Regarded as one of the nation's most versatile track coaches, VanHootegem has been a part of 12 NCAA Division I team championships and 27 conference championships during his collegiate career. He joins the Sooners after serving as an assistant coach at Texas A&M where he played an integral role in building one of the nation's most dominant track and field programs working with head coach Pat Henry. The Aggies won seven team NCAA championships, 14 conference championships and produced 22 individual NCAA champions during his time in College Station.
"We're excited to welcome Jim VanHootegem as our Head Coach for Men's & Women's Track & Field and Cross Country," said Castiglione. "Jim has worked for and been mentored by some of the finest coaches in the history of intercollegiate track and field and has built his own distinguished pedigree as a coach," said Castiglione. "As we moved through the search process it was evident that Jim's approach has always modeled the comparable core values and team concepts that guide our athletics programs here at OU. He is committed to doing everything in his ability to provide our student-athletes with the very best experience possible, with a philosophy that prioritizes attaining a high level of academic achievement and competing for championships.
"In addition to his impressive record of producing individual All-Americans, Jim has been part of 12 squads that have won NCAA team titles and 27 conference championships," Castiglione continued. "His national recruiting expertise and success combined with his familiarity with the Big 12 Conference also makes him an excellent fit for the Sooners. We enthusiastically welcome Jim, Carmen and their family to the University of Oklahoma."
VanHootegem was named the 2009 Men's National Assistant Coach of the Year by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association and has displayed a propensity for helping young men and women excel in all areas during their collegiate careers. In total, seven of his student-athletes have earned Arthur Ashe Jr. Sport Scholar honors for their athletic and academic distinction.
"On behalf of Carmen and our children, we are extremely enthused to lead the University of Oklahoma Track and Field program and become part of the Norman community," said VanHootegem. "Under the leadership of President David L. Boren and Joe Castiglione, Oklahoma has long been recognized for its tremendous academic reputation, as well as boasting one of the nation's model athletics programs. I've always possessed a great admiration for the University of Oklahoma and its commitment to continually enhancing the student-athlete experience.
"The opportunity to work for a program that shares my vision for its student-athletes and boasts an extremely passionate fan base is truly a special situation," he continued. "I am looking forward to the challenge of working in a program that possesses an extensive history of producing championship-caliber teams and student-athletes. I'm also excited to put together a talented coaching staff and share my vision and expectations for OU Track and Field with our student-athletes."
In addition to his work at Texas A&M, VanHootegem also was involved in building another perennial NCAA powerhouse program during his tenure at Arkansas with head coach John McDonnell from 1994-96. Over that stretch, the Razorbacks won five NCAA championships and seven SEC titles and produced 55 NCAA All-Americans and 14 individual national champions. At the University of Miami from 2001-04, he was part of staffs that were named Big East Coaching Staff of the Year five times and won five conference championships for the Hurricanes. He was also part of a staff that led Texas-Pan American to a conference title in 1997.
"I think Oklahoma made a wise decision by hiring Jim," said Texas A&M's Pat Henry. "Jim is a good man. He is organized and knows what it takes to build a team. He will surround himself with people who can build an excellent program at Oklahoma and embrace those already associated with the program. When I came to Texas A&M from LSU nine years ago, Jim was one of the first guys I hired. He is an excellent coach and has been an integral part of developing our program at Texas A&M. He's a good friend and will be missed greatly."
VanHootegem's litany of accomplished student-athletes at Texas A&M represents a virtual who's who in the track and field scene. In total at Texas A&M, VanHootegem coached eight student-athletes who established school records: Daphne Fitzpatrick (heptathlon), Julian Reid (triple jump), Yasmine Regis (triple jump), Fabrice Lapierre (long jump), Laura Asimakis (pole vault), Caroline Wolf (indoor high jump), Trinity Otto (indoor heptathlon) and Jena Hemann (indoor pentathlon).
Lapierre won the school's first-ever NCAA championship in the long jump in 2012 and also claimed long jump titles in the World Indoors and the Commonwealth Games. Reid was the NCAA runner-up in the triple jump, earning a total of nine All-America honors in the long and triple jump. Regis was also an NCAA runner-up in the triple jump and claimed five Big 12 triple jump titles. Zuheir Sharif was a seven-time All-America triple jumper under VanHootegem's tutelage, while Tyron Stewart was an NCAA runner-up in the triple jump. In addition, LaQue Moen-Davis was recently named SEC Freshman of the Year after becoming the first female athlete in Texas A&M history to score in the long and triple jump at the same NCAA Championship.
VanHootegem was named a Mondo Regional Assistant Coach of the Year at the 2012 NCAA Championships in Sacramento, Calif., for his work with Texas A&M's jumpers. Other NCAA Division I coaching experience on VanHootegem's resume includes stints at San Diego State (2001) and Mississippi State (1998-2000). He also owns head coaching experience at North Park University in Chicago (1991-94).
During his stint at the University of Miami, VanHootegem helped the Hurricanes women's squad to five Big East titles including sweeps of the Big East indoor and outdoor team crowns in 2003 and 2004. His long and triple jumpers won six Big East crowns, and he helped develop UM's school record holder in the pentathlon and heptathlon. Overall the Hurricanes established nine school records in field and combined events during VanHootegem's tenure.
Among his pupils were Kareen Clarke, the 2002 NCAA third-place finisher in the triple jump (both indoors and outdoors), and Tabia Charles, who was named the Big East Most Outstanding Field Performer in 2004. Charles broke the Big East outdoor meet record in the triple jump at the 2004 championships.
Before joining the staff at Miami, VanHootegem coached at San Diego State where he guided Aja Frary to the Mountain West Conference heptathlon title and to a third-place finish at the 2001 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Her total of 5,753 points at the NCAA Championships set a Mountain West Conference record.
Prior to his stint at San Diego State, VanHootegem coached five NCAA qualifiers at Mississippi State, three USATF Championships/Olympic Trials qualifiers and 18 Southeastern Conference finalists, including Rod Newton, the 2000 SEC champion in the high jump.
While at Arkansas he began coaching former Razorback sprinter Vincent Henderson. Under VanHootegem's tutelage, Henderson posted the 10th-fastest time in the 100 meters (10.00) in U.S. history in 1996. In 1997, Henderson went on to win gold medals in the 100 meters and 400-meter relay at the World University Games in Palermo, Italy.
A Level II coach and instructor as certified by USA Track & Field, VanHootegem was a seven time All-American at North Central College in Naperville, Ill., from 1987-90. In 1989 he helped lead North Central College to the NCAA Division III indoor and outdoor national championships. He earned his bachelor of arts degree in physical education from North Central College in 1990. VanHootegem is married to the former Carmen Melendez, and the couple has three children: Tori, Quin and Olivia. VanHootegem's hiring is subject to the approval of the OU Board of Regents.