UT and men’s tennis coach Sam Winterbotham part ways

UT and men’s tennis coach Sam Winterbotham part ways

By Jimmy Hyams

Sam Winterbotham, who led the Tennessee men’s tennis team to two SEC Championships and one NCAA finals berth, has parted ways with the university after 11 seasons with one year remaining on his contract, according to sources.

Winterbotham was scheduled to meet with newly hired athletic director John Currie and associate athletic director Dara Worrell, who oversees tennis, today around 3 p.m.

Chris Woodruff, UT assistant or associate men’s coach since 2002, was named interim head coach, sources said. Woodruff, a Knoxville native, won the 1993 NCAA singles championship, the only Vol to accomplish that feat.

Winterbotham, 43, had one year left on a contract that paid him $180,000, with incentives that could have exceeded $200,000. That ranks among the top half of the SEC among tennis coaches.

Winterbotham, hired from Colorado in 2006, had a 217-104 record at Tennessee. In 2010-11, his teams went 21-1 in SEC play.

However, the past two seasons, the program has slipped significantly. In SEC play, UT was 0-12 last year and 3-9 this year (13-14 overall). The Vols won a first-round match in the SEC tournament each of the past two years before being eliminated.

Winterbotham, a native of England, played collegiately at Oklahoma Christian (1996-99) where he was a four-time NAIA All-American and ranked No. 1 in the NAIA. He was also his conference player of the year in soccer in 1999.

He was an assistant at Baylor before taking over at Colorado (2002-06). Many of the players he recruited at Baylor helped the Bears win the 2004 national title.

Winterbotham is the lone UT coach to win back-to-back SEC titles (2010-11) in men’s tennis. He also won one SEC Tournament title (2010). He coached 18 All-Americans and 26 All-SEC players. Three singles players and three doubles teams were ranked No. 1 in the nation.

He was named SEC coach of the year in 2008 and 2010 and ITA national coach of the year in 2013. His doubles team of Hunter Reese and Mikelis Libietis won the school’s second NCAA doubles title in 2014. That duo also won the Knoxville Challenger in 2014.

He had two singles players reach the NCAA final and two other doubles team make it to the title match.

Winterbotham’s focus seemed to be diverted several years ago when one of his players, Sean Karl died of cancer Nov. 17, 2014. UT’s indoor center court is named after Karl.

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