Baylor has been Clyde Hart's home for the better part of five decades, but he's never forgotten his roots. Head track coach Jack Patterson recruited the Arkansas native to Baylor in the early 1950s as a sprinter on the track team. Now, Hart is the one who persuades the nation's top athletes to don the green and gold.
The 2003 season was Hart's 40th at the helm of the program for which he once competed and the year in which he received an award with special sentimental value -- induction to the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.
"You always like to be recognized by the hometown folks," Hart said. "I've been inducted into several halls of fame, and they were all a great honor, but there is always something special about going home."
The induction ceremony in February included a large gathering of Hart's friends and colleagues, who lauded his contribution to the sport. "His leadership at Baylor for over 40 years is a coaching record both in the former (Southwest Conference) and the Big 12," said Baylor president emeritus Herbert H. Reynolds. "His integrity and knowledge are the cornerstones of his greatness, and his legacy will be a lasting influence for good in the lives of the untold number of young people he has mentored."
Through the years, Hart has coached Baylor athletes to five Olympic gold medals and one Olympic bronze. Prior to this season, his athletes had earned 446 All-America honors. He was selected as an assistant coach for the 2000 USA Olympic Men's Track and Field Team and is a member of the Texas Sports and USA Track and Field Coaches Association halls of fame.
At Hot Springs High School in Arkansas, Hart was a state champion in the 100-yard dash, recording a personal-best time of 9.8 seconds. He also played high school football. As an undergraduate at Baylor, he ran the 100- and 200-yard dashes and the 440- and 880-yard relays.
After graduating from Baylor in 1956, Hart returned to Arkansas to coach for five years at Little Rock Central High School, where his cross country and track teams won state championships each year. His track team won 58 of 60 meets, including victories in the last 50 meets of his high school coaching career.
Since returning to his alma mater as the head coach in 1963, Hart has put Baylor on the national map in track and field. He earned international recognition for coaching Michael Johnson to his Olympic victories, and the list of his outstanding college athletes continues to grow. In the 4-by-400 relay, the men's team won its sixth straight indoor and outdoor Big 12 titles in 2003. Darold Williamson entered the NCAA Outdoor Championships as a sophomore who already had a national title (indoor 4-by-400 relay) and three All-America honors under his belt. Sophomore Lakadron Ivery claimed regional titles in the 100- and 200-meter dashes at the first NCAA Midwest Regional to lead the women's team to a fourth-place finish. The freshmen also exploded out of the blocks this year. Hart coached freshman Jeremy Wariner to his first All-America honor when he finished seventh in the 400-meter dash at the NCAA Indoor Championships in March -- held, appropriately enough, in Arkansas.
But now, it's on to the 2004 season, and Hart's goals for it are the same as they always have been. "I have had the same hope for the team for the past 40 years," he said. "I want to finish as high as possible at the national level. We still take each season one meet at a time."
Stachowiak is Baylor's assistant director of athletic media relations.