USTFCCCA’s First Executive Director Jimmy Carnes Dies at 76
NEW ORLEANS – Jimmy Carnes, former executive director of the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) died Saturday at age 76 following a long battle with cancer. Carnes, a former Olympic coach and USTFCCCA Hall of Fame member was a collegiate coach at Florida and Furman.
Carnes was the first executive director of the United States Track Coaches Association (USTCA), the predecessor organization to the USTFCCCA from 1993 to 2004. Carnes led the efforts to pull the various coaching-organization bodies that were once divided into several separate entities.
“We believe today that our organization is having success because of the foundation that Jimmy laid,” said USTFCCCA CEO Sam Seemes. “The groundwork in bringing all the parties to discuss their futures was tremendous for making the organization we are today.”
Carnes was a successful coach at all levels of the sport, from high school, through collegiate coaching, to the international stage.
Beginning his track & field career as a talented middle-distance runner at Mercer University in the 1950s, Carnes first job was a head coaching position at Druid Hills High School in Atlanta, Ga., where his teams went undefeated in dual meets and captured six state titles.
Carnes got his first chance in the college ranks in 1962 when he accepted a job at Furman University where he would go on to win indoor and outdoor titles in the Southern Conference.
Soon after, the University of Florida called, and Carnes would coach the Gators from 1964 to 1976. His teams would go on to win two SEC team titles and compile a 93-3 (.969) dual-meet record. Carnes would also later found the Florida Track Club.
Serving track & field interests in America, Carnes served as president of the U.S. Track & Field Federation (USTFF) and The Athletics Congress (TAC) – the predecessor organizations of USA Track & Field (USATF) from 1979 to 1984. He, along with Ollan Cassell worked closely in moving the sport from an amateur-only sport to full open competition.
“Although he had a respect for the pureness of the sport, he was one of the few voices out there that realized we had to progress with the world around us in order to be competitive, appeal to youngsters, and engage public interest,” Seemes said.
In addition, Carnes was an assistant coach on the men’s 1976 U.S. Olympic team and was named head coach of the 1980 U.S. boycott team. Beginning in 1979, Carnes also served on the Board of Directors for International Special Olympics.
Carnes was inducted into the USTFCCCA Hall of Fame in 1998 and the USATF Hall of Fame in 2008, and he is also a member of the Florida Sports Hall of Fame and the Georgia Hall of Fame.
Starting in 2008, the USTFCCCA has awarded annually an individual with the Jimmy Carnes Distinguished Service Award. The honor applauds those who have gone beyond the call of duty in their service to the association and to the advancement of the sports of track & field and cross country.
Memorial services are scheduled for next weekend. Carnes is survived by his wife, three sons, and a daughter.
March 5 article in The Gainesville Sun
By Pat Dooley
Jimmy Carnes, a 12-year track and field coach at Florida who founded the Florida Track Club, lost his battle with prostate cancer Saturday. He was 76.
A member of five different Hall of Fames, Carnes served as Florida’s track coach from 1964-76. During Carnes’ tenure at UF, he directed the Gators to 15 combined top-three finishes at the Southeastern Conference Indoor and Outdoor Championships. Carnes’ UF teams went 93-3 overall in dual meets during his career.
But it wasn’t only on the track where Carnes made his mark, his wife, Nanette Carnes, said Saturday.
“He just cared so much about people,” she said. “So many people talk to me about how much he’s done for them. What people will remember about him are the things he did for other people. He treated his track athletes like family and his family meant a lot to him. He had success in track, he had some accomplishments, but I’m constantly amazed how so many people come up to me and tell me about something he did for them.”
Carnes was diagnosed with prostate cancer 3½ years ago, according to Nanette, and it had already metastasized to his bones when it was discovered.
“We are preaching the word to make sure you get checked,” she said. “And if they find something don’t let them tell you to wait. Get a biopsy.”
Carnes, who was inducted into the USA Track and Field Hall of Fame, was assistant Olympic coach in 1976 and head coach in 1980, the year America did not participate because of a U.S. boycott.
He was the founding member of The Athletics Congress (TAC), the originator, along with Sam Bell, of the organization that replaced the AAU after the Amateur Sports Act of 1978.
Under his guidance, the Florida Relays, started by Percy Beard, became one of the premier events for track and field athletes.
It was during that tenure that he also became one of the co-founders of Athletic Attic in 1972. He also founded the Florida Track Club, considered one of the best in the nation, in 1966.
He served 16 years on the U.S. Olympic Committee and has been the president of the U.S. Track and Field Federation. He also started the Junior Champions program to involve aspiring athletes.
"My main goal has been to create mass opportunities for people to participate in track and field," Jimmy Carnes said for an earlier article in The Sun.
Memorial services are scheduled for next weekend.
Carnes is survived by three sons and a daughter in addition to his wife.
Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said, “There was no finer representative of his sport than Jimmy. And there was no finer person than Jimmy. We lost a good man (Saturday). He meant a lot to our track program and he meant a lot to track nationally.”
Carnes was instrumental in turning Gainesville into a running mecca after he came to Florida from Furman University to replace Beard as UF’s track coach.
"We put up a sign on my office door," Carnes said. "It said, ‘Track is on the move from California to Florida.’ "
“He loved track and he was always thinking of new ideas to publicize track,” his wife said. “He would do anything to help track.”
The Carnes home received numerous visitors in the coach’s finals weeks, including track athletes he coached in his first job at Druid Hills High in Atlanta.
“When word got out so many people came to visit him,” his wife said. “He touched so many people.”