MARTIN (February 18) – Following a quarter-century of established dominance in the realm of collegiate rodeo, University of Tennessee at Martin head coach John Luthi will retire at the end of the 2021-22 season.
Hired to lead the UT Martin rodeo program in 1997, Luthi developed the Skyhawks into a powerhouse in the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association. His hard work came to fruition during the 2013-14 season when the UT Martin men became the first collegiate squad located east of the Mississippi River to win a national championship rodeo team title.
“There is no doubt that Coach Luthi has earned his retirement,” Skyhawk athletic director Kurt McGuffin said. “John is one of the most tireless workers I have ever been around in my 20-plus years in collegiate athletics and he carried that persona into his tenure as a head coach here. He built a true team culture centered around positive life choices that has left a lasting impact on his student-athletes forever. Anybody who knows Coach Luthi knows how much of a family man he is and we wish him many years of rest and relaxation with his wife Diane and daughter Katelyn.”
Under Luthi’s direction, the UT Martin men’s program tallied 14 Ozark Region championships and finished with a top-10 national ranking on eight different occasions since 2005. Additionally, he oversaw the UT Martin women’s team who accounted for five Ozark Region titles in his tenure.
“Words cannot express how fortunate and blessed I have been to serve as the UT Martin head rodeo coach for 25 years,” Luthi said. “Back in 1997, the search committee took a chance on a cowboy from Kansas to lead this special program and I am forever indebted to them for bringing me to this wonderful community. There are many people behind the success of the UT Martin rodeo program and my wife and I would like to thank all of our student-athletes and the rodeo booster club for the memories we will cherish on a daily basis. After 41 years as a collegiate head coach, I thank God for the opportunities but I feel it is time to turn the page.”
The 2013 NIRA Coach of the Year, Luthi helped UT Martin extend its streak of 46 College National Finals Rodeo appearances in 47 years. He coached 2010 national bull riding champion Jeff Askey, who is among the dozens of student-athletes who went on to compete professionally following their UT Martin days.
Luthi also helped produce and promote one of the best events in the nation in the UT Martin Annual Spring College Rodeo, which takes place at the Ned Ray McWherter Agricultural Pavilion every April. The event has been named the Ozark Region’s “Rodeo of the Year” 13 times in the span of 14 years.
A Gridley, Kansas, native, Luthi came to UT Martin from Fort Scott Community College, where he was the head coach of the rodeo program from 1981-97 and also served as an assistant athletics director during his final three years.
As a member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association from 1978-90, Luthi was a five-time Prairie Circuit qualifier in bareback riding and a three-time qualifier in bull riding. He won 15 all-around saddles during his sterling 22-year career as a contestant.
McGuffin anticipates high interest in the UT Martin rodeo head coaching gig, as the job will officially be posted within the next week.
“We will be thorough in the search process to find our new head rodeo coach,” McGuffin said. “Our track record here at UT Martin speaks for itself. The next head coach has some big shoes to fill but we look forward to identifying the right person for the job to help sustain our high level of success.”