USTFCCCA Coaches Hall of Fame Class of 2016 Announced
NEW ORLEANS — The U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) announced Wednesday the six coaches who will be inducted into the USTFCCCA Coaches Hall of Fame as the Class of 2016.
Terry Franson, Pat Healy, Mike Holloway, Bob Kitchens, Marty Stern, and Bubba Thornton will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame for not only their incredible and historic accomplishments as track & field and cross country coaches, but also the long-lasting impact their contributions have had and will continue to have on the sport.
These six will be honored at the 2016 USTFCCCA Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Wednesday, December 14, at the USTFCCCA Convention in Orlando, Florida.
Started in 1995, the USTFCCCA Coaches Hall of Fame exists to recognize coaches who have brought great distinction to themselves, to their institutions and to the sports of cross country & track & field. Each of the honorees exemplifies the qualities of dedication to the sport, leadership and passion for their profession that serve as an inspiration to coaches everywhere in the sport.
The full USTFCCCA Coaches Hall of Fame and information on all of its past inductees can be found here.
Biographies for each of the members of the Class of 2016 can be found below, in alphabetical order.
|On his induction: "When I read the letter, I looked through it and realized that it was me they were talking about. Then I looked through the names and saw who is in the Hall of Fame and who is being inducted this year, it was a little overwhelming. I’ve been out of the coaching game for a while, so it definitely surprised me, but it’s a definite honor. I’m a coach at heart — and will always be — whether it is on the track or in my current role as Dean of Students."|
Terry Franson’s rise from an All-American hammer thrower in Division II to one of the most successful coaches in NAIA history was nothing short of meteoric.
Eight years after he capped his athletic career at Chico State, Franson took over as head coach of the Cougars’ program. He was promoted following four years as an assistant.
APU finished sixth at the 1981 NAIA Outdoor Track & Field Championships the year before Franson held the reins for the first time. One year later, the Cougars moved up to second behind 1982 national champion Abilene Christian — and Franson was named the NAIA Coach of the Year for the first of 10 times in his career.
Over the next 13 years, APU dominated the NAIA national title scene.
Franson led the Cougars to 11 team titles, including seven in a row from 1983-1989. To this day, no team in NAIA history has won more than four in a row other than APU and Life (Ga.), which accomplished the feat from 1987 to 1990.
Two athletes in particular helped turn Azusa Pacific into the powerhouse that it was in the mid-1980s: Innocent Egbunike and Christian Okoye. Egbunike, a sprinter joined the program in 1981 and Okoye, a thrower, enrolled the following year.
Egbunike and Okoye combined for 12 individual titles in the span of five years. The former only lost once in a championship setting (swept the 100-meter crowns, won three of four at 200 meters), while the latter won four discus titles in a row (1983-86) and added a hammer-throw crown in 1984 for good measure.
The duo’s success wasn’t limited to the collegiate level. Egbunike won a bronze medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics as part of Nigeria’s 4×100 relay team and Okoye, affectionately nicknamed “The Nigerian Nightmare,” played in the NFL with the Kansas City Chiefs from 1987 to 1992 and scored 40 touchdowns.
Another one of Franson’s pupils, Dave Johnson, earned a bronze medal in the decathlon at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Johnson graduated from APU in 1986 and formed a dangerous 1-2 punch in the decathlon with Doug Loisel during his collegiate years.
Other Olympians that Franson coached include two-time Olympian Davidson Ezinwa (1992 4×100 silver medalist), Osmond Ezinwa (1992 4×100 silver medalist) and Fatima Yusuf, the first African woman to go sub-50 at 400 meters.
When Franson stepped down as head coach in 1995 to focus more on his duties as athletic director, he had mentored 125 All-Americans and 39 national champions. He was inducted into the NAIA Track & Field Hall of Fame in 1997 and the Mt. SAC Relays Hall of Fame one year later.
Franson currently serves as the Senior Vice President for Student Life and the Dean of Students at Azusa Pacific.
UW-La Crosse / Southern Oregon State
Pat Healy’s illustrious 40-year coaching career came to an end after the 2016 outdoor track & field season when he announced his retirement from UW-La Crosse.
Healy began coaching at Dallas High School in Oregon from 1976 to 1983 and moved to the collegiate ranks in 1983 as an assistant at his alma mater, Western Oregon State (now known as Western Oregon University.
After three years in Monmouth, Oregon, Healy jumped to Southern Oregon State and eventually made his way into the Eagles’ nest in 1991, where he would remain until he stepped down this past spring.
