In only five years at the helm of the Samford University soccer team, head coach Todd Yelton has propelled the Bulldogs to national prominence. The winningest coach in Samford soccer history, he has led his team to four consecutive Ohio Valley Conference championships and an NCAA Tournament appearance. In 2005, Yelton's squad advanced past 19th-ranked Vanderbilt in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament and became the first OVC team to reach the second round.
During the 2005 campaign, Yelton helped Samford to a school-record 15-4-4 overall mark and a 7-2 conference record. He was named the OVC Coach of the Year, his second such honor in four years.
Last season, Yelton's Bulldogs registered the first undefeated conference record in school history and finished the year with an 11-4-3 overall mark. With the team's 6-0-3 OVC record, Samford earned its fourth straight regular-season conference title.
"Todd has built a special program for Samford soccer in a short time," said Director of Athletics Bob Roller. "He attracts outstanding student-athletes who see how successful our soccer program has become. We attract huge student crowds because they play an exciting brand of winning soccer. It's our hope that Todd can lead this program for many years to come."
Since joining the OVC in 2003, the Bulldogs have compiled a 27-4-3 conference record and have reached the championship match of the OVC Tournament three times. Yelton was named the OVC Coach of the Year in 2003 and led Samford to its initial Soccer Buzz magazine Southeast Regional ranking before the 2004 season.
One of the nation's top women's soccer coaches, Yelton holds a remarkable 61-26-14 overall record in five seasons at Samford. He became the school's all-time winningest coach during the 2005 campaign. On Sept. 9, 2005, he picked up the groundbreaking victory with a 1-0 win on the road against North Carolina State. The triumph helped Yelton surpass former coach Barry Spitzer and also was the Bulldogs' first victory against a team from the Atlantic Coast Conference.
A native of Piney Flats, Tenn., Yelton began a youth-based resurgence in the soccer program by bringing in 10 freshmen in 2002. The 2003 roster featured six freshmen and was named the 19th best recruiting class in the Southeast by Soccer Buzz, the first Samford freshman class to be recognized in that fashion.
In 2004, he continued the trend by bringing in eight new players. Yelton's 2004 freshman class was named the 14th best recruiting class in the Southeast by Soccer Buzz and was ranked 79th in the nation.
All four of Samford's most recent recruiting classes have been ranked among the top-100 teams in the nation. Last season, Soccer Buzz Magazine tabbed the Bulldogs' 2006 recruits as the No. 85-ranked squad in the nation, while Samford's previous two classes came in at No. 91 and No. 79, respectively.
Samford's highly touted 2005 recruiting class consisted of seven talented prep stars and was ranked 16th in the Southeast and 91st in the nation. The Bulldogs' 2007 recruiting class continued Samford's national prowess as the team's eight-player incoming freshman class was ranked No. 68 in the nation by Soccer Buzz Magazine.
In five seasons under Yelton, Samford has posted 61 wins, nearly two-thirds of the program's 99 all-time victories. Since becoming head coach in 2002, Yelton's Bulldogs have knocked off Southeastern Conference opponents Vanderbilt and Mississippi State, Conference USA foes Memphis and Southern Miss, as well as ACC powerhouse North Carolina State. Yelton's Bulldogs have only lost one overtime match, posting an 8-1-14 mark in extra sessions.
Under Yelton, Samford had a school-record eight players earn berths on OVC All-Conference teams in 2003. Kim Matthews was named the 2003 OVC Freshman of the Year. Goalkeeper Crystal Royall set six school records, earning Soccer Buzz third-team All-Southeast Region honors. Six team records were set during 2003, including marks for shutouts in a season (13) and team goals-against average (0.66). Also, 15 individual records were either set or tied in 2003.
After winning a second straight OVC regular-season title in 2004, Samford had six players earn All-OVC honors, with four Bulldogs receiving first-team accolades and two players notching second-team awards. Senior goalkeeper Royall highlighted the list of Samford's accomplishments when she became the first player in conference history to be named both OVC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. In eight league matches, Royall earned five shutouts and tallied a 7-1 record as a starter.
Honors continued to roll in for the Bulldogs during the 2005 campaign. Rebecca Bohler, Heather Birdsell and Cayley Winters were awarded Soccer Buzz Southeast Regional honors, and seven players earned All-OVC accolades. Bohler, a sophomore forward on Samford's record-breaking team, was named the 2005 OVC Player of the Year and was the second straight Bulldog to earn the award.
Samford's domination of the OVC's postseason honors continued in 2006 as the Bulldogs finished with five players earning all-conference accolades. Senior Sharon Young received Player of the Year honors, while Amber Cress was named Freshman of the Year and Paige Lanter earned all-newcomer honors. Junior Heather Birdsell was named to the conference's First-Team, while Bohler received Second-Team accolades.
Yelton was hired as Samford's second women's soccer coach Jan. 11, 2002. He succeeded Spitzer, who started Samford's soccer program in 1997. Yelton immediately helped the Bulldogs become contenders in the Atlantic Sun Conference. Under his guidance, Samford won its first eight matches of the 2002 season and opened the campaign with an impressive school-record 9-0-1 start.
Yelton served as the top assistant at the University of Alabama at Birmingham during 2000-01, where he helped turn around a Blazer team that went 3-14-2 in 2000. In 2001, UAB posted an 11-9 record, including a 7-3 Conference USA mark.
Before coaching at UAB, Yelton served four years as head coach at Parkview High School in Atlanta, Ga. During that time, his teams posted a 59-11-3 overall mark, and captured 4A state championships in both 1997 and 1999. His teams received national rankings in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America [NSCAA] poll three of his four years.
Yelton's first collegiate head coaching position was at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, Ga., where he coached for four seasons, posting a 40-32-4 mark.
In addition to his collegiate coaching experience, Yelton recently was named to the Region III Olympic Developmental Program staff. His playing career began when he was a freshman at Tennessee Tech University. He then transferred to King College (Tenn.), where he was a two-year starter on defense. He earned his bachelor's degree in history from King College in 1991.
Yelton and his wife, Shauna, have a daughter, MacKenzie, 10, and a son, Colin, 7.