The University of Tennessee announced Wednesday that Lady Vols' softball coach Ralph Weekly is calling it a career after 35 seasons of coaching. He and his wife Karen Weekly have served as co-coaches for the Tennessee softball program for most of its existence, first suiting up in 2002.
Tennessee also announced it has extended Karen Weekly’s current coaching contract, making her the solo head coach of Lady Vols softball through the 2025 season.
“With Karen Weekly continuing to lead our program, we are uniquely positioned to maintain the winning tradition that she and Ralph have worked so hard to establish,” Tennessee Athletic Director Danny White said. “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.”
To say Ralph Weekly’s career at Tennessee was a success is an understatement. Weekly boasts a 1450-481-2 record across 35 years of coaching, including 20 years at Tennessee following short stints at Pacific Lutheran and Chattanooga. He is fourth all-time among NCAA softball coaches in career wins and is the winningest coach in the history of Tennessee athletics behind only the illustrious Pat Summitt. Naturally, he was inducted into the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2011.
Before the duo’s arrival in 2002, Tennessee softball had seen the postseason just once and been outscored 24-2 by opponents across two losses to Cal State Fullerton and Washington. Weekly wasted no time in turning Tennessee, a program struggling to find an identity in the SEC, into a national powerhouse seemingly overnight.
The Weekly’s turned zero postseason wins before 2002 into an astounding 78 wins just 20 seasons later. Tennessee missed the NCAA tournament only twice during Weekly’s tenure as co-coach and features an active streak of 18 straight appearances since 2004. The Lady Vols have picked up at least one win in each of those appearances.
Most of those teams saw a lot more than just a single win. Weekly helped lead the Lady Vols to seven Women’s College World Series appearances at Tennessee, finishing as national runner-up twice in 2007 and 2013.
The 2007 team was especially dominant, finishing 63-8 for a school record win percentage of .887 before eventually falling to Arizona in the championship series.
The Weekly’s pride themselves not only on their team’s final record, but the standard to which they hold their players. 38 Lady Vols have earned All-America recognitions, 93 have been selected for All-SEC awards, and 14 have been drafted to compete in professional fastpitch softball.
“He was a champion for sport, the sport of softball, and the sport of female athletes,” former Tennessee pitcher Monica Abbott said of Weekly. “He saw the value in women’s sports and pushing the game further and further ahead to where we see it today.”
Weekly left a lasting impact outside of the Tennessee softball program as well. He retired from the United States Air Force in 1986, having been the commander of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations at McChord Air Force base in Washington, D.C.
Weekly won a pair of Gold medals with Team USA softball in the 1996 and 2000 Olympic games while also serving as the director of US National Teams from 1999-2002. His teams won gold medals in all 15 events in which they competed.
“I have had a fulfilling life as a father, husband, student, soldier, special agent, teacher and coach,” Ralph Weekly said. “In every endeavor, I have been surrounded by amazing people whose talents allowed me to succeed and made me a better person.
“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."