UIC director of athletics Jim Schmidt announced on August 12, 2010 that he elevated former Flames standout gymnast and award-winning assistant coach Charley Nelson to the position of head men's gymnastics coach. Nelson takes over for "CJ" Johnson, who retired in 2010 after 36 years as UIC's head coach.
"Charley is a dedicated, hard-working professional who helped our men's gymnastics program accomplish great things during his time as a student-athlete and an assistant coach," said Schmidt. "We look forward to Charley's leadership and expect that the championship tradition of UIC men's gymnastics will continue under his guidance."
"I am both humbled and thankful to Jim Schmidt and [Associate Athletic Director] Tonya McGowan for this incredible opportunity," said Nelson. "Very few people have the chance to lead an NCAA men's gymnastics program. It might go without saying, but I believe in UIC. I am a proud and active alumnus, and I look forward to furthering this university's academic and athletic mission."
Nelson has served as an assistant for the Flames since 2000. He helped the Flames win three Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Championships, including titles in each of the last two years, and make three NCAA postseason appearances as an assistant coach.
He has been named ECAC Assistant Coach of the Year on three occasions (2003, 2009, 2010) and won NCAA East Region Assistant Coach of the Year recognition in each of the past two seasons.
Nelson helped develop All-American competitors Neil Faustino and 2010 Nissen-Emery Award finalist Andrew Stover, with the latter also qualifying for three consecutive NCAA all-around final appearances.
Nelson competed for the Flames from 1996-99, serving as a still rings specialist and garnering both the Robert Gunnells Memorial Award and the Edward J. Saleh Award for his excellence as a leader and contributions in and out of the gym.
The 2000 UIC graduate is active on campus, serving as the secretary of the UIC College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Constituent Board in addition to other roles.
"Men's gymnastics has a tradition of excellence at this university," said Nelson. "In my 15 years at UIC, we've had five conference championships, five NCAA berths, two All-Americans, and numerous individual conference champions. We've also been very successful in the classroom and we've had a strong presence in the community. I want to continue these trends."
"My goal is to see UIC men's gymnastics continue its tradition of bringing in high-level gymnasts and seeing them graduate as proud alumni who are prepared to succeed beyond the competition arena."
Nelson enjoyed a stellar tenure as a member of the Flames men's gymnastics team. From 1996-1999, the Oak Park, Ill., native became a force on the still rings for Johnson's teams.
Nelson's competitive career was capped off with the two most prestigious awards in the UIC men's gymnastics program. Nelson was named the winner of the Robert Gunnells Memorial Award in 1999, an honor given annually to the senior UIC gymnast who displays exemplary leadership, sportsmanship and goodwill towards the community. Nelson also earned the Edward Jay Saleh Memorial Scholarship, awarded annually to a senior male gymnast who has demonstrated both academic merit and gymnastics excellence.
One year after completing his standout gymnastics career at UIC in 1999, Johnson brought Nelson on as a student assistant coach. The following season Nelson was hired as a full-time assistant coach.
In 2003, Nelson's outstanding coaching was recognized when he was named the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Assistant Coach of the Year.
Nelson played an even bigger role in 2004, helping UIC smash their previous-best performance in ECAC competition to win the 2004 ECAC/EIGL Cup while assisting Eric Novick to the ECAC all-around title and Neil Faustino to All-America status on vault at the NCAA Championships.
Nelson had his responsibilities grow in 2009 when Johnson missed most of the season recooperating from major back surgery. Nelson shined in the leadership role, filling in for the Flames' legendary longtime mentor by helping the Flames win the 2009 ECAC title en route to ECAC Assistant Coach of the Year and NCAA East Region Assistant Coach of the Year awards.
He repeated that award-winning feat in 2010, helping the Flames successfully defend the ECAC crown and earning the ECAC and NCAA East Region Assistant Coach of the Year honors again.
Nelson gained international coaching experience after serving as a coach for the Philippine national team twice. The squad participated in the South East Asian Games, and Nelson guided the team to an unprecedented haul of individual and team gold medals.