Healy started as the head coach of the UW-La Crosse women’s cross country team in 1991 and assumed control of the women’s track & field program the following year. While Healy’s cross country teams were successful in their own right with two top-4 finishes at NCAAs, it’s what his teams did on the track and in the field that made UW-La Crosse a national mainstay on the Division III level.
From 1992 to 2014, the Eagles finished in the top-4 21 times between the NCAA Division III Indoor and Outdoor Track & Field Championships, including five runner-up finishes indoors (1993, 1999, 2001, 2009, 2014) and two outdoors (1993, 1997).
UW-La Crosse — and better yet, Healy — finally broke through in 2015. The Eagles swept the indoor-outdoor titles and Healy became just the third coach in history to be named USTFCCCA Indoor Coach of the Year and USTFCCCA Outdoor Coach of the Year in the same academic year.
In his final year at UW-La Crosse, Healy’s teams took sixth indoors and fourth outdoors, adding yet another top-4 finish to the already staggering total. All told, the Eagles were top-10 in 41 of a possible 50 NCAA championship meets.
His teams at UW-La Crosse featured a total of 467 All-Americans, which included 261 outdoors, 196 indoors and 10 in cross country.
At the conference level, the Eagles were head and shoulders above the rest. UW-La Crosse won 16 indoor titles and 16 of the last 19 outdoor crowns.
Healy was named USTFCCCA National Coach of the Year a total of six times and Midwest Region Coach of the Year four times.
“It is hard to envision our athletic program without Pat at the helm of the women’s track & field program,” UW-La Crosse athletic director Kim Blum said when Healy announced his pending retirement. “Pat has led our team for 25 years, an unprecedented era of success.”
|On his induction: "It’s just an incredible honor and something I never considered that might happen, not only when I started my coaching career but this far along in it. When I opened up the letter and saw my name, it was an overwhelming feeling. It means a lot to me. I’m grateful to be able to build upon a legacy that I already started and share all of this not only with my former athletes but current and future ones.”|
Throughout his career, Mike Holloway has stayed true to Gainesville, Florida.
Whether he was the assistant coach at Gainesville High School (1983-84), a graduate assistant with the Florida women’s team (1986-87), the head coach of Buchholz High School (1985-1995) or back with the Gators since then, Holloway never dallied in his desire to build local programs to national powerhouses.
Ever since he took over as the head coach of the men’s track & field programs at the University of Florida in 2003 and added the title of women’s head coach in 2008, the Gators have thrived with Holloway at the helm.
In the first three years with Holloway as coach, the Florida men placed second at the NCAA Division I Indoor and Outdoor Track & Field Championships four times. That’s six total meets and outside of a sixth- and 18th-place finish in 2003, the Gators were knocking on the door of history.
Well, five years later Florida — most importantly, Holloway — kicked it in.
Holloway became the first black coach to guide a NCAA DI men’s track & field championship team when the Gators won the 2010 indoor title. That same meet, the women placed fourth, their best finish since Holloway took over the program in 2008.
Over the next three years, the Florida men continued their dominance as they won the 2011 indoor title, swept the 2012 indoor-outdoor slate and added the 2013 outdoor titles to the collection soon after.
The next championship for the men wouldn’t come until 2016, but it served as sweet redemption for Holloway and the Gators. Florida had placed sixth at the SEC Outdoor Championships, leaving many to think they were well out of the title hunt.
Since Holloway took over in 2003, the Gator men have placed second or better in 17 of the 28 NCAA Championship meets.
All told, Holloway has coached 373 All-American men (169 indoor, 204 outdoor) and 230 All-American women (96 indoor, 134 outdoor). Of those, 39 men won individual and/or been part of a relay championship, compared to 13 women since 2008.
On a global scale, five Holloway-coached athletes combined to win nine Olympic medals: Will Claye (2), Tony McQuay (1), Dennis Mitchell (3), Christian Taylor (1) and Bernard Williams (2). Mitchell (4×100), Taylor (triple jump) and Bernard Williams (4×100) all won gold in their respective events. Holloway also served as the sprints and relays coach on the 2012 Olympic team and head coach for the 2013 IAAF World Championship team.
Holloway is the second active coach in as many years to be inducted into the USTFCCCA Hall of Fame. Nebraska’s Billy Maxwell was part of the Class of 2015.
UTEP / Mississippi State / West Texas A&M
|On his induction: "What you work for your whole life is to be recognized by your peers and to be remembered for doing something special. When that happens, it means you accomplished something big and to be recognized for that means the world to me. I’m tickled to death to go in with coaches I’ve competed against and have known for a number of years."|
In 1965, a young freshman sprinter named Bob Kitchens entered the world of collegiate track & field at Texas Tech as a walk-on. When he retired from that world nearly four-and-a-half decades later, he was one of its coaching icons.
