(utsports.com) KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee softball co-head coach Ralph Weekly announced his retirement Wednesday, after a decorated 35-year coaching career highlighted by 20 years at the helm of the Lady Vols program.
Karen Weekly will assume all head coaching responsibilities after leading the program alongside her husband for the last 20 years. She has agreed to a contract extension through June of 2025.
Tennessee Athletics looks forward to recognizing and celebrating Ralph Weekly during the Lady Vols’ 2022 softball season.
“First, I’d like to acknowledge the extraordinary tenure and legacy of Ralph Weekly,” Tennessee Vice Chancellor/Director of Athletics Danny White said. “He and Karen have built Tennessee softball into one of the top programs in all of college softball. Ralph has given his all for Tennessee for more than two decades, and he certainly elevated the stature of our program in every facet during that span.
“And with Karen Weekly continuing to lead our program, we are uniquely positioned to maintain the winning tradition that she and Ralph have worked so long to establish. Karen’s passion for Lady Vols softball and developing strong young women remains fierce, and we’re excited to support her and her staff as they continue to pursue championships.”
“I have worked every day since I entered the military at age 17,” Ralph Weekly said. “I have had a fulfilling life as a father, husband, student, soldier, special agent, teacher and coach. In every endeavor, I have been surrounded by amazing people whose talents allowed me to succeed and made me a better person. I thank Joan Cronan for hiring us at Tennessee and allowing Karen and I to mentor and coach hundreds of wonderful young women. I was fortunate to work with many fantastic coaches and administrators, to include the legendary Pat Summitt. I thank every player I ever coached for their commitment to excellence on and off the playing field. Each player, male or female, has a place in my heart. I will always be a VFL and cherish the memories I made at each stop. Most of all, I thank my family for their support, patience and counsel. Karen is the smartest person I have ever known. I know she will make Tennessee softball even greater and continue our quest for a national championship.”
RALPH WEEKLY LEAVES LASTING LEGACY
Ralph Weekly has a 1,450-481-2 (.750) career record that includes stints at Pacific Lutheran (1986-94), Chattanooga (1995-98, 2001) and Tennessee (2002-2021). He is No. 4 all-time among NCAA softball coaches in career wins.
During Ralph Weekly‘s tenure at Tennessee, the Lady Vols have become one of the nation’s premier programs. UT has reached the postseason every year since 2004, hosted 16 straight NCAA Regionals, advanced to 11 Super Regionals and made seven trips to the Women’s College World Series, placing in the top-3 on five occasions, including two national runner-up finishes.
Tennessee captured the 2007 SEC regular-season title under his stewardship and won the SEC Tournament title in 2006 and 2011. Ralph was named SEC Co-Coach of the Year with Karen in 2004 and 2007.
Under the Weeklys, Tennessee and the SEC reached new heights as the Lady Vols became the first SEC team to reach No. 1 in the polls, spending 11 consecutive weeks at the top during the 2007 season. That same season, UT became the first SEC program to reach the best-of-three NCAA Championship Series.
The Weeklys recruited and coached NCAA career strikeout leader Monica Abbott—along with numerous other Lady Vol greats—establishing the framework for an era of success and ascension that led to the construction of Sherri Parker Lee Stadium, which opened in 2008. Between 2004 and 2013, Tennessee put together seven 50-win seasons, including three straight 60-plus-win campaigns in 2005, 2006 and 2007.
The 2005 season was especially sweet, as UT won a program-best 67 games, made its first WCWS appearance and began its streak of hosting NCAA Regionals.
A 2011 NFCA Hall of Fame inductee, Ralph Weekly is tied with Karen Weekly as the second-winningest coach in Tennessee Athletics history with a 949-300-2 (.759) mark, trailing only the legendary Pat Summitt.
The Weeklys’ Tennessee players have earned 38 All-America recognitions, 93 All-SEC or SEC All-Freshman selections and 75 NFCA All-Region picks. The list of accolades also includes Abbott and Madison Shipman being named Honda award winners for softball in 2007 and 2014, respectively. In addition, 14 Lady Vols have been selected in the National Pro Fastpitch Draft.
In addition to his time in collegiate softball, Ralph Weekly won a pair of gold medals with Team USA softball in the 1996 and 2000 Olympics. He also served as the Director of USA National Teams from 1999-2002, and coached Team USA in 15 international tournaments. His teams won gold medals in all 15 events, including four World Championships and two Pan-American championships. Ralph Weekly also wrote the original High-Performance Plan for USA Softball Olympic Teams which allocated, for the first time ever, financial stipends for Team USA members to train and compete for Olympic and World softball championships.
As Director of USA National Teams – both men and women – Ralph Weekly partnered with then San Diego Padres owner John Moores and the City of Chula Vista, California, to fund and build a softball training and competition site for elite athletes at the Chula Vista Olympic Training Center. Team USA softball players trained there for all national and international events from 1998-2008.
Ralph Weekly began his coaching career in the United States Air Force, where he accumulated many championships at a variety of levels. He piloted squads to three All-Armed Forces World Titles, seven state titles at the United States Softball Association (USSA) level and three USSA Western World Championships.
Having retired from the United States Air Force in 1986, Ralph Weekly was the commander of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations at McChord Air Force Base in Washington state in his last duty assignment. He was awarded the Bronze Star and Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry for outstanding service in the Vietnam War. Weekly is a 1973 graduate of Arizona State University and has completed course work for a master’s degree in International Relations from Pacific Lutheran.
“It has been one of the great privileges of my life to coach alongside my husband, Ralph,” Karen Weekly said. “He is a winner and a builder, leaving a legacy of outstanding programs and facilities everywhere he’s coached. He is a champion for women and has fought for equal opportunities for the young women he’s coached at every stop during his career. Not many people get to share this journey with their best friend and life partner – I consider myself incredibly blessed. We are fortunate that he will remain as a special advisor to our program and continue to impart his wisdom and experience to the future of Tennessee softball.”