Thursday, February 22, 2007

Stan Huntsman Article in Athens News

Famed OU track-and-field coach slams athletics cuts

By Nick Claussen
Athens NEWS Associate Editor
Thursday, February 22nd, 2007

Former Ohio University and U.S. Olympic track coach Stan Huntsman is not happy.

Huntsman, who also was an OU graduate student from 1954-1956, has asked university officials to take down his picture in the athletics department's hall of fame and has sent back his graduate degree. He is upset at the university's decision to eliminate four varsity sports, including men's indoor track and field and men's outdoor track and field, and has been speaking out against the decision.

OU officials announced in January that the university is dropping the men's indoor and outdoor track and field programs, as well as women's lacrosse and men's swimming and diving. Athletics department officials have claimed that the cuts had to be made because of a budget deficit in the athletics department and because the university is not compliant with the Title IX gender-equity law. Several current and former OU athletes have spoken out against the decision to drop the sports, Web sites have sprung up to "save the sports," and former OU track and field coach Elmore Banton has also spoken out.

Huntsman's decision to send back his degree was reported on in the Columbus Dispatch, and on Tuesday he talked about his decision and the response he has received from the university. He also sent a letter about the issue to The Athens NEWS, which appears in the opinion section of today's edition.

"As a former coach and former Olympic coach, I feel like I have to defend track and field," Huntsman said on Tuesday. The Austin, Texas resident coached track and field for 39 years, serving for 14 at OU, 15 at the University of Tennessee and 10 at the University of Texas. He coached 41 NCAA champions and four national champion relay squads. He also led the University of Tennessee to two national team championships and was named the NCAA National Coach of the Year six times.

Huntsman served as the head coach of the U.S. Olympic team in 1988, and as an assistant Olympic coach in 1976 and 1980 (which is the year the U.S. boycotted the Olympics). He also served as head coach for the U.S. teams at the 1983 world championships and the 1977 world cup. In 2004, he was inducted into the National Track & Field Hall of Fame.

"Actually, I got a nice letter from (OU President Roderick McDavis) today," Huntsman said. "He said he would certainly comply with my wishes (regarding his degree and remove his photo from the hall of fame). He hoped I would reconsider"

Huntsman said, however, that he does not plan to reconsider his decision.

"It's frustrating," he said.

Track and field is suffering, particularly at the Mid-American Conference level, where other schools have also dropped indoor and/or outdoor programs, Huntsman said. It is disappointing to see OU drop men's track and field as well, he said.

Huntsman does not understand why the university cannot find funding for track and field, and said that if the Title IX issue is so significant, it does not make sense to also cut a women's sport.

"Why are we becoming polarized and having fewer and fewer varsity sports?" Huntsman asked. Track and field has been a part of the university for such a long time, it does not make sense to just drop it, he said.

"I think there's a better way. At least try to raise the funds before you get the ax out," Huntsman said. "There are hundreds of Ohio University track athletes that would and could have salvaged the sport, if they had been approached and asked to."

HUNTSMAN ORIGINALLY came to Ohio to be part of the football program. While earning his graduate degree, he served as a graduate assistant for the football team. After earning his degree, he became the head coach for the freshmen football team in 1956, working for the head football coach at the time, the late Bill Hess.

He went on to coach men's track and field for 14 years, staying at OU until 1971, while also serving stints coaching cross country and swimming.

Since the announcement was made that OU will cut the four sports, Huntsman said he has heard from hundreds of his former students athletes.

"They all feel as I do," he said. "Most of them have written to President McDavis and to the athletics director."

Huntsman said he coached five national champions at OU, including Emmitt Taylor, who won the national titles for the 200-meter race and the 400-meter race in separate years. The track team finished eighth in the nation while he was coaching, and the cross country team finished fourth nationally one year, he said. "You work 16 years at a university and have all of these former athletes and all that time you put in there, and to see it all disappear, it's not a good feeling," Huntsman said.

While the women's track and field team will remain at OU, Huntsman said it will be hurt by the loss of the men's team.

"It will have an affect on recruiting," he said. "Men's and women's track teams tend to have a natural bonding throughout the United States."

Huntsman said he still has friends in Athens and makes it back to OU every four or five years. He occasionally hears from the university, but mostly just when the university sends letters or has students call asking for donations.

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