FAYETTEVILLE – The University of Arkansas has extended the contracts of six of its most successful Olympic Sport head coaches further bolstering its commitment to maintaining a nationally competitive all sports intercollegiate athletics program.
With the extensions, the Razorbacks have employment agreements through the 2015-16 season with women’s gymnastics co-head coaches Mark and René Cook, head women’s golf coach Shauna Estes-Taylor, head men’s golf coach Brad McMakin, head men’s cross country and track and field coach Chris Bucknam and head women’s swimming and diving coach Jeff Poppell.
“We are pleased to announce new agreements for six coaches who have helped our program compete and win in the Southeastern Conference and nationally in their respective sports,” Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long said. “The agreements demonstrate a mutual commitment between our outstanding coaches and the University of Arkansas to the long term success of the Razorback program. Mark, René, Shauna, Brad, Chris and Jeff have all demonstrated their commitment to helping our student-athletes succeed academically, athletically and socially. I am looking forward to the continued success of our gymnastics, golf, track and field and swimming and diving programs under their leadership.”
The University of Arkansas recently finished No. 24 in the Learfield Sports Directors Cup standings, a year-long measure of athletic success of the nation’s intercollegiate athletic programs. The Directors Cup assigns points based on national finish for up to 20 sports. It was the third top 25 national finish in the past four years, marking the first time the Razorbacks have earned that distinction in a four year period. In 2010-11, Arkansas finished second among programs with 19 or fewer sports while ranking eighth among programs with 20 or fewer sports.
Serving as co-head coaches Mark and René Cook have led the Razorback Gymnastics program since its inception. Currently in its 10th season, the Razorbacks have earned eight NCAA regional bids, won two NCAA regionals, advanced to the NCAA Championship five times, reached the NCAA Super Six and finished in the top 10 in the nation three times. Arkansas has finished ranked in the top 15 seven consecutive seasons and has produced 28 All-America selections and 13 NCAA individual event finals appearances. In 2011, the Razorbacks won the NCAA North Central Regional, tied for ninth in the nation, recorded two wins over No. 1-ranked Florida, beat No. 4 Georgia, and set school records with seven dual-meet wins and four road wins.
Estes-Taylor is in her 10th season with the Razorbacks including her fifth season as the head women’s golf coach. Since being elevated from the assistant coaching ranks to head coach in 2007, Estes-Taylor has led the Razorbacks to four-consecutive NCAA Regional appearances, two NCAA Championship appearances including a program-best tie for fifth place finish at the 2011 NCAA Championships. During her head coaching tenure, Arkansas has posted four top-five finishes at the SEC Championship including two conference runner-up finishes. The program has also been recognized twice nationally as part of the NCAA Public Recognition Awards, a program designed to honor teams in the top 10 percent of their respective sport in Academic Progress Rate (APR).
In his sixth year at the helm of the men’s golf program, McMakin has led the Razorbacks back to national prominence. In his first five years, McMakin guided the Razorbacks to four NCAA Regional appearances, two NCAA Championships and a program-best national runner-up finish at the 2009 NCAA Golf Championships. Arkansas has also been successful within the conference earning two top-four finishes at the SEC Championship. During his tenure, the Razorbacks have boasted seven All-America and 10 All-SEC selections. McMakin was named SEC Coach of the Year in 2009 and was a finalist for the Dave Williams National Coach of the Year award in 2011. Earlier this fall, Arkansas earned a No. 1 national ranking for the first time since 1997.
Bucknam is in his fourth season as the head men’s cross country and track and field coach at Arkansas. He has continued to build upon the rich tradition of Arkansas track and field winning six SEC championships in his tenure including a pair of cross country (2010, 2011), indoor track and field (2009, 2010) and outdoor track and field (2009, 2011) titles. The most recent team crown came earlier this week, when Arkansas won the 2011 SEC Cross Country Championship in Maryville, Tenn. The Razorbacks have earned 64 individual All-America selections in his first three full seasons, including 37 in 2010-11. Since 1992, Bucknam is the only SEC coach other than legendary Arkansas coach John McDonnell, to win league coach of the year honors in his first year as a coach in the SEC. The duo is also the only league coaches to sweep the SEC Indoor and Outdoor Coach of the Year honors in the same season since Arkansas joined the conference.
Poppell is in his sixth season as head coach of the Razorback women’s swimming and diving team. Since taking the reins in 2007, Poppell has guided Arkansas back to its place among the nation’s top programs including a national ranking of 17th by the College Swimming Coaches Association of America during the 2010-11 campaign. Arkansas returned to the national rankings for the first time in 16 years when the Razorbacks cracked the top 25 in 2008. In his first five seasons, the Razorbacks posted a dual meet record of 37-14 and earned the program’s best SEC finishes including a fifth-place showing in 2009. In 2010-11, Arkansas finished the dual meet season at 9-2 and ranked 24th in the final national poll.