Ten years later, Clyde Hart still appreciates that baton handoff.
Hart has witnessed hundreds of swift passes in his 54-year Baylor track and field coaching career. But he remains perpetually happy about that pass of the head coaching reins to Todd Harbour, mostly because it allowed him to keep coaching the sport he loves without having to concern himself with all the administrative minutiae.
“I don’t have all the paperwork that you have as the head coach,” Hart said. “All I have to worry about is the group I’m coaching. People ask me all the time, ‘How long are you going to keep doing it?’ I used to say, ‘Until I don’t enjoy it anymore.’ I don’t say that anymore. I figure, until I’m too crippled to do yard work. I’d much rather be out here than in those flower beds. I’d rather be here and pay somebody to do that.”
Around the track that bears his name – the $18 million upgrade to the previous track that bore his name — everyone still refers to him as Coach Hart. Even Harbour, who has known the man for more than 40 years. Never Clyde. Every Baylor track and field coach considers Coach Hart a mentor and friend, but also a legend of the sport.
USA Track and Field apparently agrees. On Wednesday, the organization announced that it will honor Hart with the USATF Legend Coach Award, only the fourth such honor it has delivered. Hart will be presented with the award on June 24 during the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Sacramento, Calif.
If you stacked all the trophies, medals and accolades Hart has won over the years end to end around a track, you could lap the oval several times. He has been enshrined in several Halls of Fame, including the Arkansas Sports, Texas Sports, USA Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association and the Baylor Athletic Halls of Fame.
Hart said he is humbled to be remembered and recognized.
“This one is pretty significant, simply because it’s the governing body for track and field in the United States,” Hart said. “It’s only the fourth year they’ve given it out. You think to yourself, ‘Someday I’d like to get on that list,’ so to be this high up is very gratifying and I’m very proud of it.”
Michael Johnson and Sanya Richards-Ross, a pair of Hart’s 400-meter protégés who won Olympic gold medals, are expected to be in attendance for the presentation.
And yet Hart’s legacy extends far beyond MJ and Sanya. He took over as Baylor head coach in 1963, succeeding his mentor Jack Patterson. He served as the Bears’ head coach until 2005, when he passed the head coaching mantle to Harbour. His title changed to Director of Track and Field, and he continued to work with Baylor’s quarter-milers. The runners he has coached have combined to win 16 Olympic medals and tally five world records.
Hart said an honor like the USATF Legend Award reflects on all the athletes he’s coached.
“I couldn’t have won an award like this without them,” Hart said. “Everybody always thinks of Michael and Jeremy (Wariner), but we had NCAA champions a long time before them. Going back to the days of Willie Caldwell, Zeke Jefferson, Mark Collins, Brandon Couts and Deon Minor. … This award is as much about Baylor track and field as it is about me.”