A coaching legend at Northern Arizona since his arrival there in 1980, Mann guided the Lumberjacks to a combined 58 Big Sky Conference championships in cross country and track and field and 16 top ten NCAA finishes while producing 107 All-Americans, five Olympians and four individual national champions. He earned 57 league coach of the year awards.
"I think it's a great step for our track and field and cross country programs for both our men and women to be able to attract Ron to this university," said U of L Vice President and Director of Athletics Tom Jurich, who previously worked with Mann while serving first as an assistant athletic director and later as director at Northern Arizona from 1984-92. "He will bring this program instant credibility. Ron has a very decorated resume in which only a few could measure themselves against.
"It is incredibly important to me that we can attract a person of Ron's caliber," added Jurich. "We want the best coaches available. This demonstrates our commitment to excellence, confirms our commitment to track and field at U of L, and lays the foundation for us to be competitive as we move into the Big East Conference. I had the opportunity to work with Ron before and while his record and accolades speak for themselves, he is a better person than a coach. I know our community will find that out very soon."
In December, Mann had announced his retirement from NAU following completion of the 2004 season, when he was to devote his time to his new role as an assistant coach with the U.S. men's track and field team in preparation for the 2005 World Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Helsinki, Finland. He will remain on the coaching staff but will focus his efforts toward his new appointment at U of L.
His most recent All-America selections came in the 2004 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships where distance runners Travis Laird, Jinny Hanifan and Ida Nilsson -- who won the NCAA title in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and set the collegiate record in that event in the NCAA West Regional Championship -- earned national honors. The Lumberjacks had 15 athletes qualify in 22 events (men and women) for the NCAA regionals with seven advancing to the NCAA national meet.
In conference competition this season, the NAU men's and women's outdoor teams combined for 43 Big Sky all-conference peformances, including the championship in 14 events, as the women's team claimed the league championship and men's team finished as runner-up.
Last fall, Mann's NAU men's cross country team finished third in the nation while the women placed 15th as six athletes earned All-America honors. Both teams won Big Sky Conference titles.
Following his graduation from Northern Arizona in 1972, Mann began his coaching career as an assistant at Mesa (Ariz.) Community College and Phoenix (Ariz.) Sunnyslope High School, his prep alma mater. He returned to NAU in 1980 to lead the women's program and assumed the head coaching reins of both men's and women's programs in 1982. He is a three-time member of the NAU Athletics Hall of Fame as an individual in 1999 and previous as athlete and coach of two championship cross country teams. He served as head coach of the U.S. Junior National Team at the 1993 Pan American Games.
Married to the former Charlene Russell who hails from Corydon, Ind., Mann has three grown sons: Steve, Ryun and Brandon.