Tuesday, January 22, 2008

New RunOhio Editorial On OU Track


Rod O'Donnell
January 2008

Ohio University Athletic Department's Worst Decision

January 25th will mark the first anniversary of one of the worst decisions that the Ohio University Athletic Department ever made - dropping the men's track and field program.

As I biked through the beautiful Ohio campus last summer and passed the track complex, a feeling of sadness and anger overcame me; sadness because the experience of thousands who were directly or indirectly involved with the program will never be duplicated by young men again, and sadness because, when a program is dropped, the acknowledgment of its very existence is lost. There is no mention of teams at Marshall or West Virginia on their respective school websites. As the years go by and those who competed are no longer here, the teams will be forgotten. In a generation or two, all victories, rewards, league championships, and All-Americans will be forgotten. Future generations will not even know that the sport existed unless they go into the archives. This is unfair to the men like Stan Huntsman, Elmore Banton, Les Carney, and many others who worked tirelessly as coaches or athletes to make Ohio University and its track and field program one of the best in America.

The pride of athletic alumni is strong. In a recent article in the Ohio publication, OHIO TODAY, former members of the baseball team met to remember and honor their late coach, Bob Wren, who symbolized everything good about Bobcat athletics. One alum put it this way, "When Coach Wren was around the golf outing, he used to say, 'You honor each other by being here.'" Unfortunately, former track team members will not have such opportunities. Young men throughout southern Ohio and the region will not experience the feeling of such pride.

In conflict with the feeling of sadness that I felt on that bike trip, I also felt a sense of anger towards those who made this unfortunate and devastating decision. The uncaring administrators who made the final call did not see the far- reaching consequences of their actions. This writer in a recent phone call from the university concerning fund raising repeated an example of a consequence of this action. In a calm, professional manner, I simply stated that I would never give another dime to Ohio University, unless the men's track program was reinstated. I hope others will join me in this action.

Sadly, as the years go by and the emotions soften, I fear that many will allow the memories to fade and their actions diminish. I am certain that this is exactly what the "executive branch" is counting on. Unfortunately, this trend has occurred at some schools that have experienced the loss of their programs.

The National Federation of State High School Associations recently released information concerning the number of participants in high school sports. According to this group, outdoor track has shown a six-year INCREASE of participants of 10.2%, with 544,188 boys taking part. According to the NFHS boy's track and field ranks third, behind football and basketball, in the number of student athletes participating in a high school sport. Also, there are more high schools that offer boy's track and field than football. Wouldn't you think that University administrators would reevaluate their misguided decision as they deny opportunities to a sport that spans all levels of diversity at state universities?

In closing, I would like to point out another example of the financial impact of dropping a sport. According to Bob Parks, the ultra successful former coach at Eastern Michigan University, the track team at Western Michigan, where he served as an assistant, had a roster of 100 young men, with 90% paying for their educations. That would be nearly one million dollars by today's standards. Ohio may not have had 100 on their roster, due to another bad idea, roster management, but the majority of those on their roster were paying for their tuition, room, board, and books. Many of these athletes would not have attended Ohio if it had not been for the track program.

If you care about our sport and its future, don't let the fight to bring back track and field at Ohio University, Bowling Green State University, University of Toledo, Western Michigan University, Ball State University, Marshall University, West Virginia University, or any other institution, end after the initial emotional reaction occurs. Track and Field, "The Mother of All Sports," has been in existence for thousands of years. Don't let poor decisions of a few individuals extinguish the flame.

Yours in track,

Rod O'Donnell

Editor's note: Rod O'Donnell has served as the head cross- country coach and track and field coach at both Caldwell and Hudson High Schools. He has also led teams from Kent State, Marshall University, and Rio Grande College. In 13 years of coaching high school cross-country, Rod has coached seven District Championship teams, and four Regional Champion teams. He has had eight State Meet appearances where his teams have placed 14th, 8th, 7th, 5th, 10th, 2,nd with two first place finishes. In addition, one of his runners, Wesley Smith was the 2002 State Champion and Footlocker runner-up. While at Hudson, Coach O'Donnell has had 17 State Meet qualifiers as well as the State Meet Champion in both the 3200 M. and 1600 M.

