KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Tennessee softball co-head coach Ralph Weekly is retiring after a 35 year-career, including 20 leading the Lady Vols. Co-head coach Karen Weekly will continue to lead the Lady Vols program. She has agreed to a contract extension through June of 2025.
“He and Karen have built Tennessee softball into one of the top programs in all of college softball,” Tennessee athletics director Danny White said. “Ralph has given his all for Tennessee for more than two decades, and he certainly elevated the stature of our program in every facet during that span.
“And with Karen Weekly continuing to lead our program, we are uniquely positioned to maintain the winning tradition that she and Ralph have worked so long to establish. Karen’s passion for Lady Vols softball and developing strong young women remains fierce, and we’re excited to support her and her staff as they continue to pursue championships.”
Ralph Weekly has a 1,450-481-2 (.750) career record that includes stints at Pacific Lutheran (1986-94), Chattanooga (1995-98, 2001) and Tennessee (2002-2021). He is No. 4 all-time among NCAA softball coaches in career wins.
During his tenure at Tennessee, the Lady Vols have become one of the nation’s premier programs. UT has reached the postseason every year since 2004, hosted 16 straight NCAA Regionals, advanced to 11 Super Regionals and made seven trips to the Women’s College World Series, including two national runner-up finishes.
Tennessee won the 2007 SEC regular-season title and the SEC Tournament title in 2006 and 2011. Ralph was named SEC co-Coach of the Year with Karen in 2004 and 2007.
“I have worked every day since I entered the military at age 17,” Ralph Weekly said. “I have had a fulfilling life as a father, husband, student, soldier, special agent, teacher and coach. In every endeavor, I have been surrounded by amazing people whose talents allowed me to succeed and made me a better person.
“I thank (former Lady Vols athletic director) Joan Cronan for hiring us at Tennessee and allowing Karen and I to mentor and coach hundreds of wonderful young women. I was fortunate to work with many fantastic coaches and administrators, to include the legendary Pat Summitt.”
Under the Weeklys, Tennessee and the SEC reached new heights as the Lady Vols became the first SEC team to reach No. 1 in the polls, spending 11 consecutive weeks at the top during the 2007 season. That same season, UT became the first SEC program to reach the best-of-three NCAA Championship Series.
Between 2004 and 2013, Tennessee put together seven 50-win seasons, including three straight 60-plus-win campaigns in 2005, 2006 and 2007.
“I thank every player I ever coached for their commitment to excellence on and off the playing field,” Ralph said. “Each player, male or female, has a place in my heart. I will always be a VFL and cherish the memories I made at each stop.
“Most of all, I thank my family for their support, patience and counsel. Karen is the smartest person I have ever known. I know she will make Tennessee softball even greater and continue our quest for a national championship.”
Tennessee players have earned 38 All-America recognitions, 93 All-SEC or SEC All-Freshman selections and 75 National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-Region picks.
In addition to his time in collegiate softball, Ralph Weekly won a pair of gold medals with Team USA softball in the 1996 and 2000 Olympics. He also served as the Director of USA National Teams from 1999-2002, and coached Team USA in 15 international tournaments. His teams won gold medals in all 15 events, including four World Championships and two Pan-American championships.
“It has been one of the great privileges of my life to coach alongside my husband, Ralph,” Karen Weekly said. “He is a champion for women and has fought for equal opportunities for the young women he’s coached at every stop during his career. Not many people get to share this journey with their best friend and life partner – I consider myself incredibly blessed. We are fortunate that he will remain as a special adviser to our program and continue to impart his wisdom and experience to the future of Tennessee softball.”