ORLANDO, Fla. – Former Texas Men’s Head Track & Field Coach Bubba Thornton was inducted into the USTFCCCA Hall of Fame on Wednesday night. The 11-time Big 12 champion coach was honored as a member of the 2016 hall of fame class as five others joined him in the hall.
Thornton spent much of his acceptance speech thanking multiple assistant coaches who helped him along the way in his career to be such a successful head coach. He said without their help his teams would not have been able to win 35 NCAA event titles or set three collegiate records that still stand today.
“If I’d learned anything, you’ve gotta have good people around you… That’s why I was successful,” Thornton said. “I look out here at all of you people and you’re climbing and you want that opportunity. Don’t ever give up on yourself about getting that opportunity.”
Thornton coached for 31 years combined at his alma mater TCU and Texas where he impacted the lives of countless student-athletes. His athletes at the two schools combined to win 35 NCAA event titles under his tutelage along with 161 conference championships and more than 300 All-America performances.
Highlights at Texas included a collegiate record from Trey Hardee in the decathlon at the 2006 Texas Relays and a world record from the men’s distance medley relay at the 2008 Tyson Invitational. Both of those records still stand.
After coaching at TCU from 1982-1995 and making the Horned Frogs a force in the 4×100 meter relay, Thornton made the move to Austin to coach the Longhorns and saw his first Texas team finish fifth at the 1996 NCAA Outdoor Championships after winning the final Southwest Conference title. The following year, the Texas men posted the best finish in school history with a runner-up performance at the NCAA meet.
Texas won 11 Big 12 Conference titles under Thornton, including an indoor/outdoor sweep his final year at the helm in 2013. The Longhorns tallied eight top 10’s at the NCAA Outdoor Championships with his guidance. Indoors, Texas had a stretch of seven consecutive top 10 finishes at the NCAA Indoor Championships and added six Big 12 titles.
In total, Thornton’s teams finished in the top 15 at the NCAA Outdoor Championships a total of 13 times in his 31 years and posted top-five finishes four times combined at TCU and Texas. His impact on the sport earned him the men’s head coach position for Team USA at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
Joining Thornton in the 2016 USTFCCCA Hall of Fame Class were: Terry Franson (Azusa Pacific); Pat Healy (UW-La Crosse/Southern Oregon State); Mike Holloway (Florida); Bob Kitchens (UTEP/Mississippi State/West Texas A&M) and Marty Stern (Villanova).
“There have been some really great things said up here tonight. And if I could leave you with just this one thing tonight: I always felt there were two kinds of coaches. One coach, coaches performance. They’re good coaches,” he said. “I wanted to be a coach who coached people who had great performances but could then be people. It wasn’t going to be about how far they jumped or how far they threw something or how fast they ran. That was just going to be a part of what they were.”
Thornton and the rest of the class were inducted during a ceremony at the USTFCCCA Convention held in the Coquina Ballroom at the JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes Resort.