Tommy West
Tommy West

Gainesville, Ga.

Head Coach


Alma Mater:
Tennessee, 1976

Tommy West came to Memphis in 2000 as the defensive coordinator and a year later became the Tigers' 21st head football coach. In just eight seasons at the helm of the program, West has guided the U of M to five bowl game appearances in the last six years and is one of just two coaches in Tiger football history to win seven or more games a season in four years.

The Dean of Conference USA football coaches, West enters the 2009 season with a 47-51 record at Memphis, and ranks third all-time in total wins among Tiger leaders. He has led Memphis to four winning seasons in the last six years, and his squads averaged eight wins a season from 2003-05. In addition, West has coached teams in a bowl contest nine times in his 13 years as a Division I head coach.

The 2008 Tigers took some time to get rolling and found themselves in a 0-3 hole before the team turned things around and rolled off victories in five of its next seven games. The turnaround was enough for the Tigers to earn their fifth bowl invitation in six years. Memphis was one of just 12 teams nationally that opened with a 0-3 record, and only the Tigers and Rutgers finished strong enough for a bowl invite.

West and his squad participated in the inaugural magicJack St. Petersburg Bowl, and were among just 36 teams nationally who could claim five bowl appearances in the last six seasons.

Four Tigers earned All-C-USA honors in 2008, including Brandon Pearce and Clinton McDonald, who were both named to the first team. Curtis Steele earned second-team accolades as well as the distinction as the league's Newcomer of the Year. Ronald Leary was selected to the All-Freshman team.

As a team, the Tigers finished the season 22nd nationally in rushing offense and 26th in total offense. The squad also ranked in the top 10 nationally in fumbles lost, time of possession and first downs.

West led his 2007 Tigers through various adversities which included a rare weather postponement of the Arkansas State game which forced Memphis to play three games in 11 days; injuries to key starters on defense, particularly at linebacker; and the tragic death of a teammate that occurred just 48 hours before Memphis was to face Marshall at home on ESPN2 for a Tuesday night C-USA match-up.

And while the Tigers opened the year with a 1-3 record, it's the way that the team closed out the campaign that is sure to be remembered by most. Memphis began its climb to bowl eligibility with the emotionally-charged victory over Marshall, which proved West's squad would continue to fight despite the circumstances. The Tigers won six out of their last eight games en route to a bid to the 2007 R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl. Memphis defeated Southern Miss in Hattiesburg for the second-straight time, which was a first for the program, and the Tigers snapped a seven-game series losing streak with the win over UAB. The five-game turnaround from the previous season ranked the Tigers as the fourth-most improved team in the nation for 2007.

West led his 2007 squad to a 7-5 regular-season record and a 6-2 record in Conference USA. The six victories in C-USA action were the most ever for a Tiger team since Memphis began playing in the league in 1996.

Five players were selected to the All-Conference USA Team, including Andy Smith, Jake Kasser and Duke Calhoun. Additionally, Dominik Riley and Keenan Bratcher were named to the league's All-Freshman Team.

The Tiger offense paced the squad in 2007 and finished the season ranked in the top 25 nationally in several categories. Memphis ranked 13th in passing offense, 23rd in total offense, third in fumbles lost and 10th in sack denial. The Tiger defense also ranked 28th nationally in fumbles recovered and 39th in turnovers gained.

Injuries plagued the Tigers in 2006 and after opening the season with a 1-3 record, West took over the defense. While the defensive change proved more complicated than anticipated, there was a marked improvement in the squad by year's end. This was evident in the latter weeks of the season when Memphis narrowly lost to UCF, 26-24, and then a week later stunned eventual league champion Houston with a solid effort, forcing the Cougars into overtime and ultimately losing by a field goal. By the last game of the season, the Tigers were confident and handed UTEP a 38-19 loss at the Sun Bowl.

Following the 2006 season, the Tigers landed six players on the All-C-USA Team, and Matt Reagan, Duke Calhoun and Greg Terrell were named to the league's All-Freshman Team. And, as in 2005, four Tigers were invited to participate in senior all-star games.

West, who came to Memphis after serving as head coach at Clemson for five seasons, helped snap a 32-year U of M bowl drought in 2003 when he led his squad to a 9-4 record, which included a victory over North Texas in the New Orleans Bowl. The last time that the U of M had been extended a bowl invitation was during the 1971 season when Memphis defeated San Jose State in the Pasadena Bowl.

The 2003 season was viewed by many as "magical," and the bowl victory propelled Memphis into the spotlight and gave the Tiger faithful a renewed spirit and heightened expectations. West became just the fourth coach in school history to claim nine wins in a single season, and for his efforts, he was named the Coach of the Year by the Tennessee Sports Writers Association.

