July 7, 2011
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Veteran coach Dick Booth will join the University of Alabama track and field coaching staff as the Crimson Tide’s jumps coach, UA head coach Dan Waters announced Thursday. As one of the world’s most successful jumps coaches, Booth’s career has included 49 NCAA individual champions and 150 All-America performances.
“Based on what Coach Booth has accomplished, he’s one of the top jumps coaches in the nation and we’re excited for him to join us,” Waters said. “The way he thinks and coaches the sport makes him as good as any coach in any sport. His philosophies and the way he coaches have held true through decades of jumpers. He has a unique way of relating to the student-athletes and bringing the most out of them. He understands that we’re trying to create something special here and is excited to be a part of that.”
He joins the UA staff after two seasons at Florida where his jumpers helped the Gators to a third-place finish at last month’s NCAA Championships. Two of his pupils in the triple jump, Christian Taylor and Will Claye, finished first and second at the NCAA Championships and 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.
“I was at Arkansas when the program got rolling, then at Florida for the first two national championships in program history and now Alabama seems to be offering the same opportunity,” Booth said. “I think all the pieces are coming together and with the staff that has been hired, there’s not any reason we can’t be extremely successful. When I saw Dan’s enthusiasm and met the staff in place, I thought ‘this is something I want to be a part of.’”
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 coaches 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. Booth also has six grandchildren.