Sandy Fowler, a former World-class thrower and four-time All-American, National Champion and Olympian is in her 14th season at the helm of the University of Alabama women's track team as head coach.
Fowler has been teaching the value of teamwork since her first day with the Crimson Tide. She took over a program that was once one of the Southeastern Conference's best, a program that won the conference indoor and outdoor title in 1994, but a team that spent the last part of the 1990s rebuilding to championship form.
Fowler stresses that education is first and foremost at the Capstone and each athlete knows from the first day of the recruiting process that Fowler demands excellence in the classroom as well as on the track.
"Athletes need to realize that education provides a lifetime of opportunity," Fowler said. "Earning a degree from The University of Alabama is one of the biggest accomplishments of their life. Track and field will provide wonderful dreams, memories, national records, and world rankings, but an education stands alone. The opportunity to use something that you love [track & field] to accomplish this is once in a lifetime."
In 2007, former Crimson Tide NCAA Champion Beth Mallory received the pinnacle honor for an NCAA student-athlete, the NCAA Top VIII Award. This honor is given to the nation's best student-athletes, both academically and athletically, who demonstrate the commitment to overall excellence necessary for life after athletics.
"The pride that our athletes have in this program is what propels us to bigger and better times, heights and distances," Fowler said. "There's nothing better for me than bringing in a young athlete as a freshman and watching them grow physically and mentally within the program."
Step-by-step, Fowler and the Crimson Tide have come closer to returning the Tide to its championship heritage. Talent, teamwork and determination have jelled, along with a generous helping of expert coaching provided by Fowler and assistant coaches Randy Hasenbank and Scott Roberts. The Crimson Tide has made its intentions clear - success is again going to be an Alabama habit.
In the spring of 2009, Fowler led Angelica Howard to Alabama's first individual hammer throw SEC Championship in school history. Under Fowler's guidance, Howard improved her mark in the hammer throw by close to 40 feet from her freshman year to her sophomore year.
Fowler's lone NCAA Champion at Alabama is Beth Mallory, who claimed the discus title in 2005, the first in school history. Mallory garnered six All-American honors in four years at Alabama in the discus (2003-06) and hammer throw (2004-05).
Upon taking control of the program in 1997, Fowler wasted little time returning the Crimson Tide to an All-American level of competition. Before her arrival prior to the 1998 season, Alabama had not had an All-American since 1996. By 1999, two athletes had earned All-American honors with three more earning the accolade in 2000. Overall, Fowler and her staff have produced more than 30 All-Americans.
Fowler's team success is based on a philosophy of fielding a balanced squad, with an increasingly strong sprint, distance and field program. She is quick to point out that Alabama's success is an end result of bringing in athletes who believe in the system as well as the coaching staff and feel a sense of ownership.
"Our goal is to have a well-rounded program that is competitive at the SEC and NCAA level in all event areas," Fowler said. "The emphasis is to keep the team moving forward by being tougher both mentally and physically than our competitors. Our team needs to be strong, consistent and aggressive in all areas. My philosophy has been to be selfish when you compete, worry about yourself, be aggressive, and want the victory more than your competitor."
One of Fowler's early goals for Alabama was returning the Crimson Tide to the top half of the SEC standings. She was able to accomplish that in the spring of 2001 when the squad took sixth at the SEC Outdoor Championships.
"Getting this program back to the top half of the SEC was a big step for us," Fowler said. "The Southeastern Conference is, without a doubt, the most talented conference in the country and if you are successful here, you're going to be successful on a national level."
Fowler's success through the years has not gone unnoticed on the international level. She first got a taste for international coaching as an assistant coach at the 1990 Goodwill Games before also coaching as an assistant at the 1993 World Championships in Germany. Fowler served as an assistant coach at the 1999 World University Games in Spain before returning to the Olympic Games, not as an athlete but as an assistant coach, in 2000 in Sydney.
Fowler's most recent stints came as the head coach at the 2005 World Championships in Finland, where the U.S. had one of its best World Championship showings in recent history, and the 2009 Five Nations Meet in Scotland.
In between international coaching jobs, Fowler served as a meet referee at the 1992 U.S. Olympic Trials in New Orleans and as the Supervisor of Sports Information for the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, she coached at the USA Track and Field's Elite Throwers Olympic Development Camp every summer.
Before joining the staff at Alabama, Fowler served as the University of Florida's field events coach for eight years. During that span, the Gators won four SEC team titles as well as the 1992 NCAA Indoor Championship. She coached four athletes to seven All-American honors during her tenure in Gainesville.
Fowler's success began with her days as a champion shot putter at Northeastern University. In addition to being
a nine-time All-American, Fowler won the 1982 AIAW (the NCAA's predecessor) National Outdoor title. She still holds school records at Northeastern in the shot put (53 feet, 11 inches) and discus (165-10). She graduated from Northeastern in 1983 with a Bachelor's degree in Physical Education. She was inducted into the University's Athletic Hall of Fame in 1988.
In the middle of her collegiate career Fowler earned a spot on the 1980 United States Olympic team as an alternate in the shot put. Even though the U.S. chose not to participate in the 1980 Olympics, Fowler still counts the experience as a positive one.
"They did a lot of nice things," she said. "We had dinner at the White House and met the President and things along those lines that I will never forget."
Fowler competed internationally for the U.S. at the 1981 World University Games in Romania and at the 1981 Pan Pacific Games in New Zealand. She also participated in the 1981 and 1982 USA vs. Russia meets held in Leningrad, USSR, and Indianapolis, Ind., respectively.
In February of 2007, Fowler was inducted in the Massachusetts State Track Coaches Association Athlete Hall of Fame. She was born in Brookline, Mass., which is located in the Boston area.
She is married to Cleon Fowler, who owns and operates a sports computer-based timing and data business of international repute. The couple has a dog, Mercury, and a cat, Shadow.