Between tenures as the head coach at UTEP, Mississippi State and West Texas A&M, Kitchens accumulated a legacy that combined numerable successes at both the individual and team levels. His athletes earned a combined 26 NCAA national titles and 265 All-America honors, with his teams pooling for 18 conference titles and a half-dozen top-five finishes at NCAA Championship meets.
The root of Kitchens’ success came in the sprint events, as he was able to draw on his experience as a walk-on-turned-scholarship-sprinter to mentor some of the fastest men and women the world has ever known. Such stars as Lorenzo Daniel and Obadele Thompson clocked times so fast their names still resound on the world stage, and such former charges as Blessing Okagbare continue to make names for themselves internationally.
After an 11-year tenure at the helm of the West Texas A&M program – including the women’s team he started in 1978 – Kitchens took over the job as the head men’s track & field coach at Mississippi State in 1979. It was there in Starkville he would mold Daniel into a sensation. Under Kitchens’ guidance during his freshman 1985 season, he showed flashes of what was yet to come with a World Junior-record 20.07 clocking over 200 meters. Not until the rise of one Usain Bolt nearly two decades later would that record fall, and it still stands as the sixth-fastest time on the list.
Kitchens and Daniel worked to make the most of the star sprinter’s 1988 senior season, and it paid off with historic dividends. By mid-May, Daniel had already run 19.93 to break the collegiate record at 200 meters and he wasn’t done there. The following month at the NCAA Championships, Kitchens watched as his star pupil ran 19.87 to win the national title with a collegiate record that wouldn’t be touched until Justin Gatlin edged it out by one one-hundredth of a second in 2002.
Kitchens made the move from Starkville to El Paso, Texas, later that year, where he would cement his legacy as one of the nation’s premier sprint coaches at UTEP, reinventing a program previously known for its distance runners in the decade before. Over the next 22 years, he would personally mentor 10 individual NCAA champion sprinters and 84 All-Americans – an average of nearly four per year.
But his success would spread far beyond just the sprints. Under his watch, the entirety of the Miner program produced 231 All-America honors and 23 NCAA event titles. His men and women combined for 16 conference titles and 15 top-10 finishes at either the NCAA Indoor or Outdoor Championships, highlighted by a streak in 1992-94 where his men were top-six at both NCAA meets. That run culminated in 1994 when his Miners were the national outdoor runners-up and third indoors.
As always, sprinters made up the core of his teams. In 1992, he guided Olapade Adeniken to a sweep of the NCAA Outdoor 100- and 200-meter national titles as his men finished fifth overall. Jim Svenoy would win the steeplechase title in 1994, the year the legend of Obadele Thompson was just beginning.
Kitchens built Thompson not only into one of the best collegiate sprinters of all time, but one of the fastest in the history of the world. By 1994, Thompson had already run 10.08A as a freshman for what was then the third-fastest time in world history by a U20 athlete.
In 1996, Kitchens coached Thompson to a blistering 5.99A at 55 meters, which still stands as the world record. He would go on to win the NCAA indoor title at 200 meters in a then-collegiate record 20.36, which stood until 2000. Outdoors, he ran a very windy 9.69Aw (+5.7m/s) over 100 meters; that stood as the all-conditions fastest time in world history for 12 years, and only Bolt, Tyson Gay and Yohan Blake have ever run faster.
Injury prevented him from NCAA Championships glory in 1996, but he came back with a vengeance in 1997. Under Kitchens’ tutelage, Thompson swept the national titles at 100 and 200 meters.
His men’s teams were strong throughout his tenure in El Paso, recording top-10 finishes as early as 1992 and as late as 2006, but the end of his run at UTEP belonged to the women’s team. The Miner women turned in their first top-10 outdoor finish ever in 2008, a prelude for what was to come in Kitchens’ final season in 2010. UTEP was seventh overall both indoors and outdoors for the best finishes in program history.
Leading the charge was – who else? – another sprint phenom in Blessing Okagbare. She won a combined four NCAA titles that season, two each indoors and out, and would eventually become a Finalist for The Bowerman Award.
