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Tennessee hires A&T track and field coach Duane Ross

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A&T’s Duane Ross during the 2021 season.

GREENSBORO — Duane Ross, director of the N.C. A&T track and field program that rose to become one of the nation’s best alongside those from the nation’s power conferences, has been hired as Tennessee’s new coach.

Ross, 49, will begin work in Knoxville after A&T athletes compete in the NCAA East Preliminary, which will begin Wednesday and run through Saturday in Bloomington, Ind., and the NCAA championships June 8-11 in Eugene, Ore.

“The Vols are getting a coach who took North Carolina A&T’s track and field programs to heights and achievements no one thought possible,” A&T athletics director Earl Hilton said in a statement. “They are also getting a man of integrity, character, and man who cares about the student-athlete above all else.”

Ross’ men’s team finished third and the women’s team fourth in the NCAA outdoor championships in 2021, and he shared honors as national coach of the year. Four of his men’s athletes then competed last summer in the Tokyo Olympics, with son Randolph and Trevor Stewart earning gold medals as part of the United States’ 4x400 relay team.

A&T’s men’s team finished second in the NCAA indoor championship in March.

Ross coached eight individuals or relay teams to NCAA championships during the indoor or outdoor seasons. And he’ll coach Randolph Ross (400, 4x100, 4x400) and daughter Jonah Ross (200) this week in the East Preliminary.

Tennessee parted ways recently with Beth Alford-Sullivan, whose contract was set to expire June 30. The Tennessee men are rated 15th nationally by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association; the women’s team was No. 8 in the South Region.

A&T’s men are No. 14 nationally, and the Aggies women are No. 4 in the Southeast.

“Duane has proven himself at North Carolina A&T with the success of both the men’s and women’s teams there,” the coaches association’s CEO, Sam Seemes, told UTSports.com. “Tennessee is lucky to hire someone as proven as he is and someone who cares deeply for his student-athletes.”

Athletics director Danny White, in the announcement of the hiring at the Volunteers’ web site, added: “The University of Tennessee has a track and 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.”

In another sign of Ross’ ability coupled with the importance A&T attached to track and field success, Ross rose to become the athletics department’s highest-paid employee at $325,000 annually. Alford-Sullivan, by comparison, earned $230,000 annually at Tennessee.

Ross’ A&T teams also won 17 conference championships, although titles eluded both teams recently during the Aggies’ one-year stay in the Big South Conference. The men’s team finished second, to High Point, by one point. The women’s team finished first, but a self-reported NCAA violation after the meet resulted in the Aggies yielding first place to High Point after losing 26 points.

A&T has not disclosed the cause of the violation. But graduate student Symone Darius is not on entry lists among the 25 A&T athletes at this week’s NCAA regional.

Darius, a three-time first-team All-America in the 4x100 with Alabama, posted the East region’s seventh-best time in the 100 and ninth-best in the 200, and she was runner-up in both events at the Big South Conference meet. Darius also ran on A&T’s 4x100 team, according to HBCUGameday.com, that won the Big South race.

Athletes who ranked among the top 48 in their respective events, and the best 24 relay teams, earned berths into the East Preliminary.

Ross is a Dallas, N.C., native who attended North Gaston High School and ran at Clemson. He won an NCAA championship in the 110-meter hurdles, to go with several All-America honors, and competed professionally.

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