top of page

BREAKING: Sean Carlson to Join Tennessee as Director of XC, Will Oversee Men's & Women's Programs

Last month, The Stride Report received notice that Sean Carlson, the men's head distance coach at Notre Dame, will be leaving the Fighting Irish and joining the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

TSR has since confirmed the hiring.

Carlson's decision to join the Volunteers comes shortly after Duane Ross, the former head coach at national sprints powerhouse North Carolina A&T, was hired as Tennessee's Director of Track & Field in late May.

On May 20th, it was announced that Tennessee did not renew head coach Beth Alford-Sullivan's contract. She had been with the team since 2014.

Carlson will now oversee both the men's and women's distance programs at Tennessee and will assume the role of "Director" during the cross country season, showing a decisive split in the dedication of resources between the distance and non-distance events.

Carlson is expected to build a staff of his own leading into the 2022-2023 academic year.

Tennessee's decision to implement two "Director" roles comes as a unique changeup to an otherwise static leadership structure throughout the NCAA. The major coaching departures at both North Carolina A&T and Notre Dame could also lead to numerous high-level transfers heading to Knoxville this summer.

Carlson has, without question, become one of the top distance coaches in the NCAA during his tenure at Notre Dame.

Formerly a top distance runner at D3 powerhouse North Central, Carlson has helped the Fighting Irish men evolve from regional mediocrity to national-caliber superstardom.

When Carlson began coaching Notre Dame's men's cross country team in 2016, the Irish earned an unexciting 14th place at the Great Lakes XC Regional Championships.

The next year, they placed 9th in the same region.

Fast forward to 2018, and Notre Dame had won the ACC XC Championships, earned a top-two automatic national qualifying spot at their regional meet and placed 14th at the NCAA XC Championships.

And in 2019?

The Irish placed 9th at the NCAA XC Championships.

And during the 2021 NCAA Winter XC Championships?

They secured a runner-up team finish with six individual All-Americans.

Carlson has also produced countless individual superstars on the track, specifically Yared Nuguse and Dylan Jacobs.

Nuguse, an Indiana native, quickly became one of the most feared milers in the NCAA, ultimately running 3:34 for 1500 meters which briefly gave him the collegiate record before it was broken by Eliud Kipsang.

Nuguse also ran a collegiate record of 7:38.13 in the indoor 3000 meters this past winter, barely breaking Alistair Cragg's old record of 7:38.59.

And if that wasn't enough, Nuguse also qualified for the Tokyo Olympics in the 1500 meters.

Other standout stars include Dylan Jacobs who has run a jaw-dropping time of 13:14 for the indoor 5000 meters, a mark which currently sits at NCAA #4 all-time. He also just won the 10k national title at the most recent NCAA Outdoor Championships, taking down heavy favorite Abdi Nur in the process.

Carlson also developed former DePauw standout Samuel Voelz who ultimately ran 1:45 for 800 meters at the most recent Olympic Trials.

And to cap it all off, Carlson recently had two runners in the 800 meters, one runner in 5000 meters, four runners in the 10,000 meters and one runner in the steeplechase qualify for the outdoor national meet -- none of which were Yared Nuguse.

Notre Dame has also become a juggernaut in the distance medley relay, earning numerous top-three finishes at the indoor national meet and winning the DMR national title in 2019.

However, maybe the most underappreciated aspect of Carlson's resume is his ability to recruit. Since taking over as the men's distance coach in South Bend, Carlson has assembled some of the best collections of young high school talent in recent memory.

For perspective, the Notre Dame men were given a top-10 distance recruiting class ranking by The Stride Report three times in the sites' five-year history.

Twice they were ranked at TSR #1.

And when you look at this year's Notre Dame recruiting class, there is a good possibility that they could be TSR #1 yet again.


bottom of page