Okagbare remains among the world’s best to this day. A bronze medalist at the 2008 Olympics, Okagbare accounts for one of the six medals won by Kitchens-coached athletes, who number 47 total.
|On his induction: "It’s very, very exciting to me and my family. This was my main job my whole life and it’s the thing I always wanted to do (to be a coach). Ever since I was younger and I participated in sports, I knew I’d be a coach. And to be honored by my peers and friends — because if they’re coaches, they’re all my friends — means the world to me."|
Villanova has a long and proud tradition of excellence in the mid-distance and distance events, and few coaches in the school’s storied history have left as significant an impact as did Marty Stern.
Leading the Wildcats’ women’s program from 1984 through 1994, Stern oversaw an era of Nova distance running in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s that no women’s program has ever matched. Stern watched as his Wildcats reeled off an unprecedented five consecutive NCAA Division I Cross Country team titles from 1989 through 1983 in an era peppered with individual champs on the grass and on the track.
He coached 145 All-Americans, 21 individual NCAA champions, 12 collegiate record holders, 22 Big East titles, 21 Penn Relay Championship of America titles, 12 world Records, eight American records, 13 Olympians, and 4 world champions.
Before he was Nova’s “Uncle Marty,” Stern headed a number of successful high school teams in the 1960s, the 1970s and into the 1980s, including stops at St. James High School, Malvern Preps, and Central Bucks High School. He spent two seasons at Delaware Valley College in 1982-83 before joining the Villanova staff for the 1983-84 academic year as a volunteer assistant coach under men’s & women’s head coach Charles Jenkins.
The following year, the decision was made for Jenkins to focus on exclusively coaching the men’s program, opening the door for Stern to become the women’s head coach. It didn’t take long for his women to make an impact on the national stage.
His 4×800 relay women won the NCAA Indoor title in 1985, kicking off a streak of success on the track that resulted in 19 national event titles over the next decade. With the exception of 1986, the Wildcat women brought home at least one national title each year from 1985 through 1994.
Behind a pair of indoor national titles in 1987 from the 4×800 relay and Vicki Huber at 3000 meters, Stern’s women finished third overall to set into motion a string of eight consecutive top-10 finishes at the NCAA Indoor Championships.
Huber and the 4×8 were the cornerstones of Stern’s teams in 1988 and 1989 that finished as runners-up. Huber was particularly dominant, winning the mile and 3000 titles in ’88 – and eventually finishing sixth at the Seoul Olympics over 3000 meters as Nova’s first-ever female Olympian – and the 3000 title for a third time in ’89. She matched that outdoors with three consecutive titles over that distance from 1987 through 1989.
Those two years set the stage for the capstone of Stern’s career at Villanova: the five-year reign of the Wildcat women over NCAA cross country from 1989 through 1993. Five consecutive national team titles, five consecutive individual national titles, and three of the biggest wins in meet history. No other team has won more than three consecutive national titles, and no other school has accounted for more than three consecutive individual national champions.
After his first five uneventful years leading the cross country program – which resulted in three NCAA Championship appearances – Stern’s women broke through in the biggest way imaginable in 1989. Huber capped her magnificent career with the individual national title, leading Villanova to a 99-point team score and a 69-point win over defending champion Kentucky.
That margin was the Championships’ widest between the winner and runner-up to that point, but the mark wouldn’t last long. One year later, it was Sonia O’Sullivan getting the individual win for Stern as Nova tallied 82 points to beat Providence by 90 points. To this day, no team has matched the Wildcats’ gulf of victory from November of 1990.
Stern kept the momentum going into the next season. O’Sullivan again won the national title as a senior, followed by sophomore teammate Carole Zajac as the runner-up among four top-30 finishers for the Wildcats. Those finishes tallied up to a final score of 85 for the Wildcats – 83 points clear of runner-up Arkansas for what remains the third-biggest margin of victory in meet history.
Just like Huber and O’Sullivan before her, Zajac took the reins in 1992 as she won the individual crown with teammates Nnenna Lynch (3rd) and Cheri Goddard (7th) in tow not far behind. When the dust settled, Villanova once again emerged with the national title with 123, but by just seven over Arkansas.
Sterns’ final cross country season in 1993 ended in similar, dramatic fashion. The Wildcats tallied their lowest score of the Sterns era with 66 points behind another win by Zajac, a runner-up finish from Jen Rhines and a seventh-place effort from Becky Spies, but again managed to squeak past Arkansas by five points.
All the while, Stern’s distance machine was firing on all cylinders on the track. The 4×800 team won its fifth and final national title during Stern’s tenure in 1990, while O’Sullivan picked up where Huber left off with a combined three national titles during the 1990 and 1991 seasons. Zajac added a pair of national 10,000 meter titles in 1993 and 1994, and Jen Rhines won her first of five national titles in 1994. (She would win four more after Stern’s retirement.)
