Few coaches prepared their athletes for success across every level of competition as much as Dan Pfaff has in a career that has spanned into a fourth decade.
In 30 years as a collegiate coach at Houston, UTEP, LSU, Texas, and Florida, Pfaff stockpiled championships and All-America honors. Athletes that were directly coached by Pfaff combined for 29 NCAA individual titles, more than 150 All-America honors, and a slew of collegiate records. Those same athletes helped their teams to NCAA glory as well, as 17 teams Pfaff assisted won NCAA titles.
Pfaff began his coaching career in 1976 at Carlisle Senior High School in Ohio after graduating from Wright State with a degree in science education. He spent three years in the Buckeye State before joining the staff at the University of Houston as a graduate assistant, which is where he’d get a master’s of education in sports science.
It didn’t take long for Pfaff to move up the ladder. Three years later, Pfaff was an assistant coach at Wichita State and two years after that, he took over the only collegiate head coaching position of his career with the UTEP women’s track & field team.
Pfaff soon moved to Baton Rouge, where his career took off. As the head field events coach at LSU from 1985 to 1995, Pfaff helped the Tigers win 17 NCAA team titles. LSU’s women were particularly dominant between those years as they captured 15 of those crowns themselves.
The Lone Star State was next for Pfaff as he spent eight years as an assistant at the University of Texas. From 1995 to 2003, Pfaff helped turn the Longhorn men into a perennial power.
Pfaff made a one-year stop at the University of Florida in 2006 before turning his attention to coaching professionals, who have been sublime at the international level.
He guided 33 athletes to the Olympic Games, who have won a total of 10 medals, including 1996 100-meter gold medalist Donovan Bailey of Canada and 2012 long jump gold medalist Greg Rutherford of Great Britain. Bailey is one of five Pfaff-coached athletes who have set world records under his direction.
In addition to coaching in 10 Olympic Games and 15 World Championships, Pfaff has lectured in 37 countries and has been published in more than 20 of those. He was appointed education curriculum chair for both the U.S. Track & Field Coaches Education Schools and the NACAC Caribbean Basin Project and is the lead instructor for each organization.