In 1979, NC State took a chance on a young upstart named Rollie Geiger.
At the time, Geiger didn’t have any coaching experience at the collegiate level but had directed a very successful prep program at Bayshore High School in Bradenton, Florida. He led the Bruins to numerous top-5 finishes at the state level in cross country and track & field and helped Betty Jo Springs and Jeff Warrick become two of the greatest prep runners in state history.
That was enough for the Wolfpack to hire Geiger – a 1971 graduate of Kent State and a three-time letterman with its cross country and track & field programs – as the top assistant for its blossoming men’s and women’s distance programs.
It’s safe to say that NC State made the right decision – because over the past 39 years, the Wolfpack has been a perennial contender on both the conference and national stage.
Success and Geiger went hand-in-hand from the beginning at NC State. Within the first two years of being on campus in Raleigh, North Carolina, he helped the women’s cross country team win back-to-back conference (ACC) and national (AIAW) titles in 1979 and 1980.
A promotion quickly followed as Geiger was named the head coach of the men’s and women’s cross country programs in 1981. And it’s with those programs that Geiger created a juggernaut.
In 37 seasons as the head coach of the men’s program and 26 seasons as head coach of the women’s program from 1981 to 2006, Geiger has led NC State’s harriers to a combination of 32 conference titles, 10 regional titles, 55 All-America selections, and 21 top-10 finishes at the NCAA Championships. His women starred on the national stage as they captured three of the first five individual titles in meet history (Betty Jo Springs in 1981 and 1983, Suzie Tuffey in 1985) and made more team appearances at the championships than any other women’s program in meet history.
The Wolfpack women came within two points of giving Geiger what could have been his first national title as a head coach at the 1987 NCAA DI Cross Country Championships. Oregon edged NC State by a score of 97-99 despite the Wolfpack putting three runners in the top-10 of the individual race (Tuffey, Janet Smith and Renee Harbaugh were 1-4-5 in team scoring).
In 2016, the USTFCCCA announced that the NCAA Division I Southeast Region Women’s Cross Country Coach of the Year honor would be renamed the “Rollie Geiger Award” for his incredible achievements.
Geiger’s coaching prowess, however, isn’t limited to the grass circuit.
NC State gave Geiger the reins of its combined track & field program in 1984, three years after he took over the same role with the cross country program. Under Geiger’s direction, eight ACC team championships have returned home to Raleigh, while 87 different athletes combined to earn a total of 172 All-America honors and win four NCAA titles. Geiger is still currently the head coach of the men’s track & field program, while Laurie Henes took over control of the women’s program in 2019.
On the domestic and international level, Geiger has made the rounds. He coached at the 1987 Olympic Festival when it was held in Raleigh and later that year, was named coach of the U.S. National Team for the World Cross Country Championships in Auckland, New Zealand. He has been a featured speaker at the U.S. Olympic Training Center and was a member of the U.S. Olympic Development Committee for distance running.