first_imgABILENE – Abilene Christian will have separate head coaches for its men’s and women’s tennis teams for the first time in school history starting with the upcoming 2018-19 season.Hutton Jones, who stepped into the role of head tennis coach during the summer of 1996, will remain in charge of the men’s team, while John Walker – his trusted assistant of 15 years – will take the reigns of a highly successful women’s program that has experienced only three losing seasons through 43 years of competition.”I’m extremely honored to receive this promotion,” said Walker, whose ACU career as an assistant coach dates back to 2003,” and I look forward to upholding the rich tradition of character and leadership of the coaches who have led this program in the past.”I’m also excited for the challenge of leading my team against the best in the country, and doing that in a way that glorifies God on and off the court of play.”Walker will be only the sixth head women’s tennis coach at ACU. Cleddy Varner coached Wildcat tennis from 1974 to 76, but didn’t mentor the women’s team until his final season. Cecil Eager’s first stint as head coach lasted from 1977 to 1983, and again served in this role between 1986 and 1990 prior to his being named ACU’s Director of Athletics. Allen Tappe coached the Wildcats in 1984 and 1985, while Ron Elston was in charge from 1991 through 1996.”In essence, John Walker has been a head coach for a long time,” said Jones. “He’s been my men’s and women’s assistant head coach for about 15 or so years and always was given head coach responsibilities. It’s truly ‘another day at the office’ for John and he’s going to do great!”Walker joined Jones’ staff prior to the 2003-04 season and since then the Wildcats have posted an overall program record of 643-251 (.719) with the women’s team responsible for 355 of those victories. This era of Wildcat tennis additionally includes 17 trips to the NCAA Division II championship tournament, 22 All-Americas and close to a dozen conference players of the year.ACU tennis continued to excel straight into Southland Conference competition. The women have a league record of 40-16 (.714) since joining in 2014, while the men are 16-10 (.615) and claim a share of the 2017 regular season crown. The Wildcats also have combined to earn 42 individual All-Southland Conference citations over the past five seasons with specialty awards presented to Josh and Jon Sheehy (Freshman of the Year) and Hunter Holman (Newcomer of the Year).”We always want to give our programs every opportunity to succeed at the highest level,” said ACU’s Interim Director of Athletics Drew Long, “and it became clear that John was ready to manage his own team after serving as both an assistant coach and associate head coach for several years. It was a natural fit for him to take over the women’s tennis team.  “Coach Walker and Coach Jones work extremely well together and this move provides both programs with the individual attention that’s required to excel at the Division I level,” added Long. “Hutton has done a tremendous job as the leader of the ACU tennis program both on and off the court and we believe he and John together will continue to elevate the Wildcats.”A five-time ITA South Central Region Assistant Coach of the Year, Walker earned a bachelor’s degree in pre-med and elementary education from ACU in 1989. He later graduated from the Parker College of Chiropractic in 1994.Walker worked at four country clubs as either the assistant tennis pro or the head tennis pro prior to his time at ACU, including eight years (1995-2003) as the assistant pro at the Abilene Country Club followed by one year as the head tennis pro at the Odessa Country Club.Walker and his wife, Kelli, have three children, Jaclyn, Madelyn and Erin. Jaclyn was a three-year all-America for the Wildcats from 2009-11, while Madelyn played two seasons from 2010-12. Erin – a three-time high school state qualifier – won the singles and doubles crowns at the 2015 Ojai Valley Tournament.Following today’s announcement, three Southland institutions employ separate head coaches for their men’s and women’s tennis programs: ACU, Lamar and Incarnate Word. Steve Moore serves as the Director of Tennis at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and has associate head coaches for the Islanders’ men’s and women’s teams, while New Orleans and Nicholls maintain one head coach for both their squads.Central Arkansas, Houston Baptist, McNeese, Northwestern State, Sam Houston State, Southeastern Louisiana and Stephen F. Austin do not sponsor men’s tennis.ACU’s men’s tennis became an organized sport on campus in 1927, and its list of head coaches prior to the program’s arrival in the Lone Star Conference includes notables such as Guy A. Scruggs (1928, 1949-54), Dalton Hill (1929-31), J.W. Treat (1932-42, 1955), Garvin Beauchamp (1947-48), Dwain Hart (1956-58 and 1961-71) Dee Nutt (1959-60). The Wildcats’ John T.L. Jones Jr. Tennis Building is nearing completion, and Long expects the project to be done in the next 14-17 days. Watch this video for more information on ACU’s newest athletic facility.last_img