Bob Starkell served on the women's gymnastics staff for 17 years, including the last 11 as head coach, at the University of Illinois. Since he took over for former head coach Lynn Brueckman in 2000, Starkell took the program to new heights. His Illini teams posted the top-10 team scores in school history, including the school record of 196.750 set at the 2009 Big Ten Championships, and earned four individual All-America accolades from 2008-10.
After a memorable 2009 season during which he was named National Coach of the Year, Starkell added a new title to his resume, as he was promoted to Director of Gymnastics at Illinois. Starkell remained the women's head coach, but also oversaw the prestigious Fighting Illini men's program and worked closely with men's Associate Head Coach Justin Spring and Assistant Ivan Ivankov. For the women's team, Starkell served as the uneven bars coach in addition to overseeing the full operation of the program.
During the 2010 season, Starkell was named Co-Big Ten Coach of the Year for the second year in a row and guided his squad to a No. 16 final national ranking, marking the fifth year in a row that the Illini finished the season in the Top 25. The year closed on a high note for the Illini, as Allison Buckley became just the second first-team All-American in school history with her performance on vault. The squad took third at the NCAA Central Regional and boasted two individual national qualifiers, with Buckley qualifying as an event specialist for the NCAA Championships by winning the second regional title of her career and Sarah Schmidt advancing to nationals as an individual all-arounder. Buckley and Schmidt were also both first-team All-Big Ten selections along with Melissa Fernandez while Nicole Cowart was named to the second team. In total, the Illini turned in five of the top-10 team scores in UI history during the regular season and saw Buckley set the individual all-around school record.
In 2009, Starkell's Fighting Illini burst onto the national scene, making their first ever appearance at the NCAA Championships and producing the school's first first-team All-American in Melissa Fernandez. He was named Co-Big Ten Coach of the Year after leading Illinois to a second-place finish at the 2009 conference championships and producing two individual champions (Kelsey Joannides on vault and Sarah Schmidt on floor). He then led the Illini to their best-ever regional finish of second to earn the trip to Nationals, and helped Allison Buckley claim the West Regional beam crown. At nationals, Illinois finished 12th - the highest in school history - and produced two All-Americans for the first time ever (Fernandez first team on beam, Schmidt second team on floor). Starkell's 2009 team also got it done in the classroom, as all 11 upperclassmen were named Academic All-Big Ten.
In 2008, the Fighting Illini finished the season ranked No. 15 nationally, five spots higher than the program's previous best national ranking. Starkell also guided the Illini to a second-place finish at the Big Ten Championships, the best since 1990, and a third-place finish at the South Central Regional, marking the highest regional finish in program history at the time and narrowly missing a team trip to the NCAA Championships. Furthermore, Starkell helped Nicole Cowart and Allison Buckley advance as individuals to the NCAA Championships in the all-around competition and helped Julie Crall earn the Illini a Big Ten individual title (beam) for the second straight season.
Starkell led the 2007 Fighting Illini to a third-place finish at the Big Ten Championships and a final national rank of No. 20. Illinois advanced to its fourth consecutive regional, where they finished fourth at the South Central Regional for the second straight year. Additionally, senior Cara Pomeroy took home the school's first Big Ten individual title (bars) since 1999 under Starkell's guidance. For his success, Starkell was named South Central Regional Coach of the Year for the second time in the last three years.
Starkell's 2006 squad finished the season with a national ranking of No. 25 while advancing to the NCAA South Central Regional for the third straight season. The Illini finished in fourth, equaling the best UI regional finish in school history at the time. Cara Pomeroy was named first team All-Big Ten for the second straight year, becoming the first Illini in 16 years to accomplish that feat.
In 2005, Starkell guided his squad to a final ranking of 27th. Starkell was honored as the 2005 Big Ten and South Central Regional Coach of the Year after advancing his squad to the NCAA Regional for the second straight year and coaching three All-Big Ten selections.
The 2004 season was equally successful as his squad finished 22nd in the nation and two of his gymnasts advanced to the NCAA National Championships. Ashley Williams (all-around) and Cara Pomeroy (uneven bars) became the first Illini in 17 years to compete at the national meet. Pomeroy scored the first perfect 10.0 in school history on bars to qualify for NCAAs and earned Illinois' first individual regional title since 1977.
Under Starkell, Illinois had four All-Americans, five Big Ten Champions, 22 All-Big Ten honorees, 51 Scholastic All-Americans and 91 Academic All-Big Ten selections.
Prior to being named the head coach, Starkell served as an assistant for the Illini for six years. In 1998, he was named Central Regional Assistant Coach of the Year by the National Association of Collegiate Gymnastics Coaches for Women. Before Illinois, Starkell served as an assistant coach for Wisconsin-Oshkosh while finishing his bachelor's degree, and then became the head coach for the men and women's gymnastics teams in 1993. He coached the Lady Titans to a conference championship and a second-place finish at the NCAA Division II Championships in 1993. For his efforts, he was named the Wisconsin Women's Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Coach of the Year.
Additionally, Starkell coached many individuals who earned high accolades. He trained a Division II All-American on vault and floor exercise and Division III champions on vault, beam and floor.
Starkell also had great success with the men's squads. Before becoming the head coach for both Oshkosh programs, Starkell served two years as the men's assistant coach. He coached five All-Americans and produced four Division II individual champions, one each on the vault, pommel horse, still rings and floor. One of his gymnasts also became a member of the 1992 U.S. National Team.
In addition to his collegiate coaching, Starkell gained experience coaching at various gymnastics schools and camps. He trained young athletes at the Oshkosh Gymnastics Club and coached for five years at the International Gymnastics School in Pennsylvania. Starkell also worked at the International Gymnastics School summer camp and was the director of the Wisconsin-Oshkosh summer camp.
Prior to coming to Illinois, Starkell spent seven years at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, both as a student-athlete and a coach. He competed for the Titans gymnastics team for four years, completing his eligibility in 1990 and earning a B.S. in physical education in 1992. At Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Starkell placed among the top 10 in the floor exercise at the national championships in 1989 and `90, earning All-America honors in `89. Starkell qualified for the NCAA Division III championships in the all-around, while his team qualified for the finals each year he competed.
Originally from California, Starkell attended high school in Fond du Lac, Wis. During high school, he trained for the Junior National Gymnastics Championships, in which he participated in from 1982-86.
National Coach of the Year - 2009
Big Ten Conference Coach of the Year - 2005, 2009, 2010
South Central Regional Coach of the Year - 2007
South Central Regional Coach of the Year - 2005
Central Regional Assistant Coach of the Year - 1998
Education: University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, B.S. in physical education, 1992
Children: two daughters, Haley (10) and Claire (7)
Record at Illinois
Year Duals* Big Ten Regional NCAA Final Rank 2000 7-10 T-5th -- -- 41 2001 3-10 7th -- -- 45 2002 5-11 6th -- -- 46 2003 7-12 6th -- -- 47 2004 10-7 6th 5th -- 22 2005 17-5 5th 6th -- 27 2006 11-4 7th 4th -- 25 2007 9-8 3rd 4th -- 20 2008 6-10 2nd 3rd -- 15 2009 17-7 2nd 2nd 12th 12 2010 12-7 6th 3rd -- 16 Total 104-91 -- -- -- --
* W-L record includes only regular season meets
Updated August 2010