April 12, 2014
When former track head coach Stan Huntsman took over the position from seven-year boss Chuck Rohe, he inherited a program which had won almost 90 percent of its meets--as well as 15 conference championships.
The former head of the Ohio University track team, Huntsman came to Knoxville replacing a major name in the track world in the 1960s and 1970s, but he made an impact.
"We had a great program going," said Rohe. "Stan took it to a new level. When I took the job at Virginia Tech, I wanted to be sure that my kids were well taken care of that I coached for all those years. We had a great relationship and I had confidence that he would do a great job. (Bob) Woodruff asked me `Who should we get to replace you?' and I said `You hire Stan Huntsman.'"
Huntsman took over the head coaching position in 1971 and, for 14 seasons, continued Tennessee's men's track dominance across the Southeastern Conference and the nation, winning a pair of national championships in 1972 and 1974, within three years of joining the program.
Along with hosting the 2014 Tennessee Relays powered by Sea Ray, the University of Tennessee invited back over 120 Vol and Lady Vol track alumni to Knoxville to honor the long-time coach with a ceremonial plaque at the entryway to Tom Black Track at LaPorte Stadium. This year also marks the 40th anniversary of the 1974 NCAA national championship squad, where the Vols edged out UCLA to claim their first outdoor team title, two years after their first cross-country title.
"I spent 15 years out there on this track, almost daily," said Huntsman. "Put in probably the best years of my life here in Knoxville. We had great memories being out there on the track and I get flashbacks of all the athletes."
Huntsman's coaching involved a more laid-back style, allowing the athletes to lead and motivate each other to achieve their goals, but he certainly didn't hold back from making some bold moves. After bringing in some top recruits from places such as New Jersey and Michigan, Huntsman enacted a winning mentality, creating an expectation of being a high-caliber squad.
He even went as far as predicting a championship before the 1974 season.
"I made the prediction that we were going to win the meet before we even went down there and I got a lot of flak from Bob Woodruff, the athletic director," said Huntsman "He asked, `Why did you say that?' I said, `I didn't know why', but as it turned out, it came out just exactly like we had planned."
"We believed we could win," said Brian Guaschino, a ½-mile runner on the 1974 championship team. "Eventually, everyone in our conference looked at us. They wanted to see us lose. Second place was unheard of for us."
#OneTennessee might be a trend on Twitter this athletic year, but the UT community came out to support the track team, especially when freshman sprinter Reggie Jones ran sub 10-second times in the 100-meter. The stands of Tom Black Track would be filled on a game-by-game basis, including a couple of men in high positions at the biggest meet of the season.
"Both the president of the university, President (Ed) Boling, and Athletic Director Bob Woodruff was in Austin, Texas, Saturday when we won the championships," said Huntsman's wife, Sylvia. "We didn't know they were coming. Sometimes the competition will be in the same place, so the athletic director and president can walk 100 meters to show. That says a lot about the whole feel at that time at Tennessee."
Forty years later, with a plaque to permanently display the achieves of one of the most successful coaches in UT's long track and field history, fans and athletes alike can now witness a piece of the winning, competitive mentality which has become a definite pillar of the UT tradition on the track and in the field.
"We have made it a priority to begin to recognize the people that delivered our history and our tradition," said Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Dave Hart. "Stan is one of those people. It's been really special to watch Stan and Sylvia's reaction. This is really important to the University of Tennessee and to our athletic department."