West and his Tigers embarked on the 2004 season knowing the bar had been raised and, with a veteran quarterback and an All-American running back, expectations were going to remain high. The Tigers opened the 2004 campaign with a 5-1 record, marking the best start for a Memphis squad since 1967. During that time, West led the Tigers into the national spotlight as Memphis defeated Ole Miss for the second-straight season and was listed No. 25 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll. It was the first time ever that the Tigers were ranked by the national entity.

Memphis also gained national attention as four of its last five games of the season were broadcast nationally by ESPN, including a Thursday night meeting with Louisville which was a battle to the end for both squads. A week after the Louisville game, the Tigers reached another milestone for the program as the U of M became bowl eligible with a win over Southern Miss. Memphis notched wins over East Carolina and USF on the road before ending the regular season at 8-3.

The eight wins marked the first time since the 1962 and 1963 seasons that Memphis had won eight or more games in back-to-back seasons, while the consecutive bowl appearances were also a first in the program's history. West took his Tigers to Mobile, Ala., for the GMAC Bowl and dropped a hard-fought decision to Bowling Green.

West has also generated major excitement in the city of Memphis for his Tigers. That was evident in 2004 when, despite the games being nationally-televised by ESPN, nearly 100,000 total fans turned out for the final two home games of the season. The 52,384 fans that witnessed Memphis drop a hard-fought 56-49 decision to then-14th ranked Louisville on ESPN, and the 47,163 fans who watched Memphis become bowl eligible with a 30-26 win over Southern Miss on ESPN2 helped the Tigers set an attendance record at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. Memphis averaged 41,175 fans in its five home games, and the Louisville game marked the largest crowd to attend a Memphis game versus a non-Southeastern Conference opponent.

The 2005 season started early with a press conference in January that led to the announcement that star running back DeAngelo Williams would return for his senior season. The cheers were deafening as coaches, administrators and fans celebrated Williams' decision to remain a Tiger for 2005. With that announcement came a Heisman Trophy campaign for Williams.

The squad began practice in August and within weeks suffered what would become one of many injuries that would try to put a damper on the season. Memphis lost leading receiver Mario Pratcher just prior to the start of the season to a knee injury. Later, the Tigers lost starting quarterbacks Patrick Byrne and Will Hudgens, as well as defensive lineman Rubio Phillips in the first three games of the season. By season's end, Memphis had lost eight starters, but was still fighting for a third bowl appearance behind the signal calling of senior "receiver-turned-quarterback" Maurice Avery.

Avery became the fourth starting quarterback for the Tigers in the Houston game, and led Memphis to a 5-2 record and a Motor City Bowl victory after moving under center. The 2005 Tigers had every excuse in the book to quit and hope for a better 2006, but West and his coaching staff did a tremendous job of pulling the team together.

That determination paid off as Memphis finished with a winning record and a bowl invitation for the third-consecutive season. Of the 117 Division I-A football programs, only 29 were playing in their third-straight bowl game in 2005, and because of West, the Tigers were proud to say they were one of them. Memphis also celebrated its first span of three-consecutive winning seasons since 1992-94, and averaged eight wins over the three-year period.

Several Tigers received post-season honors in 2005, including Williams, who was named the C-USA Offensive Player of the Year, and Stephen Gostkowski, who was selected as the league's Special Teams Player of the Year. Eight Tigers were selected to the All-C-USA teams, five of which were placed on the first-team squad. Williams was also named to several prestigious All-America teams and was a finalist for the 2005 Doak Walker Award.

In addition, four Tiger seniors participated in post-season all-star games, which is another tribute to West and his staff. Both Gostkowski and Williams were invited to play in the 2006 Senior Bowl, while Tim Goodwell participated in the All-American Classic and Maurice Avery competed in the Hula Bowl.

In the eight years since West has been the U of M head coach, 59 Tigers have been placed on the All-Conference USA Team, including Williams who was named the league's Offensive Player of the Year for three-straight years. Also with West at the helm, 16 U of M players have played in senior all-star games and 10 Tigers have been drafted to play in the NFL, including Williams and Gostkowski in 2006, Brandon McDonald in 2007 and most recently Clinton McDonald in 2009. Williams was selected in the first round, while Gostkowski, a fourth-round pick, was the first kicker drafted in 2006. Brandon McDonald, who transferred to Memphis and started two years in the Tiger secondary, was selected in the fifth round by the Cleveland Browns. Clinton McDonald was a seventh-round pick by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2009 NFL Draft.

