Ryan Vanhoy To Cal Poly Could Shake Up The SEC

Photo Credit: Ole Miss Athletics

By Garrett Zatlin - MileSplit Recruiting Correspondent

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Between Tennessee and Auburn, the Southeastern Conference has introduced numerous star-level track and field coaches over the last few weeks.

But on Monday, they lost one of their biggest names.

In conference-shaking news, long-time Ole Miss distance coach Ryan Vanhoy has accepted the position of Director of Track and Field and Cross Country at California State Polytechnic University (Cal Poly).

The move comes as a fairly substantial shock.

While the transition to a Director role likely comes with a big pay boost, there are fundamental differences between the Mustangs and the Rebels. For starters, Cal Poly doesn't have an indoor track team.

It's also unclear what the Mustang's scholarship situation is like compared to that of the Rebels. And when talking about reputation, Ole Miss is easily the more established school from an athletic standpoint compared to Cal Poly.

This is the same coach who was able to land high school megastar Cade Flatt, a Kentucky native who currently sits at U.S. No. 2 all-time in the boys 800 meters with a huge 1:46.48 mark. And remember this: Vanhoy signed Flatt before Flatt blew up. 

Ole Miss' distance program is at the level it is at today largely because Vanhoy brought this team to this point. When he was elevated to the head distance coach of Ole Miss in 2015, he began a massive turnaround.

He quickly developed one of the most elite middle-distance contingents in the country.

He produced multiple NCAA champions -- Sintayehu Vissa, Mario Garcia Romo and a 2017 men's DMR team -- as well as some of the best cross country teams in the NCAA.

This includes a men's team that placed fourth at the 2016 NCAA XC Championships, as well as another team that swept the top-three individual spots at the 2020 SEC XC Championships

Vanhoy was also responsible for the successful collegiate careers of Craig Engels, Robert Domanic and Waleed Suliman, each of whom are current professional runners.

But the former Ole Miss head was also known for another under-appreciated coaching aspect of his: Recruiting.

This is the same coach who was able to land high school megastar Cade Flatt, a Kentucky native who currently sits at U.S. No. 2 all-time in the boys 800 meters with a huge 1:46.48 mark. And remember this: Vanhoy signed Flatt before Flatt blew up. 

On paper, Flatt was, and still is, a perfect fit for the middle distance powerhouse that is Ole Miss. But will Flatt want to go to a program with a different coach who did not recruit him? It's the age-old question. 

In previous weeks, the questions we had for Notre Dame, North Carolina A&T and Houston remain the same. Who will take over? Will his athletes follow?

Will recruits request out of their NLIs? 

However, there is a significant difference between those other coaching changes and Vanhoy's situation.

Based on available resources and money, Tennessee is an upgrade over North Carolina A&T and Notre Dame, even if those schools have had better cross country or track seasons compared to the Volunteers. The same can be said for Leroy Burrell, who left Houston for Auburn.

The idea that athletes will leave their original teams for those new programs isn't completely out of the question.

In fact, it's almost expected.

But even with Vanhoy at the helm of Cal Poly, the idea that his biggest and best Ole Miss superstars will leave one of the best distance rosters in the SEC for a lesser-known group, which could be considered as a work-in-progress, seems unlikely.

What's more, though, is how this move could shake up recruiting overall. Vanhoy has clearly shown that he can recruit the best athletes in the country. But up until now, his focus was largely on the eastern seaboard and the south. California is rich with distance talent -- it is arguably the top state for megastars in high school. 

Will this move change the way California preps view Cal Poly, especially with the success that Vanhoy has brought to his previous programs? It's hard not to see a correlation between those two things. 

Of course, as we have learned over the last few weeks, maybe we really should start to expect the unexpected.