UCF is losing the most successful track and field coach in school history.
Caryl Smith Gilbert, who just led the Knights to a No. 5 team finish at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships and mentored a long list of All-Americans, is leaving UCF to take care over as the head coach for USC's men's and women's track and field programs.
“I set out on a mission to make this program a track and field superpower,” said Smith Gilbert in a UCF athletics news release. “We were in the top five, both indoor and outdoor, this year. So I think the program is definitely headed in the right direction. I want to thank Todd Stansbury, Jessica Reo, Keith Tribble and so many others for the opportunity, the help and all the assistance they gave us to get us to this point. President [John] Hitt is very supportive of the team and everybody at UCF embraced us. We made major strides in this program.
“Orlando is a great place. UCF is a great place. It’s going to be very sad. I’m excited about embarking on a new adventure. But it is going to be very hard for me to leave. We grew as a family, so they’re more than just my athletes. They’re like my little sisters and daughters. I taught them everything I could.”
During Smith Gilbert's tenure, UCF won six Conference USA outdoor and indoor track titles. Her athletes were named All-America more than 100 times and set more than 100 school records. Her team’s GPA exceeded 3.0 nearly every term during her tenure.
UCF athletics director Todd Stansbury praised Smith Gilbert in a news release.
"Caryl Smith Gilbert and our student-athletes are responsible for our women’s track and field program being recognized among the best in the nation,” Stansbury said. “She is an amazing coach and an amazing person. We certainly understand that when you have a coach who has accomplished the sort of things Coach Caryl has, that she will be presented with other opportunities. We thank her for everything she has done at UCF and wish her and her family nothing but the best in the future.”
With Smith Gilbert's departure, the Knights have lost two of their most successful coaches among all sports during the past few months. Women's soccer coach Amanda Cromwell, who steered the Knights to immense soccer success, recently left the Knights to take over the UCLA soccer program.
Since track athletes often are awarded partial scholarships, they face fewer transfer restrictions than full scholarship football and basketball players. It's unclear whether any UCF athletes will opt to follow Smith Gilbert to USC.