Tennessee softball: Ralph Weekly retires as one of greatest builders in Vols history

Tennessee co-head coach Ralph Weekly walks off the field after a Lady Vols softball game against Arkansas at Sherri Parker Lee stadium on University of Tennessee's campus in Knoxville Sunday, March 24, 2019. The Lady Vols defeated Arkansas. Soft0323 4076
Tennessee co-head coach Ralph Weekly walks off the field after a Lady Vols softball game against Arkansas at Sherri Parker Lee stadium on University of Tennessee's campus in Knoxville Sunday, March 24, 2019. The Lady Vols defeated Arkansas. Soft0323 4076 /
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After 20 years as co-head coach of the Tennessee softball program, Ralph Weekly is retiring. His wife, Karen Weekly, who has served as co-head coach with him, will take over the sole coaching duties for the program now.

Weekly has won 949 games with the Lady Vols and made seven College World Series appearances. His accomplishments include one SEC regular season championship and two SEC Tournament championships.

The highlight of Weekly’s tenure was during the Monica Abbott years in the mid-2000s. In 2007, Tennessee softball was one game away from capturing the College World Series championship. Twice, in 2007 and 2013, his teams were Women’s College World Series Runner-Ups.

Despite never capturing a national title on Rocky Top, Weekly is arguably one of the greatest program builders in school history. Sure, the program made one NCAA Tournament appearance before his arrival, back in 1999, but Weekly, along with his wife, helped to turn UT in to a program that gets disappointed if it doesn’t make the Women’s College World Series.

Very few coaches reset expectations like that on Rocky Top for the long-term. Only Robert Neyland and Pat Summitt have a case for doing so at a higher level than Weekly, and football saw elite success before Neyland’s arrival (see 1914 and 1916). In terms of building a program, he is on that level, and that is something to celebrate on its own.

Even great coaches in other sports like Ray Mears in men’s basketball didn’t redefine the program to the level that Weekly did, although Mears is the only other coach who comes close. With 15 All-Americans and a National College Player of the Year winner in Abbott, Weekly pretty much did everything but win a national title with the Lady Vols.

Going forward, the program should still thrive with Karen Weekly at the helm. She has been just as much a part of its success as her husband has, and Tennessee softball is likely to remain a national powerhouse for years to come.

Before UT, Ralph Weekly was with the Chattanooga Mocs from 1995 to 1998 and then in 2001, where he and Karen Weekly also served as co-head coaches, and he was with the Pacific Lutheran Lutes from 1986 to 1994. During those years, he was the sole head coach, and Karen Weekly played for him there in 1986 and 1987.

Next. Five things happening Vols' last CWS trip. dark

At Chattanooga, Weekly finished with a record of 191-88 with four Southern Conference Titles in five seasons, and at Pacific Lutheran, he went 310-93 with eight straight Northwest Conference championships and two NAIA national championships. Adding in his Tennessee softball run, he finishes with a career record 1,450-481-2.