While at Kent State, he was named MAC Coach of the Year twice. Rod had 27 NCAA qualifiers in track and cross-country and 11 All-Americans. At Marshall, Rod was also named Coach of the Year twice in the Southern Conference. His teams had 25 Conference Champions and three NCAA qualifiers. He started the women's cross-country program at Marshall, in addition to starting the cross-country program at Caldwell High School in 1971. In 1973, his team won the State Championship and had a dual record for three years of 38-0. Overall, Coach O'Donnell has a high school dual record in track of 71-21 and 81-6 in cross-country.

Rod is always willing to help others in the field, and he has written many articles and has spoken at many clinics, encouraging others to given back to the sport.

Editor's note: Articles on Ohio University and other Mid American Conference universities dropping Men's Track and Field:

Bringing Back OHIO Track web site: http://bringin gbackohiotrack.blogspot.com

Help Save Track and Field in the MAC http://www.runohio.com/news/03-14- 07Ohio_U.html

Ohio University Men's Track and Field http://www.runohio.com/news/03-12- 07Ohio_U_Track.html

Track & Field coaches, athletes and friends Please get involved to SAVE TRACK & FIELD - http://www.runohio.com/news/01-31- 07_Save_track.html

Ohio University the latest to Drop Men's Track and Field http://www.runohio.com/news/01-26-07.html

Keeping Track - http://www.runohio.com/news/03-30- 07Keeping_track7.html

Keeping Track - http://www.runohio.com/news/10-23- 06Keeping_track.html

Will Ohio Track and Field be Saved? http://www.runohio.com/news/05-09-07-OU.html


Anonymous said...

Whether you run competitively or just for fitness, or are just concerned about the destruction of this popular sport, which provides opportunities for a diverse student body, take a few minutes and let Ohio University’s officials know you care about Track and Field and would like to see them reinstate the Men’s Track and Field program.

What can you do? You can contact the Board of Trustees, the University President and the Athletic Director to voice your concerns

Take a few minutes and write the Ohio University Board of Trustees –
General email address for the Ohio University Board of Trustees - trustees@ohio.edu

For a listing of the Ohio University Board of Trustees -

Ohio University Board of Trustees home page-

Ohio University President - Dr. Roderick McDavis - mcdavis@ohio.edu

Ohio University Director of Athletics - Kirby Hocutt - athletics@ohio.edu

shunts said...

Thanks for your article. How true your depicting my personal feeling of never returning to Ohio to fraterize with former Bobcat runners, but , also, with the many friends that I have in Athens as well as the University. Those days are gone forever. What a grand time we had at Elmore Banton's retirement ceremony and Track Reunion.The personal feeling of such a waste can only be understood by me and myself alone. Thanks for your continuence to keep the Track and field experience alive.
Stan Huntsman
Former Bobcat Coach

Anonymous said...

As a parent, I think track and field was a great experience for our son in high school but I don't think every COLLEGE needs a track and field team. Our son improved from freshman to sophomore to junior year and then plateaued. I observed the same about his friends. He was above average so we asked could he be competitive in college? College track teams have benchmark times that must be met. He did not meet them. End of discussion we were told.

I attended the 2013 Ohio State Track and Field meet and I thought it was a terrific experience for the students. I applaud all the adults who give of their time to run the events. It is a great culmination of a high school athletic career.

However, I believe only a very small number of the many high school athletes who make it to States have the times to compete in college. I believe those students should go to competitive programs who will have the best coaches and trainers to help them develop as adult athletes.

Colleges can't be all things to all people. Some are good in engineering, some in liberal arts, some in art, some in science, but any college that tries to do it all will not be as successful as those that choose a smaller number of specialties and do those well.

Parents and taxpayers are paying top dollar for college and we can't pay for everything.

Be realistic about how many high school track and field athletes can be competitive in college.

The truly competitive athletes have plenty of good programs to choose from.