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Coach Phil Olsen retires after successful coaching career at SFA

Phil Olsen
Phil Olsen(ktre sports)
Published: Apr. 22, 2022 at 10:30 PM CDT
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NACOGDOCHES, Texas (News release) - Longtime Stephen F. Austin director of track and field/cross country coach Phil Olson announced his retirement after an incredible 35 year-career, including the past 23 years leading the SFA program.

A letter from Coach Olson

“I would like to first thank my wife, Donna, and my children Adlai and Tobie, who allowed me to do what needed to be done to try and be successful over the course of my career. You made this possible for me to have such a long career. I have served under five University Presidents while at SFA, who treated our track and cross-country program with great respect and entrusted me to be a servant leader of this team, this coaching staff, and the young men and women who have given their all for this team. I am so thankful to them and for the opportunity to serve this phenomenal university. I would like to also thank the Athletic Directors at SFA who have allowed our program to grow over the last 23 seasons, specifically Coach Steve McCarty, whom I love like a father and gave me my first opportunity to be a head coach; to Robert Hill who was a great mentor and Godly friend to me, and who pushed me to be a better man and leader than I was; and to Ryan Ivey, who has fought for our team and athletic department to be the leading mid-major program in the country. He has been a joy to work for and to serve. I can’t thank Brandi Bryant enough for her work with our team and the entire department. She was my first, and unfortunately for me, my last administrator. She is a Mom to so many of our kids and staff, and was a tall shoulder to lean on. There are so many others in the department who I am so grateful to have worked alongside. Thank you all for challenging me and our program on a daily basis. Finally, to the young men and women and the coaches who I have had the opportunity to lead, coach, and mentor these last 23 seasons. Please know how thankful I am to you all for your hard work, your dedication to excellence in both the classroom and on the track, and for challenging me to be the very best Servant Leader I could possibly be. I am ever grateful to you all, and please know how much I have loved you, and God loves you. I stand on the shoulders of you all.”

A 1986 graduate of SFA, Olson achieved several milestones, including 226 Southland Conference champions, 39 team championships, 34 NCAA All-Americans, 29 Southland Conference track and field championships, 29 Southland Conference coach of the year accolades, 10 Southland Conference cross country team championships, two NCAA top 25 finishes, two NCAA national champions, and one NCAA South Region Coach of the Year Award.

“I would like to start by expressing my immense gratitude to Coach Phil Olson for his incredible leadership of our track and field program for the past 23 years. He has led and elevated our storied program with humility, passion and class. He no doubt has left an incredible impact on not only our track and field program, but our entire athletics department and, more importantly, our student-athletes,” said SFA Director of Athletics Ryan Ivey. “His legacy extends beyond the many championships, awards and accolades. He made it his mission to develop student-athletes into better people by teaching them the true value of determination, perseverance, hard work and dedication to something bigger than themselves. His success came by hard work and being committed to doing things the right way, and in doing so, he taught all of us a valuable lesson in selflessness, service and faith. I am forever grateful and appreciative of Phil not only for what he has done for SFA Athletics, but for his friendship. I can’t think of many people who deserve retirement more than Phil and Donna.”

In the classroom, the Lumberjacks and Ladyjacks have been named to the USTFCCCA All-Academic Teams for over 20 track & field and cross-country seasons. A total of 100+ student-athletes have earned Southland All-Academic honors.

Prior to returning to SFA, Olson coached for 10 years at Virginia and three season at Clemson.

At UVA, Olson served as a graduate assistant between 1987 and 1990 and as an assistant coach from 1993 to 2000. Olson coached 10 Atlantic Coast Conference Champions, three Atlantic Coast Conference record holders, two NCAA All-Americans, one collegiate record holder and one American record holder.

Olson coached at Clemson between 1990 and 1993 and left his mark on the program. He coached three Atlantic Coast Conference champions, two Atlantic Coast Conference team championship and one All-American.

There will be a reception and a ceremony at a later date to celebrate Coach Olson’s tenure at SFA.

A national search will be conducted to find the next director of track and field/cross country.