PIKEVILLE – The only coach the ultra-successful women’s bowling program at the University of Pikeville has ever known announced his retirement on Tuesday.
Ron Damron, who has led the women’s bowling team to the United States Bowling Congress’ Intercollegiate Team Championships – its national tournament – in all 15 season in which it was eligible, informed his team of his intentions at their postseason celebration on Tuesday afternoon.
“It’s been great getting to know the young people involved in our program,” he said. “It has been a pleasure watching them do the things they were supposed to do and become terrific adults. It has been my pleasure watching them develop over the years.”
Damron came to the university 25 years ago as the vice-president of student services and dean of students, and quickly became the director of athletics. In that role, he oversaw the massive growth of a program from five sports to more than 20, as well as opening the university’s first sports information office, in 13 years.
Among the sports he started was men’s bowling, which he coached for one season before adding women’s bowling. For two more seasons he coached both teams before settling in as coach of the women’s program.
In his time with the UPIKE women’s team, he led the Bears to four national championships. The first of those came in 2004 when Pikeville won the ITC title in Tulsa, Okla., with a 2.5-0.5 win over Wichita State (Kan.). In 2008, the Bears claimed another ITC championship by beating Wichita State again, this time in its home house in Wichita, winning two games to none.
Damron followed those titles by leading the Bears to NAIA championships in both 2012 and 2015.
As a result of those four titles, every player who has spent four seasons in the school’s women’s bowling program has been a part of a national title.
The Bears have made two other national-championship appearances, competing in the ITC finals in both 2013 and 2014.
Accolades have flown in for Damron himself, as he has been named USBC Coach of the Year four times – 2004, 2010, 2012 and 2015.
“Ron Damron has had an impact on our school that will never be forgotten, particularly in the athletics department,” said Robert Staggs, director of athletics. “In addition to the various roles he has played in and around our university, he has been a mentor to many of us who have been blessed to call him a colleague.
“Thankfully he is staying with the university, but he will definitely be missed by every coach employed at the University of Pikeville.”
Damron has coached 39 All-Americans in his time at UPIKE, including Kayla Bandy and Jennifer Wright, who were name national bowlers of the year. Bandy won that title two times. In addition, Wright won the 2008 Intercollegiate Singles Championship.
In addition to being bowling coach, Damron works in the university’s development office as director of planned giving, a role in which he will continue to serve.
A national search will begin immediately to find the next head coach of the UPIKE women’s bowling program.