JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Track & Field head coach David Needs has announced title changes to two of the program's staff members on Monday afternoon, effective immediately.
Eric Phillips and Tyler Stepp each will hold new and improved roles moving forward as Phillips now mans the Cross Country team as the head coach. Stepp has been named as the Associate Director for both Cross Country and Track & Field overseeing its daily operations, player development, and recruiting moving forward.
"I'm very excited for the next step for both of our coaches," Needs said. "Having been blessed with two dedicated assistant coaches who see the big picture, I am pleased to challenge them with an increased role in the program. Coach Stepp gives us unparalleled enthusiasm, knowledge, and a great understanding of what the programs need to be competitive at a national level. He has been someone I can count on for quite a while."
The Talbott, Tenn. native joined C-N's staff after spending time at the University of Tennessee and East Tennessee State University competing collegiately.
As a coach at Carson-Newman, Stepp was a major force in leading younger brother Tanner Stepp to All-American campaigns during all four seasons in Mossy Creek. Tanner Stepp has picked up the All-American hardware in every season, both indoor and outdoor, of his career to date while also holding program records in the men's high jump. Tanner earned the National Championship in the high jump during the 2017-18 indoor season.
"Very excited and thankful for this opportunity," Stepp said. "The business side of collegiate athletics is so competitive and it's always nice to see hard work rewarded. With it being my fifth season at C-N, my time here has been truly a blessing. I am excited to take this next step forward. I've worn almost every hat you can wear within the scope of a program from Graduate Assistant to recruiting coordinator, head cross country coach, and now the Associate Director of both programs. I am very excited to help continue to grow the program into the national championship contender we believe it will be."
Phillips was hired by Needs in March of 2018 as an assistant to the Cross Country program. He will also spend time as the distance coach for both the indoor and outdoor Track & Field seasons.
"In his short time here, Coach Phillips has helped us develop the distance runners who continue to keep getting better and better," Needs said. "He has a great understanding of what it takes to be an outstanding distance runner in both sports and that is what makes him very valuable to us here."
Phillips, a native of Saginaw, Michigan, joined the C-N family after spending two years with the University of Mary Marauders in Bismarck, North Dakota.
Since joining the University of Mary in the fall of 2016, Phillips assisted in coaching the Marauders to two NCAA DII National Champions, two NCAA DII National Runner-ups, 11 NCAA DII individual All-Americans, a Women's Distance Medley Relay All-American team, two NCAA DII Central Region Champions, 29 NCAA DII Central Region All-Region Performers, 11 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Champions, 43 NSIC All-Conference Performers, 19 NCAA DII Academic All-Americans, five NCAA DII All-Academic Team Awards and 48 NSIC Individual All-Academic Awards.
Phillips also assisted in coaching the 2017 NCAA DII Women's National Runner-up Team as well as the 2018 NCAA DII Women's Indoor Track & Field 4th Place Team.
"Promoting Eric to head coach is something Coach Needs and I have been talking about for several weeks now," Stepp said. "We believe it is fitting that we do so before his teams compete in the upcoming South Atlantic Conference Championships and we believe that our teams will surprise a lot of people. We want his name written all over those teams as we think so highly of his work since he has arrived here. He has exceeded the very high expectations we already had set for him and I'm very proud of what he has done and will continue to do for this University."
"As far as my short time being here, coach Needs and coach Stepp have been instrumental in terms of my growth and making the transition into taking over the program," Phillips said. "Their support has been huge. They have allowed me to continue to help this team grow and they give me the freedom to do what is necessary and I couldn't ask for anything more. I like what we have done already in my time here and I can't wait to see what we have as we move forward. I am appreciated of the opportunity and will continue to pursue the ultimate goal of winning championships. We have an amazing group of young men and women who are willing to work hard and trust in each other as we continue to move forward."
The Cross Country SAC Championship is slated for Nov. 3 and will take place in Spartanburg, S.C. The Indoor Track & Field season will begin the first week of December.