AUSTIN, Texas – Tonja (TAWN-ja) Buford-Bailey, a decorated coaching veteran and three-time Olympian, has been named associate head coach of the newly-combined Texas men’s and women’s track and field program, head coach Mario Sategna announced Wednesday.
Buford-Bailey arrives on the Forty Acres after spending 10 years on the University of Illinois coaching staff, the last five of which serving as head women’s coach. She also assisted in coaching men’s sprinters for three seasons.
“We are thrilled to be able to add a coach the caliber of Tonja to the staff,” Sategna said. “This is an important hire. She will not only coach the men and women’s sprint, hurdles and relays unit, but also be heavily involved with the day-to-day operations of the program.”
During her tenure at Illinois, Buford-Bailey coached her athletes to 25 All-America honors, including six NCAA titles. There were also 43 individual Big Ten Champions during that time.
“Tonja has a tremendous background as a coach and athlete,” Sategna said. “I think her resume speaks for itself. We’ve hit a home run with this hire and feel so fortunate to be able to get her to UT.”
Buford-Bailey’s teams have achieved top 20 national rankings by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) on the women’s side during four of her five years at the helm. Her 2013 Illini were ranked as high as eighth during the indoor season after winning their first conference title since 1996. Buford-Bailey also guided her team to 14th place finishes at both the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championships and a runner-up effort at the Big Ten Outdoor meet, with the squad amassing 13 All-America honors and 11 individual and relay conference titles.
“I’m really excited for this opportunity at The University of Texas, one of the top athletic and academic institutions in the country,” Buford-Bailey said. “I’m really confident that we can continue to win conference and national titles. This is a powerhouse program on both sides and I’m thankful to Mario and the rest of the administration. I’m also excited to be coaching on the men’s side again. That’s a passion of mine.”
She guided Andrew Riley to two consecutive NCAA titles in the 110-meter hurdles (outdoor 2010) and 60m hurdles (indoor 2011), the latter of which completed an undefeated indoor season in the event for the then junior and three-time Big Ten champion.
Buford-Bailey’s expertise in the sprint events has been especially evident this year in the success of two-time NCAA 400m champion, two-time Bowerman Award semifinalist and 2013 IAAF World Championships qualifier Ashley Spencer, who recently completed her sophomore campaign at Illinois. This season also saw Buford-Bailey guide freshman Morolake Akinosun to a pair of All-America honors, a U.S. junior title in the 100m and a pair of Pan American Junior Championships qualifications in the 100m and 200m.
“It was a tough decision to leave my alma mater,” Buford-Bailey said. “The University of Illinois allowed me to grow as person, athlete and coach. They have been a family to me and I appreciate all the support I’ve received over the years and even during this process.”
Before embarking on her already impressive coaching career, Buford-Bailey established herself among the elite hurdlers in the world during her time as a student-athlete at Illinois (1990-93). A 10-time All-American, she was the 1992 NCAA champion in the 400m hurdles. Buford-Bailey also amassed a Big Ten-record 25 conference titles, an effort that earned her four Big Ten Athlete of the Year honors and three Athlete of the Championships awards.
Buford-Bailey was a trailblazer for Illinois athletics on the international stage. As the first Illini female athlete to make a U.S. Olympic team, she earned her way onto three (1992, 1996, 2000) over the course of her professional career. At the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Buford-Bailey took home a bronze medal, also a first for a female Illini athlete, in the 400m hurdles. One of the first women to post a sub-53 second mark in the event, her career best of 52.62 still ranks No. 4 in the world all-time.
Buford-Bailey, a Dayton, Ohio native, is married to former NFL wide receiver Victor Bailey. The two are parents to son Victor Jr. and daughter Victoria.
THE BUFORD-BAILEY FILE
B.S., University of Illinois (1993)
University of Texas – Associate Head Coach, 2013 -
University of Illinois - Head Coach, 2008 - 2013
University of Illinois - Associate Head Coach, 2008
University of Illinois - Assistant Coach, 2004-2007
Pan American Junior Athletics Championships - Assistant Coach for U.S. Team, 2007
IAAF World Outdoor Championships in Berlin, Germany- Women's Sprints/Hurdles, 2009
London Olympics, 2012
Division I Head Coach of the Year for the Midwest Region: 2009, 2013
University of Illinois - 1990-93
NCAA Champion: 400m Hurdles, 1992
All-America Accolades: 10
Big Ten Titles: 25
Big Ten Outdoor Track & Field Athlete of the Year: 1992, 1993
Big Ten Outdoor Track & Field Athlete of the Championships: 1992, 1993
Big Ten Outdoor Track & Field Freshman of the Year: 1990
Big Ten Indoor Track & Field Athlete of the Year: 1992, 1993
Big Ten Indoor Track & Field Athlete of the Championships: 1992, 1993
University of Illinois Dike Eddleman Female Athlete of the Year: 1992, 1993
UI All-Decade Team
Fighting Illini Spirit Award Winner: 1991
U.S. National Team
U.S. Olympic Team: 1992, 1996, 2000
Olympic Bronze Medalist: 400m Hurdles, 1996
World Championships Silver Medalist: 400m Hurdles, 1995
U.S. Outdoor Championships Silver Medalist: 400m H, 2001
U.S. Olympic Trials Silver Medalist: 400m hurdles, 1992, 1996
U.S. Olympic Trials Bronze Medalist: 400m hurdles, 2000
Personal-best 400m Hurdles Performance: 52.62 seconds