COLLEGE STATION, TX -- Dr. John Thornton, a life-long Aggie, a former student-athlete, coach and administrator who holds three degrees from Texas A&M, has announced his plans to retire from athletics administration. Thornton has been a mainstay in the Texas A&M Athletics Department for more than 31 years, finishing his career as interim athletics director and senior associate athletics director for student-athlete development.
“Lanie (Thornton’s wife) and I had considered shifting gears as far back as last spring,” Thornton said. “I was asked to serve as interim athletics director by Dr. Loftin and that postponed my decision. I have valued each role that I have had in representing Texas A&M. It was a privilege to serve this University as interim athletics director and I am proud of what was accomplished in this time of transition.
I appreciate Dr. Loftin having faith in me to serve these past few months.”
“John truly has done an outstanding job as our interim athletics director over the past several months, helping lead Texas A&M’s transition into the SEC and preparing the Athletics Department for new leadership,” said Texas A&M President R. Bowen Loftin. “He is a lifelong, selfless servant who has lived by our core values and has helped shape the lives of thousands of Aggie student-athletes during his career. We are forever grateful for John’s leadership and service, and look forward to his continued contributions on behalf of Texas A&M.”
“I have been so blessed to have had privilege of being associated with this institution as a player, coach and administrator,” Thornton stated. “I can’t adequately credit this University for what it has meant to me and my family. My relationship and experiences with Coach Metcalf were special. The opportunities and confidence shown me by John David Crow, Wally Groff and Bill Byrne were profound and shaped my career. Thirty one years have flown by. I know it is dangerous to begin thanking people for their help and support through so many years because I may leave someone out, but I really appreciate all of the coaches and staff who I have shared so much with over the years.”
“I have gotten to know Eric Hyman, our new athletics director, and have great confidence he is the right man for the job, particularly as we take on new challenges in the SEC,” Thornton explained. “He has a great reputation and record as an athletics director and I know he will do a great job here at Texas A&M. He and I discussed my retirement from athletics prior to his arrival and he knows I am only a phone call away if he needs anything.”
Thornton grew up around Aggieland as his father, Bill, Class of ’50, was a former yell leader and his grandparents lived in College Station.
After playing high school and junior college basketball in San Antonio, Thornton came to Aggieland to play for Coach Shelby Metcalf. Thornton was the 1973-1974 Southwest Conference Newcomer of the Year after being the second-leading scorer and rebounder on the Aggie squad. In 1974-75, Thornton was the team captain and helped lead the Aggies to the 1975 SWC Championship title.
Taking full advantage of the opportunities presented to him by Texas A&M, Thornton graduated cum laude from Texas A&M in 1975. Thornton was named the Department of Education’s Distinguished Honor Award winner. Thornton spent two years as a graduate assistant basketball coach on Metcalf’s staff and earned his master’s degree in educational administration from Texas A&M. He would become the basketball head coach at Athens High School, spend a brief time at UT-San Antonio before taking the athletics director and head basketball coaching job at Hill Junior College in Hillsboro. In 1981, Metcalf would call and ask Thornton to serve as an assistant basketball coach. From 1981 until the 1990, Thornton would serve as Metcalf’s assistant helping the Aggies to one NCAA appearance (1987) and four NIT appearances. During the middle of the 1990 season, Thornton was asked to serve as interim head basketball coach and finished with a 5-7 mark as the Aggies’ head coach.
After finishing the 1990 basketball season, Thornton would turn his efforts to athletics administration with his focus on student-athlete development including academics, strength and conditioning as well as athletic training, financial aid assistance and community involvement. He headed up Aggie Athletes Involved (AAI) as well as the student-athlete advisory committee (SAAC) and was the chairman of the Professional Sports Counseling panel.
Drawing on his experiences as a student-athlete, teacher and coach, Thornton’s transition to athletics administration was seamless and he has thrived in that capacity. Thornton maintained a focus on education and was recognized by the student-athletes with an Award of Excellence, was named the Advisor of the Year in 2002, and was awarded the Tradition Council’s Spirit Award for his work in promoting traditions and making Texas A&M such a unique place. He earned his doctorate degree from Texas A&M in 1997 and received the 1998 Academic Inspiration Award by a vote of the Texas A&M Scholar-Athletes of the Year.
After earning his doctorate, Thornton taught and is looking forward to pursuing opportunities associated with the classroom and mentoring students and student–athletes.
“My passions have always been related to coaching, mentoring, and teaching and I know I can have a positive effect on others and look forward to the opportunity to do just that in this next phase of my life,” Thornton said.
“My job as a coach or administrator has always been a family effort,”
Thornton explained. “Lanie, has been by my side throughout my career
while being a terrific mother and lecturer at the May’s Business School. Gabe, Leslie, and Tamara (all A&M graduates) have shared, motivated, and endured through the many experiences this athletic related life has subjected them to.”
“Right now, Lanie and I are looking forward to spending more time with family and our wonderful grandchildren,” Thornton stated. “My family has sacrificed a lot for me. Life as a coach and working in athletics administration is anything but normal, but it has been a great run for us all.”
NOTE ON RETIRMENT RECEPTION: Dr. Thornton will be honored with a reception between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 3 at the Lohman Lobby in the Cox-McFerrin Basketball Center adjacent to Reed Arena.