A by-product of the national attention and newly-generated excitement has been a continued upswing in recruiting at the U of M. West and his staff continue to land more outstanding recruits from the Mid-South area, as well as some of the top prospects in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, California and Louisiana. A renowned national recruiter, West's 2002, 2003 and 2004 classes were ranked among the top 50 in the country, while his 2005, 2004 and 2002 classes were touted as the No. 1 group in Conference USA. West and his staff also continue to tap into the local talent, and in the last five seasons, have signed over 50 players from the Mid-South area.

Heading into the 2009 season, West boasts 36 Tigers on the squad from Tennessee and an additional nine players from Mississippi. In 2001 when West took over as head coach, there were only three players on the roster from the state of Mississippi. The number gradually increased and by 2003, Mississippi was represented by 11 Tigers. The surrounding area has proved to be a hotbed for talent, and West and his staff make a steady charge each year to keep local standouts in Memphis.

West also continues to stress academics to his squad, and his Tigers have responded with some of the highest grade-point averages that the program has ever seen. In the spring 2003 semester, the football team placed a record number of student-athletes on the Tiger 3.0 Club, and the squad turned in the highest cumulative GPA ever with a 2.6. For the spring 2006 semester, the Tigers announced the most 3.0 students ever with 32, and for the 2005-06 school year, 62 Tigers had earned a 3.0 or higher.

In the last four commencement ceremonies, 29 football players graduated marking the largest group under West. In addition, in 12 of the last 14 semesters, football has posted a 2.3 or higher team GPA. That is quite significant as from 1984-2002, football posted a 2.3 GPA in only two total semesters. From the August 2002 ceremony to the May 2009 ceremony, 113 total football players have graduated from the University.

Heading into the 2009 season, two current Tigers have already earned their degrees, and six players are on pace to receive their bachelor's degrees in three and a half years. Memphis has placed six players on the C-USA All-Academic Team since the league started the honor in 2006, and Brandon Patterson, who earned his master's degree in accounting following the 2008 season, became the first football player in school history to be named an Academic All-American twice.

A native of Gainesville, Ga., West was hired at Memphis in 1999 under Rip Scherer to serve as the defensive coordinator. Soon after the season opener against Mississippi State, West had his defense ranked in the top five nationally. The squad ranked as high as second in the nation during the year and finished the year ranked fifth nationally in total defense and No. 1 in rushing defense. That season, Memphis limited nine of its 11 opponents to less than 100 yards rushing and no team gained more than 125 yards against the Tigers in 2000.

Also that year, the Tigers had five players named to the All-Conference USA first team defensive unit, which tied the C-USA record for the most players from one school ever named to a first team. Marcus Bell, Andre Arnold, Kamal Shakir, Idrees Bashir and Michael Stone all received first team All-C-USA honors in 2000. Coot Terry and Jason Brown were also named to the C-USA All-Freshman Team defensive unit.

When the Tigers were in need of a new coach to guide the program, Athletic Director R.C. Johnson had to look no further than in the U of M football office. West was proven as a head coach at Clemson and was also a favorite of the players. He took over the program shortly after the 2000 season came to a close and set out to build a nationally-recognized program that would consistently win and play in bowl games.

The Tigers struggled in 2001 and 2002 as would be expected for a program that had not seen a winning season since 1994. But West was a relentless recruiter and managed to build a quality staff, which led to one of the biggest turnarounds nationally. The Tigers turned in a 3-9 record in 2002, and just one year later, managed a 9-4 record and a bowl victory in 2003.

West, 55, joined the U of M staff after an extensive coaching career at Clemson University, where he had been an assistant coach from 1982-89 and the head coach from 1993-98.

Following his start in the coaching profession when he served a season at Ole Miss (1979) and two seasons at Appalachian State (1980-81), West served as an assistant coach at Clemson and was responsible for the outside linebackers. He was part of a coaching staff that led the Tigers to a 69-20-4 record and six Associated Press Top 20 rankings between 1982-89. During that time, Clemson played in five bowl games, winning four, and claimed four ACC Championships.

West left Clemson for his alma mater Tennessee in 1990 and spent one season as the Vols' running back coach. UT ended that season with a 9-2-2 record and defeated Virginia in the Sugar Bowl. West then traveled to the University of South Carolina, where he was the defensive coordinator in 1991 and 1992.

Following his two seasons at USC, West accepted his first head coaching job at UT-Chattanooga. The Mocs were 4-7 in 1993, and shortly after their season ended, West was enticed to return to Clemson and coach the Tigers in the 1993 Peach Bowl.

West was hired on November 29, 1993, and led Clemson to a 14-13 victory over Kentucky in the Peach Bowl. With his debut in the Peach Bowl, West became the sixth coach in NCAA history to make his debut with a program in a bowl game. However, at that time, he was just the second coach in collegiate football history to make his debut in a bowl game without previously coaching his new team as an assistant coach earlier in the season.