His women finished third indoors in both 1991 and 1992 and fourth in 1993, and they turned in a fourth-place finish outdoors in Stern’s final meet coaching Villanova in 1994.
Texas / TCU
|On his induction: "I’m really excited about being part of such a prestigious group of coaches across America. I’m extremely pleased to be going in with a group of people who are in this class. Not only have they contributed as great coaches, but they helped the sport of track & field move forward. It’s an exciting time for me and my family. I’m looking forward to seeing everybody at the ceremony in December."|
Charles “Bubba” Thornton has worn many different hats – and at least a couple different helmets – throughout his adult life. Track & field athlete, college football player, professional football player, football coach, athletic director and track & field coach are all titles he’s held at some point over the past half century.
The common thread between each and every one? Thornton’s commitment to excellence.
Following a brief professional football career as a wide receiver for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills and the World Football League’s Jacksonville Sharks/Express, it was in track & field where his career eventually flourished.
The Texas native spent a combined 31 years at the helm of the track & field programs at his alma mater TCU – where he played football and lettered in track for two years – and then Texas. Between his days in Fort Worth and Austin, he coached athletes to a combined 35 NCAA event titles, more than 300 All-America honors, and 161 conference championships.
Many of those athletes – including international standouts Leo Manzano, Trey Hardee, Raymond Stewart, Mark Boswell and Marquise Goodwin – went on to compete at the Olympics, some multiple times. He personally oversaw Manzano and Hardee at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing as the head men’s track & field coach for Team USA.
His squads – especially those at Texas – were almost always in the forefront of the national conversation in one way or another. Athletes from Thornton-coached athletes won national event titles in 20 of his 31 seasons as a head coach, and his teams finished top-15 at the NCAA Outdoor Championships 13 times, including four top-five finishes. Those teams won 16 conference titles in the Southwest Conference and the Big 12.
Thornton’s coaching career began not in track & field, however, but on the gridiron. After hanging up the pro football cleats, he took on the dual responsibility of head football coach and athletic director at Keller High School in Texas from 1977 through 1981.
He rejoined his alma mater in 1982, and over the course of the next 13 years would turn his Horned Frogs into national contenders in the sprints. Right away his men won the NCAA Outdoor 4×400 title in 1983, but TCU would become an even bigger name in the 4×100 in just a few short years. His men won their first 400-meter relay title in 1986 and went on to reclaim it in 1987, 1989, 1991 and Thornton’s TCU finale in 1995.
Thornton watched in 1989 as the quartet of Horatio Porter, Andrew Smith, Greg Sholars and Raymond Stewart covered 400 meters in 38.23A on the track in Provo, Utah, for a new collegiate record. Nearly three decades later, that mark still stands as the collegiate record. Stewart, for his part, won three individual NCAA titles in his career and went on to become a three-time Olympic finalist at 100 meters.
In 1996, Thornton made the move three hours south to the University of Texas to head up the Longhorn men’s program. His impact was felt immediately in Austin, as his men finished fifth at the NCAA Outdoor Championships and claimed the SWC title in what would be Texas’ final season in the conference before departing for the Big 12. At NCAAs, Richard Duncan won the national long jump title before going on to compete in his first of two Olympic Games.
In 1997, his men posted Texas’ all-time best finish at the NCAA Championships with a runner-up effort, weeks after winning their first of five Big 12 titles under Thornton’s watch. With titles in 1997 and 1999, 2003 and 2006, and in his final year coaching in 2013, his men claimed Big 12 outdoor crowns in three different decades.
Seven more times his men finished top-10 at the NCAA Outdoor Championships during his 18-year tenure, including a third-place finish in 2006 and a fourth-place effort in 2008. The latter included a trio of national titles from Leo Manzano, Jacob Hernandez and Maston Wallace. He capped his career with back-to-back top-10 finishes in 2012 (tied for ninth) and 2013 (sixth).
Indoors, he had his Longhorns up to fifth-place nationally by 1999. That would be a prelude for a streak of seven consecutive seasons in which his men finished top-10 at the NCAA Indoor Championships. The height of that run came between 2006 and 2008, as his teams finished fourth, third and third, respectively.
At the conference level during the winter, his men claimed their first of six Big 12 titles under Thornton in 1999, followed by four-straight from 2006 through 2009 (including a co-title with Nebraska in 2007) and another in 2013 – again winning conference titles in three different decades.
Thornton retired from coaching the Longhorns in 2013.