Call from "The Hall" for Former McM Track Coach Barbara Crousen

  Dave Beyer
  Tuesday, August 11, 2015 7:48 AM
  Archives 2014 - 2015

Abilene, TX

NEW ORLEANS – The U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) announced Monday the six coaches who will be inducted into the USTFCCCA Coaches Hall of Fame as the Class of 2015. Among them is McMurry University’s legendary former track and field coach, Barbara Crousen.

Joining Crousen for enshrinement will be Jim Bibbs (Michigan State), Bob Lewis (Frostburg State), Billy Maxwell (Nebraska, Texas, LSU, Tennessee), Don Strametz (Cal State Northridge) and Gary Wilson (Minnesota, UW-La Crosse).

“I came in (to my home) and opened that letter from the USTFCCCA,” Crousen explained on finding out about her selection today. “I wondered why I was getting a letter from them. I read it and just began grinning from ear-to-ear. This is the ‘Hall of Fames’ of all halls of fame for me; it’s the pinnacle for a college coach. This means a ton to me.

“It makes me feel like ‘hey, maybe I did make a contribution’.”

NCAA team championships in every sport at every level of the NCAA are all special in their own way. However, very few and far between are the national titles that transcend those boundaries as milestone achievements in sport. 

In 2008, McMurry’s Barbara Crousen won one of those national titles when she became the first woman in NCAA history to coach a men’s team to a national title in any sport, leading McM to the NCAA III crown.

Nearly a decade later, that short list of female coaches with men’s NCAA team titles still only includes her – twice, as McMurry went on to win a second national title in 2012 – and Jennifer Michel of Western State (2011 men’s NCAA DII cross country).

In winning the 2008 national crown, her War Hawks’ performance was as dramatic as it was historic. McMurry entered the meet-finale 4×400 relay with 29 points, four behind leader Cortland, which had failed to qualify a team to the final. The odds were against Crousen’s War Hawks, who had qualified to NCAAs as the 14th and final team and had barely made the final as the seventh-fastest of the nine advancing teams in the prelims.

Anchored by Hanneus Ollison, who ultimately had a hand in 34 of McMurry’s 35 points, Crousen’s squad stepped up to the occasion and finished third in a race in which third, fourth, fifth and sixth were all separated by less than a second.

Four years later in 2012 her squad once again claimed the national title, this time in much more comfortable fashion as the War Hawks scored 66 points to topple runner-up UW-La Crosse. That team featured four national champions – including Kevin Cunningham’s rare double victory in the open 400 meters and 400-meter hurdles - and 29 total All-America efforts.

Crousen took over the McMurry program in 1998 – reintroducing the sport back to the McM campus in 1999 - following 32 years of coaching in the Texas public school system. It only took her two seasons to shape the War Hawk women into a top-10 national program. Her women finished ninth in 2000, before going on to make the podium the next year with a fourth-place finish and take national runner-up honors in 2002.

Her men followed a similar trajectory just a few years later, starting with a 10th-place showing in 2004 before building up to fourth in 2006, the national title in 2008, a runner-up finish in 2009, a third-place trophy in 2011 and the final national crown in 2012.

Crousen retired after the 2014 season, capping an era in which her men and women accumulated eight top-four national finishes and a combined 16 top-10 efforts.

During that time, her teams claimed 14-consecutive American Southwest Conference men’s titles (never surrendering the ASC title during her tenure) and 10 more women’s crowns. In all, she coached her athletes to a combined 61 individual national titles, 244 All-America honors, and more than 200 individual conference titles.

She was twice named the USTFCCCA National Coach of the Year – earning the honor for women (2001) and men (2012) - and earned multiple national honors as a high school coach. She was inducted into the Texas Girls Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2012.

“(The selection) makes me think of all the athletes I have had at McMurry,” Crousen said. “It makes you think about all those kids who have been loyal to you and have been instrumental in my success. It takes more than one. I had some pretty neat kids at the right time.

“And assistant coaches; I can’t say enough about them.  At every level there was an assistant coach I had to have there. The coaches (from other sports) at McMurry worked together to make things happen when we first started.

“I think a big thing that helped me was being a high school coach and being president of the TGCA (Texas Girls Coaches Association).  People knew my face and my name and what I stood for.”

The enormity of her induction still has Crousen shaking her head in disbelief.

“I kind of feel like ‘what am I doing with these people?’,” Crousen reflected. “(The other inductees) are great.  I’ve always said that you have to surround yourself with good people and that’s what I tried to do.”

The six inductees will be honored at the 2015 USTFCCCA Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Tuesday, December 15, at the USTFCCCA Convention in San Antonio, Texas.

Started in 1995, the USTFCCCA Coaches Hall of Fame exists to recognize coaches who have brought great distinction to themselves, to their institutions and to the sports of cross country & track & field. Each of the honorees exemplifies the qualities of dedication to the sport, leadership and passion for their profession that serve as an inspiration to coaches everywhere in the sport.

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