Clarence Robison, a former BYU track athlete who went on to coach the team for 40 years, elevated the Cougars to contenders on the national scene with a co-national championship and nine other top-ten finishes in the NCAA Championships.
As a student-athlete at BYU in the 1940s, Robison competed in the 880 yard run, the one-mile run, and the two-mile run, setting conference records in the last two. After the U.S. became involved in World War II, he enlisted in the Navy and became an officer. Upon his return, he competed as a member of the 1948 U.S. Olympic Team.
From 1949 to his retirement in 1988, he coached every male athlete who stepped on the track at BYU. This included himself, although only unofficially. In 1949, Robison, a war veteran at only 26, was already a member of the BYU faculty teaching health classes, and he was enrolled in graduate school. But he had one year of eligibility left, and since he had been beaten in only one Skyline Conference race during his three-year BYU running career, the Cougars decided they needed him more as a member of the track team than as the track team’s coach. Stan Watts, the school’s new basketball coach, carried the team’s clipboard that season and Robison continued to compete. Once he completed his eligibility, Robison officially took over head coaching duties.
As BYU coach, Robison guided his teams to 19 WAC championships, as well as an unknown number of titles in the forgotten Skyline Conference, and he put BYU track on the world scene, organizing six trips to Europe for international competition. He also led the previously-unheralded BYU team to a tie for a national championship in 1970 and more than 100 individual All American honors.
Robison also served as President of the track coaches association from 1968-69 and as a member of the NCAA Rules Committee. He is the father of current BYU head men’s coach Mark Robison, and men’s cross country coach Ed Eyestone competed as one of Robison’s athletes. In recognition of his profound impact on the BYU track & field program, the BYU track facility is named in his honor.