April 5, 2012
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -
One of the most well-respected and tenured collegiate head coaches, Joe ~nbsp>Walker, Jr., has been named assistant track and field coach at the University of Louisville, head coach Ron Mann announced Thursday.
Walker brings a wealth of experience to Louisville, as he owns more than 40 years of coaching experience, including 33 in the Southeastern Conference, and has spent the last 24-straight years building Ole Miss into a consistent national power.
"We are extremely excited to add this kind of expertise to an already great staff," Mann stated. "Whenever you have an opportunity to hire a coach with the kind of résumé that coach Walker's got, I'm not only excited from a track and field standpoint, but I'm excited from a personal standpoint. This is one of the leaders in this business and have to him working on staff alongside us is a coup for the entire university, specifically to our track and field program. He's a great coach, and what he brings in terms of leadership on the coaching front is absolutely phenomenal."
Through Walker's career, his athletes have produced 16 Division I national titles, 147 All-America distinctions and 105 individual conference titles (71 in the Southeastern Conference; 34 in the Gulf South Conference). Walker has guided his squads to eight collegiate conference crowns, and he helped lead the only high school he coached for to a state title.
"I am a teacher as much as anything else and this move allows me to get rid of the coaching headaches that wear on you," Walker said. "I've been a head coach for 42 years out of my 43 years total, so I was eager to be an assistant coach, getting back to coaching and teaching. There are a lot of pluses, and I got excited. I've always admired Tom Jurich as an athletic director and how he's done things at Louisville. I've always admired Ron Mann, too, so to join people like Tom Jurich and Ron Mann and coach with my son (Joe Walker, III) - it just seemed like the perfect situation."
Walker also has coached his athletes to success on the international level, most notably Brittney Reese, a three-time World Champion in the long jump. Recently, one of his student-athletes, Mike Granger, captured the 100m title at the 2010 U.S. Junior Championships and was part of the 4x100m relay team that won a gold medal at the World Juniors. Other touted international athletes include Larry Myricks, who made four Olympic teams, Savante' Stringfellow, who made the 2000 Olympic team, and Marquita Aldridge, a member of the USA World Junior Team. Early in his career, Walker directed Denise Mitchell to a gold medal in the 4x400m relays at the World University Games, Tony Dees to a silver medal in the 1992 Olympics and Antoine Hicks to a semifinal finish at the 2004 Olympic Trials.
"It lets me get back to what I do best," Walker said of the transition from head coach to assistant. "What I do best is coach, teach and develop. If you look at my resume and my career, you'll see that's what I do best. That's what I love doing. I love the one-on-one relationship with student-athletes and seeing somebody grow and develop. I don't look at it as easier or harder; I look at it as getting to do what I do best."
Known for his ability to develop potential into talent, Walker's work has yet to go unnoticed.
In 2002, he was named the U.S. Olympic Committee National Track and Field Coach of the Year. Also on the international circuit, he was tabbed the head coach of the 1985 USA Pan Pacific Games team, manager of the 1981 U.S. team at the World University Games and assistant coach of the 1978 Division II USA Team. Collegiately, he is a five-time NCAA District III Coach of the Year, while garnering conference coach of the year honors eight times (SEC six times, Gulf South Conference twice).
Most recently the Rebels' head coach, a position he has held consecutively since 1988, Walker's teams have tallied two top-10 NCAA finishes (1991, 2001) and five top-15 finishes (1993, 2000, 2007-08, 2011). During this era, seven of his athletes have combined for 12 NCAA individual titles.
Academically, Walker's teams have generated just as much success. One student-athlete, Calvin Thigpen, was named a Rhodes Scholar and a GTE All-American. Three student-athletes combined to earn ESPN The Magazine All-America honors six times, and Walker's group is the most represented of any sport on the academic support center's honor wall.
Prior to arriving at Ole Miss for the second time, Walker served as Florida's head coach from 1985-88. Under his watch, the Gators won five-straight conference titles, including the 1987 outdoor title, the program's first outdoor crown since 1956. Walker led UF to its highest finish at the time with a third-place showing at the NCAA Championships during the 1988 indoor season. That year, Dennis Mitchell won the 200m NCAA indoor title, setting the collegiate record in the event. Walker completed his tenure at UF, with athletes earning 31 All-America distinctions and 17 SEC titles.
Walker first took the reins of the Ole Miss program in 1979, rebuilding a program that didn't even have a track to leading a squad that placed second at the 1984 SEC Outdoor Championships. The Rebels posted consecutive third-place finishes (1983-84) at the SEC Indoor Championships, while the cross country team finished third at the 1984 SEC Championships. Before exiting in 1985, Ole Miss added 14 SEC individual titles to its annals, one NCAA champion, five All-America honorees, five 1984 Olympic Trial participants, two Drake Relays individual champions and one Penn Relays individual champion.
He was hired for his first head coaching job at Mississippi College in 1970, where his teams delivered three Gulf South Conference titles during his last four years. His athletes stepped up on the national stage, registering a fourth-place finish at the 1978 Division II National Championships. Future Olympian Myricks won NCAA Division I, NCAA Division II and AAU titles, while Joe Boyles won the NCAA Division II steeplechase title. Overall, Mississippi College witnessed four Division II national champions and 34 Gulf South champions during Walker's time.
The Utica, Miss., native's first coaching stop was at Meridian (Miss.) High in 1969-70. Walker was responsible for guiding Eddie Echols to the fastest mark in the nation in the 200 yards, clocking a time of 20.9.
Walker will finish the complete the outdoor season as Ole Miss' head coach and begins his tenure at Louisville on July 1.
He earned his bachelor's degree in education from Mississippi College in 1969 and a master's degree in education from there in 1972. He lettered in freshman basketball at Ole Miss and served as a manager on its varsity basketball team as a sophomore. He transferred to Mississippi College, where he lettered in cross country, track and basketball.
Walker and his wife, Faye, have three sons: Joseph III, Brian and Luke.
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