LADY VOL GOLD MEDALIST DEE DEE TROTTER TO PURSUE PRO TRACK CAREER
400-Meter School Record-Holder Will Forego Collegiate Eligibility But Finish Degree At UT
Sept. 15, 2004
Following in the footsteps of former Vol sprinter and 2004 U.S. Olympic 100-meter dash gold medalist Justin Gatlin, University of Tennessee track & field standout Dee Dee Trotter has signed a professional contract and is foregoing her remaining collegiate eligibility. The record-setting Lady Vol 400-meter speedster made the announcement Wednesday afternoon in a press conference at the Neyland-Thompson Sports Complex.
Trotter, a 2004 gold medalist in her own right after logging a 49.19 leadoff leg for the victorious U.S. 4x400m relay unit in Athens, Greece, ends her three-year tenure with the Big Orange after a highly-successful junior season. She is the initial Lady Vol track & field athlete to opt for a professional career versus concluding her eligibility, mirroring the early departure of Gatlin, who turned pro after his sophomore season in 2002. The only other UT female athlete who has “left school” early for the pro ranks is believed to be Stacy Martin, a tennis phenom who departed Knoxville as an All-American following a 34-3 freshman singles campaign in 1988-89.
In addition to sending the United States on its way to winning its third-straight Olympic 4x400-meter relay gold, Trotter lowered her UT-record time in her specialty event to 50.00 as she finished fifth individually in the open 400-meter final in Athens. She is the first Lady Vol track & field underclass performer to strike gold at an Olympiad and only the second UT woman ever to claim a first-place medal on the track, following the example of 1984 100-meter hurdles gold-winner Benita Fitzgerald.
Trotter, who was the 2004 NCAA Outdoor 400-meter champ and the third-place finisher in that event at the U.S. Olympic Trials, concludes her stellar UT stay with outdoor school records in the 400 meters (50.00), 4x400-meter relay (3:28.49) and sprint medley relay (3:41.78), the later of which is also an American collegiate record. The Decatur, Ga., product also owns indoor UT marks in the 200 meters (23.19) and 400 meters (51.29) as well as with the 4x400-meter (3:31.49) and distance medley (11:03.42) relays. She helped the distance medley unit claim the 2004 NCAA Indoor title, the school’s first ever in that event.
In addition to the individual acclaim that was bestowed upon Trotter, a graduate of suburban Atlanta’s Cedar Grove High School, the Lady Vol program was a direct beneficiary of her prowess. Under the direction of Head Coach J.J. Clark, the UT women ascended back into the company of track & field’s elite programs, registering finishes of fourth and seventh at the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championships in 2004. Trotter’s contributions to that end were certainly evident, as she scored in three events indoors and provided major points in two events outdoors, most notably her national title in the 400 meters.
An eight-time All-American and the 2004 AOPi/Lady Vol Athlete of the Year, Trotter is on target to complete her degree in sociology/criminal justice in May. She will remain in Knoxville to complete her course work and continue to train with third-year Lady Vol sprint coach Caryl Smith.
Trotter, who wore adidas apparel and shoes as a Lady Vol, has signed with adidas and will compete under that affiliation. She is represented by Global Athletics & Marketing, which is based in Boston, Mass.
FROM Dee Dee Trotter:
"It has been a dream come true to be a Lady Vol. In three years, I have accomplished so many wonderful things, and none of those would have been possible had it not been for this amazing university.
"There are so many people that played important roles in my academic and athletic success, and it is because of their knowledge and guidance that I have the confidence and ability to pursue track on a professional level.
“I want to thank my coach, Caryl Smith, for believing in me; Head Coach J.J. Clark, for being my guiding light; all of my teammates, for their unconditional support; and most of all, the University of Tennessee, for making being a Lady Vol such an honor, pleasure and a blessing. Go Lady Vols!”
FROM LADY VOL HEAD TRACK & FIELD COACH J.J. Clark:
“Dee Dee has made a decision to leave, and the timing is right for her to go at this time. She has meant a lot to our program during her three years here, and she’ll be greatly missed. With the talent she possesses, the determination she has and the tenacity with which she trains and competes, I certainly look for her to have a great professional career.”
FROM LADY VOL ASSISTANT COACH Caryl Smith, WHO WORKS WITH TROTTER ON A DAILY BASIS AS HER EVENT COACH:
"Dee Dee has taken the UT standard to a new level. She has helped our program tremendously by becoming an SEC and NCAA champion, an Olympic finalist in the 400 meters and a gold medalist with the 4x400-meter relay.
"While she will not be wearing orange next spring, we are proud that she has made the decision to complete her degree at the University of Tennessee. That’s is something that is very important to her, our coaching staff and the Lady Vol family.
“She’ll stay here and continue to train, and I look forward to her becoming an even greater track & field ambassador for UT and Knoxville. I’d like to see her develop into a world champion in the 400 meters as well as an Olympic gold medalist in that event in 2008.”
FROM UT WOMEN’S ATHLETICS DIRECTOR JOAN CRONAN:
“Dee Dee Trotter is an outstanding, person, an outstanding student and an outstanding athlete, and she has represented her country and the University of Tennessee in an exemplary manner. We will miss her contributions to our track & field program, but we certainly wish her well as she pursues a professional career. We are also proud of her commitment to remain on campus and finish up the academic requirements necessary to graduate from Tennessee.”