Jim “Tup” Tuppeny had a tremendous impact on the sport of track & field as the head coach at the University of Pennsylvania from 1966-79 and as director of the Penn Relays from 1970-87.
Tuppeny began his coaching career as an assistant to USTFCCCA Hall of Famer “Jumbo” Elliott at Villanova in 1953. In 1966, he accepted the head track & field and cross country position at the University of Pennsylvania.
Tuppeny’s Quakers were dominant and, at times, practically unbeatable. From 1966-69, his outdoor teams defeated 52 straight opponents. In one ten year span, the Quakers won every dual and triangular meet in which they competed. Penn’s teams won seven straight Heptagonal championships under Tuppeny, and in 1972, the Quakers won their first IC4A outdoor title in 52 years. Tuppeny’s indoor squads were equally successful, winning Penn’s first indoor Heptagonal title in 1971 and the school’s first indoor IC4A title in 41 years in 1972, with a 54-20 dual-meet record over Tuppeny’s tenure.
Perhaps Tuppeny’s greatest contributions to the sport came through his work as the director of the Penn Relays. In his 18 seasons as the Relays director, Tuppeny attracted thousands of new fans and competitors by re-introducing the decathlon after a 40 year hiatus, adding a marathon, and in 1978, dedicating a full day to women’s events. Participants increased from 6,000 to 9,000 during his tenure. Tuppeny also hosted the NCAA track & field championship in 1976 and coached the U.S. team at the World University games in 1979.
Tuppeny also served as President of the track coaches association from 1980-81. In recognition of his accomplishments, he was inducted into the Penn Athletics Hall of Fame in 1998.