Navy Men's Track & Field Head Coach Stephen Cooksey Announces Retirement After 29 Seasons
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- After spending the last 29 seasons as the head coach of the Navy men's track and field program, Stephen Cooksey has announced he will retire effective August 30. A national search is underway for his replacement.
"Words cannot adequately describe the impact and influence Coach Cooksey has had on our Midshipmen, the Academy and the sport of track & field over his unparalleled career," Director of Athletics Chet Gladchuk said. "He is `an icon' in our profession and one of the most highly recognized and appreciated educators within our coaching and faculty ranks. To replace this distinguished leader will be a very difficult challenge because Coach has been one of a kind, the best at everything he does. A professional role model personified, and a man who always exudes the highest values of character, integrity and competitive spirit. We will miss him in so many ways, but wish he and Val the absolute best in their next chapter."
"Navy has been a wonderful place to be," Cooksey said. "I have been really lucky and blessed to be able to coach the kids that we have here. They are really special. It is what I am going to miss more than anything. All of the young guys that are left behind as I leave; it is going to be hard to deal with. They are good kids that are really hard workers."
In his nearly three decades at the helm of the Navy men's track and field program, the former All-American high jumper and 14-time Patriot League Coach of the Year guided 14 Midshipmen to a total of 23 All-America honors, with Lucas Stalnaker earning the most recent distinction with a fifth-place finish in the 10,000-meter run at the 2017 NCAA Outdoor Championship.
Under his watch, Navy compiled an overall dual meet record of 353-48 (.880), while earning 14 Patriot League team titles (9 indoor / 5 outdoor) with over 450 All-Patriot League honorees.
"I think what we have done coaching-wise has been a combination of all of the coaches working together," Cooksey said of his staff. "I am the head coach in name. A lot of that glory gets pushed my direction, but it is really a case of all of us working together and getting it done."
The Midshipmen won nine Patriot League Indoor Championships (2004, '05, '08, '11, '13, '14, '15, '16, `17) and five Patriot League Outdoor Championships (2008, '14, '15, '16, `17) with Cooksey at the helm. Additionally, Navy won the Heptagonal outdoor competition three straight years from 1991-93 and posted back-to-back wins in the Heptagonal indoor championship in 1992 and `93. The team also captured the Colonial Athletic Association outdoor crown during the 1991 season.
Cooksey's success also carried over into Navy's Star Meet competitions against archrival Army, where his teams own a 37-21 career mark against the Black Knights. Over the last 17 years, the Mids won 23-of-34 dual meet competitions against Army, including nine indoor and outdoor season sweeps.
"We talk to the kids about the first thing that is going to be expected of you here is to beat Army," said Cooksey. "The second thing is winning your conference championship, whether it is the Colonial or the Heptagonal or the Patriot League. The idea is to work hard, give your best, and get together as a team and be one unit. If you do those things, you'll wind up coming home with a championship.
"I tell the kids over and over and over, you can't just all of a sudden make it happen," Cooksey added. "You have to put the time in, work and be patient. There has got to be some hard work and some sacrifice. If you do that, you have a greater chance of getting the job done and obtaining your goals."
Cooksey came to Annapolis in 1984 and assisted Al Cantello with both the cross country and the track & field teams at Navy for four seasons before taking over the reins of Navy's track program.
Before coming to Navy, Cooksey spent six years as the head cross country and track & field coach at Ball State, where he began as an assistant in 1974. He was acting head cross country coach for the Cardinals in the 1978-79 season and became the head coach of the cross country and track & field teams in 1979.
During his time at Ball State, Cooksey worked with 18 NCAA qualifiers, three All-Americans and an NCAA champion.
In 1998, he was named the head coach for the United States World Junior Championship team and has served as a coach on several other U.S. National teams. Most recently, Cooksey served as the head coach of the 2008 U.S. World Indoor Championship team.
His road to becoming one of the top collegiate track coaches began in Terre Haute, Ind., where he was a nationally-ranked high jumper, two-time captain and team MVP for the Indiana State track program.
Cooksey enjoyed a decorated athletic career for the Sycamores, collecting an impressive list of individual accolades, including NCAA All-America and U.S. Track & Field Federation All-America honors.
An associate professor in the physical education department at the Academy, Cooksey was named the recipient of the 2003 Superintendent's Distinguished Athletic Leadership Award for teaching and coaching.
Cooksey and his wife, Valerie, have one daughter, Brooke, and reside in Annapolis, Md.
"This is something that started creeping into my mind around Patriot League Championships time. For me, I really want to have time with my family. My wife and my daughter live here and I want to have more time to spend with them. At this point, I have to take care of myself and have time for Brooke and Val."
The Cooksey File
-- 1988-Present - Head Coach, Navy
-- 1984-88 - Assistant Coach, Navy
-- 1978-84 - Head Coach, Ball State
-- 1974-78 - Assistant Coach, Ball State
-- 14-time Patriot League Coach of the Year
-- 2008 Mid-Atlantic Region Outdoor Coach of the Year
-- 2007-08 Mid-Atlantic Region Indoor Coach of the Year
-- 1992 District II NCAA Coach of the Year
-- Has guided 14 athletes to a total of 23 All-America honors
-- Nine athletes have earned 12 Academic All-America certificates
-- 20 Team Conference Championships
-- 14 Patriot League Championships
vs. Army -- Record (Pct.)
Indoor -- 19-10 (.655)
Outdoor -- 18-11 (.621)
Overall -- 37-21 (.638)