By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer
This morning, (Monday, August 18) Dick Coleman wakes up as the new Athletics Director at SUNY Delhi, after 11 years as Head Coach of Track and Field at Syracuse University.
Coach Coleman came to Syracuse in 1986, with 21 years of coaching experience, including 19 years as head cross-country and track and field coach at Mohawk Valley Community College, in Utica. Besides coaching, Coleman was a professor of physical education at MVCC, and received the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1975.
At SU, Coleman's program produced 10 NCAA All-Americans, 4 Academic All- Americans and countless BIG EAST champions and NCAA qualifiers. He guided the Orangemen to their first ever BIG EAST Conference Indoor Championship in 1992, and with it two consecutive BIG EAST Coaching Staff of the Year honors.
However, Coleman's impact went beyond the trails and the track. He took a paternal interest in his students and stressed a positive mental attitude. I have seen him numerous times cheering on the athletes, celebrating PRs, and consoling after missed opportunities.
Coleman believed that academics preceded and outlasted athletics. As a result, the Syracuse runners maintained the highest grade point average among SU athletic programs, and the Orangewomen were one of only three schools named to the U.S. Track Coaches Association All-Academic Team.
Coleman was also active in track and field administration. He served as president of the National Junior College Cross Country Coaches Association and was elected to their Hall of Fame, District II Representative to the NCAA Track and Field Coaches Association, president of the BIG EAST Coaches Association, and first vice president for the IC4A Coaches Association.
Coleman took an active role in promoting running in Central New York. An active member of the Syracuse Chargers Track Club, he competed as a masters runner, and completed two New York City and two Boston Marathons. Most lunch hours, Coleman joined local runners in training and competing at the Noontime Running League at Manley.
Coleman's involvement with masters running extended beyond competition to course certification and registration. He served as Director of the 1991 Senior Games, site coordinator of the 1993 and 1994 Special Olympics, vice president of the Adirondack Association of The Athletic Congress, and on the Board of Directors of the Central New York Track and Field Officials Association.
During his tenure as head coach, Coleman strengthened the relationship between SU and the local running community. He opened Manley Field House to joggers and runners during winter. He welcomed high school and post- collegiate competition on campus. He invited local runners to compete against college athletes in Syracuse Invitationals, and encouraged SU athletes to enter local races and all-comers meet. In return, the local runners embraced SU Track and Field as our team. We provided volunteers and officials to SU meets, and worked on promoting Central New York as a running haven.
Dick Coleman was not shy of electronic technology. He saw its potential impact on promoting track and field, and encouraged the development of a home page for the program. He witnessed the world's first live web coverage of a track meet, from Manley Field House in January 1995, and facilitated the live web broadcast of the 1996 BIG EAST Indoor Track and Field Championship from the Carrier Dome. To this date, Track and Field remains Syracuse's only athletic program with an active presence on the World-Wide Web, at http://www.cat.syr.edu/sutf/.
When SU completed the outdoor track at Colvin Park, Dick Coleman hosted the Syracuse Chargers' successful effort to set a Guinness Book world record in the women's 100 by 1 mile relay last summer. Over the ten-hour relay, Coleman cleared gravel off the track, chased away bees, carried water, officiated baton exchanges, cheered on runners, talked to the media, and consoled the meet director when the record was in doubt.
We thank Dick Coleman for his contributions to Central New York running, and wish him and Ginger all the best in Delhi. We look forward to continuing Coleman's legacy of a close relationship between the University and the local running community. We stand prepared to assist the SU Track and Field program during this transition, and we invite them to use the local running community as a resource during the search for the next head coach.
Kamal Jabbour owes his 3,000-meter PR to Dick Coleman. As Kamal tightened and strained in the last 800 meters, Dick's command to "drop those arms and keep straight" saved the day.