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July 15, 2010
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State Director of Athletics Tim Curley has announced the hiring of Jeff Thompson, formerly of Auburn University, as head coach of the Nittany Lion women's gymnastics program. The two-time SEC Coach of the Year will serve as the ninth head coach in program history. Thompson's wife, Rachelle, will join the Nittany Lion family as the associate head coach.
"We are so excited to welcome Jeff, Rachelle and their family to Penn State to lead our women's gymnastics program," said Curley. "Jeff has been very successful in his time at Auburn, as well as at the club level. His leadership and dedication to the sport of gymnastics will make a positive impression on our student-athletes. I'm extremely pleased to have Jeff and Rachelle join the Penn State staff and lead our women's gymnastics program."
"Rachelle and I have never been more excited in our lives," said Thompson. "During our visit this week, we were overwhelmed by the history, tradition and overall integrity of the Penn State athletic department. The amount of support that the athletic programs receive at Penn State is second to none. Tim Curley and his staff made us feel as if we were part of the family from the moment we stepped off the plane. We look forward to beginning our new lives as Penn Staters and also to developing relationships with all of the alumni. Penn State has a long and storied history and we look forward to doing our part in the writing of the next chapter in the gymnastics record book."
In 11 years as the head of the Auburn University women's gymnastics program, Thompson was named the SEC Coach of the Year and NCAA Regional Head Coach of the Year in 2003 and 2008. Most recently, he became the first head coach at Auburn to be awarded the "Above and Beyond" award in 2009. Despite facing stiff competition in the SEC, Thompson's teams improved each year. The Tigers have qualified for NCAA Regionals eight consecutive years and have been the No. 2 seed twice in the past three years. As a coaching team, the Thompsons have worked diligently to improve attendance at their home meets, growing it an average of more than 5,500 this past season.
In 2010, Thompson coached his team to upset victories against then No. 8 Arkansas and No. 12 Kentucky. In addition, the Tigers defeated then No. 8 and five-time defending National Champion Georgia for the first time in program history.
Prior to arriving at Auburn, Thompson was the assistant coach at Louisiana State University from 1994-99 and was the Junior Olympic Program Director at the Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy in Fairfield, Ohio from 1993-94. Thompson also held assistant coaching positions at two Big Ten institutions, Illinois and Wisconsin, as well as serving as a graduate assistant coach at Kentucky.
Thompson earned a Bachelor of Arts in Education with an emphasis in Physical Education from Kentucky in 1985. He went on to receive a Master of Science in Biomechanics in 1995.
Rachelle joined the Auburn staff in 1999 as a choreographer and volunteer coach before being promoted to assistant coach in 2002 and associate head coach in 2006. Her responsibilities include, but are not limited to, handling coaching beam and floor, choreographing beam and floor routines, managing all meet contracts, scheduling community service projects, recruiting, handling travel arrangements and the budget. She is a two-time Auburn University Assistant Coach of the Year and was selected the 2008 NACGC/W Central Region Assistant Coach of the Year.
Prior to joining the Tiger staff, Rachelle was a choreographer and volunteer coach at LSU for six years and at Illinois from 1992-93.
Rachelle attended LSU and was a three-time NCAA All-American gymnast. She was a finalist for the American Award honoring the Top Five Senior Gymnasts, as well as a finalist for the Honda-Broderick Cup.
As a coaching team at Auburn, the Thompsons have produced four NCAA All-Americans, four All-SEC team members, three SEC Gymnast of the Year winners and one SEC Freshman of the Year. They have coached nine NCAA Championship individual qualifiers and four NCAA Regional Event Champions.
Their gymnasts have also excelled in the classroom and in the community in their 11 years with the program. There has been three SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year winners, three CoSIDA/ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District members, 41 NACGC/W Academic All-Americans and 53 SEC Academic Honor Roll selections.
The Thompsons have two sons, Parker (14) and Griffin (12).