FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. –- Following 25 seasons and 35 conference championships at Northern Iowa, Chris Bucknam has been named head men’s cross country and track and field coach at the University of Arkansas, Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long announced on Friday.
Bucknam has guided his teams to 35 league titles and six top 20 finishes in NCAA indoor and outdoor championships. He has earned 33 conference coach of the year awards, and produced three national champions and 85 All-America selections.
He was Northern Iowa’s head men’s track and field coach from 1984-2008 and the women’s head coach from 1997-2008 after beginning his career as a men’s assistant at UNI in 1979.
“Chris Bucknam is an outstanding coach and the right person to lead our men’s cross country and track and field program,” Long said. “He enjoyed remarkable success at Northern Iowa despite working with fewer available resources than other top-15 national programs. He is committed to competing at the highest levels in cross country, indoor and outdoor track and field. He is also committed to fostering and nurturing our student-athletes as they develop as young men both academically and socially. We are extremely fortunate to add one of the nation’s most successful head coaches to what already is the most successful program in the history of intercollegiate athletics.”
This year’s UNI men’s team scored 22 points and finished 11th at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. The Panthers had nine student-athletes earn 11 All-America honors in seven events. Highlights were individual second-place finishes in the 1,500, fifth in the 4×400 relay, sixth in the 800 and eighth in the 400. The women’s team scored five points and finished 46th.
At the 2008 NCAA indoor championships in Fayetteville, UNI’s men’s team scored 18 points to finish ninth.
In 2008, his men’s and women’s teams became the first in the history of the Missouri Valley Conference to sweep all four indoor and outdoor conference titles. Nine Panthers earned 15 All-America honors throughout the year.
"I’d like to thank Jeff Long and Chancellor (Dave) Gearhart for the confidence they have in me to build on the incredible tradition of Arkansas track and field,” Bucknam said. “I am humbled by the opportunity to lead the Razorback track program and follow the legendary John McDonnell. I’m also very pleased that Dick Booth has agreed to remain as an assistant coach as we all work to continue to build upon the unparalleled success of the past. I believe I am up to this incredible task, and I am really looking forward to the challenge."
His 2007 men’s team won both indoor and outdoor MVC titles while the women’s team was second in each. His men’s team finished ninth in the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships after ranking as high as No. 13 during the season. The women’s team was ranked as high as No. 22.
In the men’s NCAA outdoor championships, his team’s high finishes were 11th in 2008, 17th in 1997, 39th in 2001, 42nd in 1999, 52nd in 2006 and 54th in 2005. In the men’s NCAA indoor championships, his teams had high finishes of ninth in 2008 and 2007, 12th in 2002, 18th in 2006, 20th in 2001, 28th in 2005 and 44th in 1996.
His women’s teams had high finishes of 39th in 1994 and 42nd in 1995, both in the NCAA indoor meet.
His men’s teams won 11 Missouri Valley Conference indoor titles, six MVC outdoor titles and four cross country championships. His women’s teams won two indoor titles, an outdoor title and a cross country title. His men’s teams had a current streak of nine straight conference indoor titles (2000-08) and won three of the last four outdoor championships.
He also won 10 men’s titles while UNI was a member of the Mid-Continent Conference, including five indoors, two outdoors and three in cross country.
Since moving from the Mid-Continent to the Missouri Valley in 1992, Bucknam’s men’s teams have won 21 league titles and finished second 13 times while producing 231 individual event champions.
An 24-time MVC Coach of the Year, he was named United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Midwest Region Coach of the Year 10 times, including five straight (1995, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008). His USTFCCCA honors include an indoor award for his men’s team and an outdoor honor for his women’s team in 2008.
Before UNI moved to the Missouri Valley, he earned Mid-Continent coach of the year awards nine times in seven seasons.
Athletes he has coached include Tyler Mulder, a five-time All-American who won the NCAA indoor title in the 800 in 2008; Joey Woody, a three-time All-American and national champion in the 400-meter hurdles who placed second in that event at the 2003 World Championships; pole vaulter Jacob Pauli, a five-time All-American who won the 2001 NCAA indoor title; Dirk Homewood, who won nine MVC titles and earned three All-America honors from 2001-05; and Mate Nemeth and Balazs Csillag, who won back-to-back MVC cross country titles in 2000 and 2001, respectively.
Bucknam takes over for John McDonnell, who built the greatest track and field program in the country. In 36 seasons, McDonnell’s teams won 42 national championships and 84 conference titles, and he coached 185 student-athletes who earned 657 All-America honors.
“Chris is an outstanding coach and real go-getter,” McDonnell said. “He has been very successful and his teams have captured numerous championships in cross country, indoor and outdoor track and field. He has achieved success at a national level without the benefit of the resources of other top national programs. I am pleased that Chris Bucknam is a Razorback. I am confident that with his leadership, our program will continue to flourish.”
A native of Beverley, Mass., Bucknam attended Norwich University in Northfield, Vt., where he was a four-time letterman in track, specializing in middle distance. He was elected co-captain his senior year and earned his bachelor’s in physical education in 1978. He earned his master’s in physical education from Northern Iowa in 1982.
He is married to Cindy, and they are the parents of a son, Eric (20), and a daughter, Kate (15).