* Petros Kyprianou in 2021
Photo Credit: Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports
By Garrett Zatlin - MileSplit Recruiting Correspondent
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Sometimes, you just have to expect the unexpected.
On Tuesday, the University of Illinois hired Petros Kiprianou, a two-time NCAA team title winning coach across the women's and men's programs at Georgia, to become its new Director of Track and Field and Cross Country.
Illinois inked Kyprianou to a five-year deal.
The hiring is a monumental one for a program that recently let go its long-time leader, Mike Turk. Kyprianou, the former head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs, is considered one of the best coaches in the World, and for a lot of different reasons -- namely his experience at the NCAA level.
Kyprianou led the UGA women to the 2018 NCAA Indoor Championship, while the UGA men went on to win the 2018 NCAA Outdoor Championship the following season.
As Kyprianou took over in an official capacity in 2015, he led his men's and women's programs to a mind-blowing total of 12 podium finishes (top-four) between the indoor and outdoor national meets.
However, there is something quietly unique about his coaching tendencies, too -- his success hinged on the performances of his athletes in the field and his multi event specialists.
Strategically within the NCAA, that plan represented a shift in typical recruiting.
In a loaded Southeastern Conference (SEC) known for its sprint prowess, Kyprianou capitalized on events that weren't as seriously invested in by other conference foes.
And for the most part, his plan worked to perfection.
Saying that, Georgia did not underwhelm or perform poorly in the sprints or the hurdles. It was quite the opposite. But when we think of Kyprianou's success, his calling card has often been in the field.
He was responsible for recruiting and developing current NCAA multi-event megastars such as Anna Hall -- who is now at Florida and won bronze a the World Championships in the heptathlon -- and Kyle Garland.
However, that string of accomplishments is now in the past. The more pressing and immediate question will face him: What does Kyprianou's hiring mean for Illinois?
Over the long-term, it could mean quite a bit.
The Illini are not currently in a position where they can be nationally competitive on the track -- as a team -- with the current names on their roster. However, Kyprianou has proven to be a very strong recruiter, mainly with high school talent.
Photo Credit: Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports
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Illinois' newest head coach has a proven history of successfully recruiting from out of state and overseas talents aren't off the board, either.
This means that we could start to see some stronger, top-tier recruits to lean toward Illinois in the coming years, as relationships and trust in coaching often is a primary motivator for young athletes.
Many of these athletes could be jumpers and multi-specialists unless Kyprianou believes that a different roster structure will be more effective in the BIG 10 (B1G).
We should also consider the fact that some of Kyprianou's former Georgia athletes could be incentivized to join him at Illinois in the next year or two if the proper graduate program or scholarship situation is available.
So what's the issue? The SEC is stacked right now, with the likes of Kentucky, Georgia, LSU and Florida. Success will look differently for Kyprianou than it did when he was at the helm of the Bulldogs just a few seasons ago. And it may take time.
What's more, in 2024 both the University of Southern California and UCLA will be leaving the PAC-12 and joining the B1G.
On paper, there's a good chance that the Trojans could immediately step in and become a powerhouse in the SEC, in both the men's and women's divisions.
And so Kyprianou's task, in the meantime, will be to build a team in his image, find results over the interim, and trust that the process he's leaned on for so many years could once again could yield some big-time returns.
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