Jeff Thompson enters his 11th season as the head coach of the Auburn gymnastics program. Under the tutelage of Thompson, the Tigers have appeared in seven consecutive NCAA Regional Championships and one NCAA Championship. Thompson has coached five regional champions and six individuals to nine NCAA Championships appearances. The accomplishments of Thompson's gymnasts have twice earned him SEC Coach of the Year and Central Region Coach of the Year honors. Thompson will lead 13 returning gymnasts from 2009 and brings six new faces to the Auburn program for the upcoming season.
In 2009, Thompson guided the Tigers to their seventh-consecutive NCAA Regional Championship after compiling a 11-13 overall mark and an even 3-3 record in SEC competition. Auburn placed fifth at the SEC Championships, where for the second time in Thompson's tenure the Tigers scored higher than 196 with a score of 196.350. The mark was the highest score the Tigers have scored at the meet with Thompson at the helm of the program. After being ranked as high as fourth in the nation near the start of the season, and in the top-10 for the first nine weeks of the season, his Tigers closed out the season ranked 11th in the country after a fourth place finish at the NCAA West Regional.
The 2008 campaign saw Auburn's gymnastics history turn another page with awards garnered, records shattered and a return to the NCAA Regional Championships. Highlighting the season was star-studded senior Julie Dwyer as she became the first gymnast in the program's 34-year history to qualify for a fourth-straight NCAA Championships appearance. Junior Lindsey Puckett was named Central Region Gymnast of the Year in 2007, SEC Gymnast of the Year in 2006 and SEC Freshman of the Year in 2005. Dwyer holds the current top score in Auburn history on vault and all-around and she also ranks among Auburn's top-10 all-time on beam and floor. Outside of the gym, Dwyer was a four-time academic All-American, four-time member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll and was named 2007 SEC Scholar Athlete of the Year.
During the 2007 season, Thompson guided Auburn to a season-high national ranking of 13th and a third-place finish at the NCAA Northeast Regional. The Tigers posted wins over nationally-ranked teams of Missouri (18) and Kentucky (25). Thompson's squad registered the then-team record on vault with a 49.400 against Illinois-Chicago. Throughout the season the squad contributed to Auburn's records twice more on vault, once on bars and registered a team high score against Kentucky.
The 2006 campaign saw Thompson's Tigers consistently ranked among the top-15 nationally in each event and cracked into the nation's top-10 ranked squads at ninth. Auburn won the Hearts Invitational and took fourth at the NCAA Northeast Regional. Dwyer and Puckett advanced to the NCAA Championships in the all-around and vault, respectively, with Dwyer earning All-American accolades.
Auburn just missed qualifying for the national championships in 2005 at Thompson's third-straight trip to the NCAA Regional Championship. The Tigers still advanced four individuals to the NCAA Championships. Highlighting the NCAA Championships was Dwyer, who was a freshman, earning All-American honors on the vault. Dwyer joined Courtney Puckett (2003) as the second All-American under Thompson.
Prior to Thompson's arrival as Auburn's fourth all-time coach in 2000, the Tigers had finished a dismal 3-14 and last in the Southeastern Conference.
In just three seasons, Thompson was selected as SEC Coach of the Year in 2003, after taking the Tigers to the NCAA Championships for the first time since 1993. Courtney Puckett became the first All-American gymnast under Thompson with a seventh-place finish on bars. That same season, Thompson was tabbed as the co-Central Region Coach of the Year after the Tigers placed second at the NCAA Central Regional Championship.
In 10 years at Auburn, Thompson's gymnasts have set all-time team highs in the vault (49.50 - 2008), uneven bars (49.50 - 2000), balance beam (49.60 - 2004), floor (49.60 - 2004) and total score (197.00 - 2004). In the 34 seasons of Auburn gymnastics, all 10 of the highest scores, events and team, in school history have come in the Thompson era.
Individually, Thompson's gymnasts have forever engraved their names into the Auburn record book. In all five individual events, at least four of the top-five all-time scores have come under Thompson. He has coached three gymnasts, Sarah Wentworth (bars - 2000), Sally Cantrell (beam - 2002) and Rachael Tarantino (beam - 2004) to the ultimate score of a perfect 10.
Thompson's work might begin in the gym, but it continues outside of competition. Thompson places a heavy emphasis in the classroom, which is why he produces true student-athletes. Thompson has had 36 Academic All-Americans, 46 gymnasts named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll, two SEC Scholar-Athletes of the Year and two NCAA Woman of the Year nominees. He has also coached two Leah Rawls Atkins Award winners, the highest honor for an Auburn female athlete and two H. Boyd McWhorter Scholarship nominees.
Thompson's coaching career began at his alma mater in 1986 as a graduate assistant at Kentucky, a position he held through the 1989 season. He later coached at Wisconsin and Illinois and then became Junior Olympic Program Director at the Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy in 1993. Thompson became an assistant at LSU in 1994 before coming to Auburn in 1999.
A native of Highland Heights, Ky., Thompson played rugby at Kentucky before graduating with a bachelor's degree in physical education in 1986, and earned his master's degree in biomechanics in 1995 from UK.
Thompson is married to the former Rachelle Fruge of Baton Rouge, La. The couple resides in Auburn with their two children, Parker, (14) and Griffin (12).