his bachelor's degree in physical education from Ottawa in 1966 and a master's degree in physical education from Kansas State in 1970.
Booth and his wife, Merry Lee, have a son, Marc, and a daughter, Reagan Russell. The family has a proud athletic tradition as Marc was a punter for Arkansas' football team, while Reagan was a member of the women's track and field team at Louisiana-Lafayette. Dick and Merry Lee are grandparents to six grandchildren.