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In First, Georgia Hires a Woman to Coach a Men's Team

Tabatha Wethal

The University of Georgia made program history this week when it tapped Caryl Smith Gilbert to be the director of men's and women's track and field. Smith Gilbert will be the first female head coach of a men's sports program in the history of Georgia Athletics, the university said in a news release.

"It is a great day to be a Bulldog," Brooks said. "She is a phenomenal coach, skilled motivator and strong leader who will make our entire program better. Caryl exudes energy and passion that resonates with student-athletes, recruits and colleagues.”

Smith Gilbert recently led the USC women to the 2021 NCAA Outdoor National Championship and the men to another top-5 finish. She replaces Petros Kyprianou, who was Georgia head coach for the past six years and part of the program since 2008, the Associated Press reported. Kyprianou led the Georgia women to a third-place finish at the NCAA championships. The Georgia men finished eighth.

In a statement, Smith Gilbert said she was thankful for the opportunity.

"Georgia combines elite athletics and academics with outstanding leadership, in a premier athletics conference," Smith Gilbert said. "I'm thankful to President Morehead and (Director of Athletics) Josh (Brooks) for leading the way, and opening doors for women and particularly women of color. It's an honor to be Georgia's first female head coach of a men's sport."

According to the university, this year's USC women's squad gave Smith Gilbert her second national title in the last three NCAA Outdoor National Championships, while the men finished in the top-five for the fourth time in the last seven championships under her guidance.

Smith Gilbert has spent the last eight seasons as the Director of Men and Women's Track and Field at USC, building the program into a national powerhouse. She guided the women's team to a 2018 NCAA Outdoor National Championship, earning the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Women's National Coach of the Year honor. That same season, the Trojans' men's squad finished second at the NCAA indoor championships.

The Trojan track and field teams combined to finish in the top-10 an impressive 16 times in Smith Gilbert's eight seasons at the helm. She mentored over 200 first-team All-Americans, while her teams set close to 130 school top-10 marks and 50 program records. Her athletes also won over 20 individual NCAA event titles.

Smith Gilbert has garnered the USTFCCCA West Region Coach of the Year award on six occasions and is a five-time South Region Coach of the Year, two-time Pac-12 Coach of the Year and six-time Conference USA Coach of the Year. In 2015, she became the first woman to earn the Pac-12 Men's Coach of the Year honor.

USC's 2018 NCAA Outdoor T&F Championship was just the second women's title in program history. The women claimed the crown with a come-from-behind victory in the 4X400m relay, the meet's final event. That national championship was the culmination of another successful season under Smith Gilbert's guidance. The women's team also won the Pac-12 title, while the men's squad finished third.

She led the USC men's program to top-five national finishes in the outdoor championships in 2014, 2015, 2018 and 2021 while the women finished in the top-five of the outdoor event in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2021.

Prior to her time with the Trojans, Smith Gilbert was a six-time Conference USA Coach of the Year at the University of Central Florida. She guided the Knights' women's team to a program-best fifth-place finish at the 2013 NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championships.

The Knights won six C-USA track and field indoor and outdoor crowns, while her athletes earned All-America status more than 100 times and set over 100 school records.

Smith Gilbert spent five seasons (2003-07) as an assistant coach at Tennessee, where she was responsible for coaching sprints, hurdles and jumps. Her Lady Vol athletes won three NCAA titles and seven Southeastern Conference crowns. In 2005, Tennessee won its first NCAA indoor championship as her athletes combined for 24 All-America honors. She was also an assistant coach at Alabama for three years (2000-02) and an assistant at Penn State from 1998-99.

Prior to her career in the collegiate ranks, the Denver, Colo. native was the head coach at her prep alma mater, George Washington High, from 1994-97. In addition to her experience at the high school and collegiate levels, Smith Gilbert was an assistant with Team USA and was invited to coach the 2005 Pan Am Junior Championships. She was also selected to serve as an assistant coach for the 2007 World Championships in Osaka, Japan.

Smith Gilbert graduated in 1991 from UCLA, where she was a three-time All-American and Pac-10 champion in the 100-meter dash, 4x100-meter relay and the 4x400-meter relay. She earned a bachelor's degree in film and television production from UCLA and a master's degree in sport management and sport psychology from the University of Tennessee.

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