John Mitchell coached at the University of Alabama from 1969 to 1986 and held the men’s and women’s head position at the University of Georgia from 1989-99. He won four SEC team titles and was the conference indoor and outdoor coach of the year in 1995. Mitchell coached such collegiate greats as Calvin Smith, Pauline Davis, Jeff Woodward, Thomas McCants, and Debbie Ferguson.
Mitchell graduated from Cal State Los Angeles and began his coaching career at Warren High School in Downey (CA) in 1958. His first collegiate job was at Kansas from 1965-69, where he served as an assistant specializing in the jumps. After four years in Lawrence, Mitchell was named the head men’s coach at Alabama in 1969.
At Alabama, Mitchell’s men broke Tennessee’s stranglehold on the SEC indoor title by capturing the 1972 conference championship. Tennessee had won eight straight SEC indoor titles. Mitchell also led Alabama to the SEC outdoor championship in 1980.
In 1986, Mitchell left coaching to accept an assistant athletic director’s position at George Mason. After two years at George Mason, he returned to coaching at Georgia.
In his eleven years at Georgia, Mitchell led the men’s team to five top-10 finishes in the NCAA Outdoor Championships. Mitchell also helped elevate the Georgia women to a new level of excellence, guiding them to a third-place finish at the 1995 NCAA Outdoor Championships and a runner-up finish at the 1996 NCAA indoor meet.
He received five SEC Coach of the Year honors during his tenure at both Alabama and Georgia. In 1992 he was inducted into the Drake Relays Hall of Fame for his reputation and stature as a coach and ambassador for the sport of track & field.