During his tenure at Clemson, West recruited the school's all-time leading rusher, Raymond Priester; the school's all-time leading passer, Nealon Greene; and the school's all-time leading receiver, Rod Gardner.

In addition to the offensive talent he landed for the Tigers, West had two linebackers named to All-America teams and both were drafted in the NFL. Anthony Simmons was named an All-American in 1996 and 1997 and was selected by the Seattle Seahawks. Keith Adams was drafted by the Tennessee Titans after enjoying All-America status in 1999 and 2000, and Gardner was a first-round selection by the Washington Redskins.

Not only did West's recruits excel on the field, they also excelled in the classroom. Over the last two years of his tenure (1998-99 and 1999-2000), Clemson's football teams had a graduation rate of 75 percent, which ranked the school among the nation's leaders in the classroom.

West took Clemson to the Gator Bowl in 1995 and the Peach Bowl in both 1996 and 1997. At the time, only 16 programs in the nation could claim to have appeared in three-consecutive bowl games. West also became just the second coach in Clemson history to take the Tigers to three-straight bowl games. He tallied a 31-28 record with the Tigers, before traveling to Memphis to take on another group of Tigers.

As a player, West earned three letters in his four-year career at the University of Tennessee (1972-75). The Vols played in three bowl games and were ranked in a final Top 20 poll over the same three-year span. He was co-captain of Tennessee's 1975 football team and played in the Blue-Gray All-Star Game that same year.

He began his college career as a running back, but saw most of his playing time as a tight end. He caught 37 passes for 575 yards in his UT career, including 16 passes for 233 yards as a senior. As a junior, he caught an 81-yard pass from Condredge Hollaway, still the longest non-scoring play in Tennessee football history. He earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Tennessee in 1976 and was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that same year.

West also played two seasons of baseball for the Volunteers (1974-1975) and had a career batting average of .305. He hit .367 in 1975 and was named All-Southeastern Conference Eastern Division.

West began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Tennessee in 1977. He left the Volunteers and coached one year of high school football at White County High in Sparta, Tenn., in 1978 before being hired as an assistant coach at Ole Miss in 1979.

West was a multi-sport standout at Gainesville High School in Gainesville, Ga. He was an outfielder in baseball, a guard in basketball and a running back in football. In 1972, he was named a high school All-American in football and was a second round draft choice in baseball by the Chicago Cubs organization. Willie Randolph, who went on to an All-Star career with the New York Yankees, was one of the 77 future Major League players drafted after West in the regular phase of the June 1972 draft.

Born Thomas Cleveland West on July 31, 1954, in Carrollton, Ga., he is married to the former Lindsay Watkins of Forest City, N.C. The couple has one son, Turner, who is a junior receiver on the Tiger football team.

The West File

Full Name

• Thomas Cleveland West


• July 31, 1954

• Carrollton, Ga.

Alma Mater

• University of Tennessee, 1976

• Bachelor's degree in health education

Playing Experience

• Three-year letterman at tight end and two-year letterman for the baseball team at Tennessee

• Drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1976


• Wife - Lindsay

• Son - Turner

Coaching Experience

1979: Assistant (running backs) at Ole Miss under Steve Sloan - Ole Miss finished the season with a 4-7 record and placed seventh in the SEC

1980-81: Assistant (receivers) at Appalachian St. under Mike Working - Was elevated to offensive coordinator in 1981

1982-89: Assistant (outside linebackers) at Clemson under Danny Ford - Clemson played in the 1985 Independence Bowl, 1986 Gator Bowl, 1987 Citrus Bowl, 1988 Citrus Bowl & 1989 Gator Bowl

1990: Assistant (running backs) at Tennessee under Johnny Majors - Tennessee played in the 1990 Sugar Bowl

1991-92: Defensive Coordinator at South Carolina under Sparky Woods

1993: Hired as Head Coach at UT-Chattanooga and led Mocs to 4-7-0 record

1993: Hired as Head Coach at Clemson to replace Ken Hatfield for Peach Bowl game

1994-98: Head Coach at Clemson - Led Tigers to a 31-28 record and appearances in the Gator Bowl (1995) and Peach Bowls (1996, 1997)

2000: Defensive Coordinator at the University of Memphis - Led the Tigers to a fifth place national ranking in total defense and a number one ranking in rushing defense

2001-Present: Hired as Head Coach at Memphis in 2001 to replace Rip Scherer - Led Tigers to three consecutive winning seasons from 2003-05 and post-season appearances in the New Orleans Bowl (2003 & 2007), GMAC Bowl (2004), Motor City Bowl (2005) and St. Petersburg Bowl (2008)


• Named Tennessee Sports Writers Association Football Coach of the Year in 2003

• Was inducted into the All-American Football Foundation Hall of Fame in 2002

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