Now in his fifth season as the head coach of Oregon track and field, Robert Johnson has led the Ducks to 12 national championships while producing 10 Pac-12 titles and guiding 44 individuals to victories at the NCAA Championships.
Oregon’s national titles in the Johnson era include three-straight men's indoor track and field championships (2014-16), two men's outdoor titles (2014-15), four women's indoor track and field wins (2013-14, 2016-17), two women's cross country titles (2012, 2016) and one women's outdoor track and field championship (2015).
Most recently, Johnson led the Women of Oregon to a record-breaking performance at the 2017 NCAA Indoor Championships, as the Ducks scored a meet record 84 points to win their seventh indoor title in the last eight years. Coupled with the women's win at the 2016 NCAA Cross Country Championships, Johnson has the Women of Oregon in position to take a run at the triple crown in the outdoor season.
Johnson is one of only two coaches all-time to earn a career women’s triple crown – national titles in cross country, indoor track and field and outdoor track and field. The other coach to accomplish that is Texas legend Terry Crawford. With a national title in men’s cross country, Johnson would become the only coach in NCAA history with career triple crowns for both the men and women.
Under Johnson's guidance, Oregon has been honored as the national Men's and Women's Program of the Year in each of the last three years for its excellence in all three phases of competition (cross country, indoor T&F, outdoor T&F). The women also claimed the honor after the 2013 season.
After a tremendously successful run as associate coach, Robert Johnson was elevated to head coach of the Oregon track and field and cross country programs in the summer of 2012. He is in his 12th season overall with the Ducks.
His leadership was evident immediately upon taking the helm of the most storied programs in collegiate track and field. Less than six months after becoming Oregon’s head coach, Johnson’s Women of Oregon set the foundation of success by winning the 2012 cross country national championship for the first time in 25 years. The Ducks followed that performance with their fourth straight women’s national indoor title in 2013. Johnson then oversaw Oregon’s men’s and women’s sweep of the Pac-12 Championships, before guiding both teams to trophy finishes at the 2013 NCAA Outdoor Championships.
In his second year as head coach, Johnson guided the Men and Women of Oregon to a sweep of the NCAA Indoor National Championships. His women became just the second team in meet history to win five consecutive NCAA indoor crowns while the men claimed their first title since 2009. Both teams followed-up with their sixth straight sweep of the Pac-12 Championships. A month later at Hayward Field the men, fueled by four individual champions, claimed their first NCAA outdoor title since 1984 by setting a meet-record 88 points and the largest margin of victory in 20 years.
Year three of the Johnson era saw three national championships as the men defended their indoor and outdoor titles. The outdoor title came by 29 points, the largest margin of victory at the NCAA Championships in 21 years. The Ducks then added the crown jewel of year three when the women collected points across the board to win Oregon’s first outdoor national championship in 30 years. The Ducks also added to their Pac-12 dominance with a sweep of the men’s and women’s track and field championships, while also claiming the 2014 women’s cross country title.
In 2015-16, Johnson led the Ducks to a sweep of the indoor championships as the Men of Oregon claimed their third-straight national title and the Women of Oregon won the indoor crown for the third time in four years. The women added their second cross country national championships in the fall of 2016, as they came out and shocked the nation with a one-point victory over Michigan.
The Ducks have won 44 individual national titles under Johnson. Leading the charge is 17-time champion, and three-time Bowerman Award finalist, Edward Cheserek. Cheserek claimed two titles at the 2017 NCAA Indoor Championships to run his career total to 17, making him the winningest athlete in NCAA track and field/cross country history. Cheserek needs only two more titles to match the most won by an individual in the history of NCAA athletics. Johnson has mentored a number of other standout athletes in multiple disciplines, including Olympians Devon Allen, English Gardner, Jenna Prandini, Deajah Stevens and Ariana Washington.
Johnson has established himself as one of the top sprint, relays and horizontal jumps coaches in NCAA. He has coached Oregon student-athletes to the American women’s indoor record in the 400 meters (50.46), the U.S. junior women’s record in the 100 meters (11.03), the collegiate record in the indoor 4x400 meter relay (3:27.40) and the women's DMR (10:38.77), the Pac-12 record in the 100 meters (10.92), a US Championship in the 100 meters as well as 22 Oregon school records. In addition to mentoring five national championship 4x400 meter teams, his athletes have won NCAA titles at 60 meters, 100 meters, 400 meters, 800 meters and long jump.
As an assistant and associate head coach from 2005 to 2012, Johnson helped lead a remarkable resurgence of an Oregon women’s program that won three straight NCAA Indoor Titles (2010-2012), claimed four straight Pac-12 Championships (2009-2012), and placed second at the NCAA Outdoor Championships four times (2009-2012). The men’s program won an NCAA Indoor title and was the NCAA Outdoor runner-up in 2009 and won conference championships each year from 2007 to 2012.
Johnson’s charges broke all but one indoor and outdoor school women’s record in the sprints, relays and horizontal jumps. On the men’s side, Mike Berry broke the school’s 41 year-old record in the 400 meters as a freshman in 2011 before going on to win a gold medal at the World Championships as a member of the U.S. 4x400 meter relay squad.
In addition to 5-time NCAA Champion Gardner, Johnson coached Keshia Baker to three consecutive conference titles in the 400 meters (2008-2011), Jamesha Youngblood to a sweep of the long and triple jumps in 2009 and 2010, and Amber Purvis to a 100/200 meter double in 2010 – the first Duck ever to win both sprint titles. In all, Johnson coached 22 conference champions and 70 All-Americans at Oregon before becoming the head coach.
Before arriving at Oregon in 2005, Johnson oversaw UCLA’s highly-regarded high jump, long jump and triple jump units, and also coordinated its strength and conditioning program. In two years with the Bruins, his men and women combined for one NCAA title, one U.S. runner-up finish, two Pac-10 titles, and eight All-America honors. His star pupils included collegiate triple jump record holder Candice Baucham, the 2005 NCAA outdoor champion and U.S. runner-up, as well as 2004 Pac-10 champion and Olympic Trials triple jump qualifier Juaune Armon.
An Appalachian State assistant coach from 1997-2003, Johnson coached 28 individual Southern Conference champions and 14 NCAA qualifiers in the long jump, triple jump, 55 meters and 100 meters. He mentored the school’s first All-America jumper—Ronda White—an outdoor triple jump All-American in 2003, along with two Southern Conference Freshmen of the Year and two Southern Conference Athletes of the Year.
As an athlete, Johnson competed for Appalachian State, where he received his Bachelor of Science degree in 1996, and was a two-time triple jump All-American (1995, ’96), NCAA high jump qualifier (1996) and school high jump record holder (7-1 3/4). A member of the ASU Athletics Hall of Fame, he competed in the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Trials.