Now in his sixth year at Tufts, Joel Williams is a three-time New England Coach of Year and directs one of the region’s top men’s track & field and cross country programs.
Coach Williams guided the Jumbos to two consecutive New England Division III indoor championships in 2017 and 2018. He was the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) New England Indoor Coach of the Year for both of those seasons. Including a runner-up finish at the 2019 New England indoor meet, Tufts has scored at least third at the regional meet during each of Coach Williams’ five seasons. The 2018 indoor team tied for 13th place at the NCAA Championships, the program's best NCAA team finish since 2007.
For the outdoor season, three times Coach Williams’ Jumbos have been the runner-up at the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Championship. He was the USTFCCCA Regional Coach of the Year Outdoors in 2017 when the 11 Jumbo athletes who qualified for NCAA's were the most in school history.
The Jumbos have been well represented at the NCAA Championship meets under Coach Williams. Four individuals have won NCAA titles during his tenure - Mitchell Black (800m indoors and outdoors 2016), Tim Nichols (5,000m indoors 2017) and Stefan Duvivier (high jump indoors 2018). Duvivier was the USTFCCCA New England Indoor Field Athlete of the Year and distance runner Luke O'Connor won USTFCCCA New England Outdoor Track Athlete of the Year honors in 2017. Black earned the USTFCCCA Regional Athlete of the Year honor both indoors and outdoors for 2016.
Three times Jumbo men's cross country has competed at NCAA’s in the last five years. For the 2017 cross country season, Williams' team had two runners (Nichols and O'Connor) earn All-American honors at the same NCAA Championship for the first time in program history. Nichols won NESCAC and NCAA Regional Championships that season and was voted the USTFCCCA New England Athlete of the Year.
Coach Williams' Jumbos also perform well academically. For 2019-20, six members of the track & field team and five cross country runners earned USTFCCCA All-Academic distinction which is presented to student-athletes who have a cumulative GPA of at least 3.30 and perform well at their regional championship meet. Nichols earned 2017 College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Academic All-America® recognition and received the USTFCCCA's Men's Cross Country Scholar Athlete of the Year award. In 2016 Black was one of two student-athletes in the country to be awarded the NCAA's prestigious Walter Byers Postgraduate Scholarship. The Jumbo program holds an excellent 3.51 cumulative grade point average.
Williams was hired to lead the Tufts University Men's Track & Field / Cross Country program in November 2015. A national champion as a competitor and the recipient of multiple Coach of the Year awards, Williams came to the Jumbos from Illinois Tech where he was head coach of the men's and women's cross country and track & field programs.
Over the past 20-plus years, Williams has coached at several institutions, including Williams College in the NESCAC. In his first season as a head coach at Illinois Tech in 2015, Williams was named Men's and Women's Cross Country Coach of the Year for the Association of Division III Independents. During his four years at Williams College, Williams was the 2009 (women's) and 2011 (men's) USTFCCCA New England Region Assistant Coach of the Year.
Williams graduated from North Central College in 1999 with a BA in physical education. He returned to North Central for graduate school, earning a master’s degree in leadership studies in 2014. While an undergrad at North Central, Williams was a four-time All-American and a 12-time NCAA Championship qualifier in track & field. In 1998, he helped lead North Central to a team national championship in track & field as a member of the Cardinals' national champion 4x100-meter relay foursome.
Upon returning to his alma mater as an assistant coach, Williams was part of the coaching staff that guided North Central to NCAA Division III regional and national team championships in men's cross country in 2012, as well as a regional championship and national runner-up finish in men's cross country in 2013. He worked with 17 NCAA DIII Cross Country and Track & Field All-Americans during his time at North Central.
Williams' strong background in coaching includes other stints at Division I Davidson College and Kent State University, as well as at Division III schools U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, Aurora University and Elmhurst College. Including assistant coaching roles in volleyball, he has mentored over 80 All-Americans and more than 300 All-Conference and 170 Academic All-Conference athletes.
Coach Williams is also the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Coordinator for Tufts Athletics.