Longtime Baylor head track and field coach Clyde Hart, who this year guided his athletes to three Olympic gold medals, was named 2004 Nike Coach of the Year by USA Track & Field. Hart received the award in early December at the 2004 Jesse Owens Awards and Xerox Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, held in conjunction with the USATF annual meeting in Portland, Ore.
Hart has produced a string of world-beating long sprinters throughout his 41 years at Baylor. Under his guidance, Baylor athletes have garnered 466 All-America honors, won 13 individual NCAA titles -- six of them in the 400 meters -- and 14 men's 4x400-meter relay crowns. Baylor owns one women's 4x400-meter title as well.
In 2004, Hart added to his legacy by developing 20-year-old Jeremy Wariner into an NCAA 400-meter indoor and outdoor champion, then into an Olympic Trials winner and Olympic gold medalist. Wariner won the 2004 Olympic gold medal in Athens with a time of 44.00 seconds, which broke the Baylor school record of 44.20, set in 1990 by world record holder Michael Johnson, also coached by Hart. The 44.00 time was the fastest in the world since Johnson's in 2000. During 2004, Wariner improved his personal best by 1.13 seconds and went from 2003 USA junior runner-up to the Olympic field.
Wariner's Baylor teammate and fellow NCAA All-American Darold Williamson took the baton from Wariner to run anchor on the gold-medal 4x400-meter relay team in Athens, giving the medal stand a strong Baylor presence and two more golds for the Bears. Wariner and Williamson -- who placed fourth in the 400 at the Olympic Trials -- joined with Olympic 400-meter silver medalist Otis Harris and bronze medalist Derrick Brew to run the second-fastest 4x400-meter relay time in Olympic history, 2:53.00.
"Anytime you are recognized in your profession, it's very gratifying, particularly this late in my career," said the 70-year-old Hart. "I never dreamed I would receive this honor, but I also didn't dream I would have two kids in the Olympics get gold medals. All of those things work together. If I didn't have great kids, I wouldn't have the success I've had. This award is the pinnacle of my profession, and I'm thankful to have received it."
Craig Masback, USATF chief executive officer, said, "Over the course of his career, Coach Hart has shown that he is among the best in the world when it comes to developing long sprinters.
"Jeremy had by far the most impressive year by a 400-meter runner since Michael Johnson, and Darold and the rest of the Baylor team demonstrate Coach Hart's ability to develop an entire team, not just one athlete," Masback said. "Coaches like Clyde are vitally important to ensuring that the legacy of Team USA continues." -- Baylor Athletics media