Jan. 31, 2005
This series of website articles will look into the history of sports at Florida State athletics – with an emphasis on women’s sports – to help uncover some of the history of the first teams at FSU. The two-part feature will highlight the background of the interviewee followed by a question-and-answer segment. The interview with former FSU track and field head coach Terry Long is the first installment in the series.
Tallahassee, Fla. – Terry Long has been associated with the Florida State University track program since he was 13 years old, when his father, Mike, became the head coach for the Seminoles, in 1953. He began his career as a student-athlete and ended as one of the best track and field coaches in Seminole school history.
During his career as an FSU athlete, Long set new school records in all indoor and outdoor hurdle events as well as running on the school record setting 440, 880 and sprint medley relays. His senior year, he had the nation’s fastest time in the 220-yard hurdles. Long completed his bachelor’s degree in 1963 and his master’s in 1965, both at FSU.
Long began coaching at Leon High School in Tallahassee before moving on to Delray Beach Atlantic High School and then Lakeland High School. He spent 16 years coaching at Seminole Community College, Santa Fe Community College and University of Florida. His teams won 16 state track and cross country titles and he was named national coach of the year three times. At Seminole Community College, Long was inducted into the Florida Track Hall of Fame.
In 1985, Long began his tenure at Florida State as the head women’s track coach and coordinator of both the men and women’s track/cross country teams. In 1988, after coach Dick Roberts retirement, Long became the head coach of both the men’s and women’s teams. His athletes set 14 school records in men’s track and 21 school records in women’s track. While in the Metro Conference, Long’s men’s and women’s squads never lost a conference track championship.
Since joining the Atlantic Coast Conference, Long has coached four men’s teams to titles (1995 and 2003 ACC Indoor and 2002 and 2003 conference outdoor titles) including the first in the program’s history and the three of four consecutive ACC championships. On the women’s side, he led FSU to its only ACC team championship during the 2000 season. He earned league, district and region coach of the year a number of times during his years at FSU.
Long retired after 15 seasons at the helm of the Tribe’s track and field program. During the final years of his tenure at Florida State, he coached three national championships – Teresa Bundy, Tonya Carter and Lacy Janson.
What is your most memorable moment from the time you were a coach at FSU?
There were a couple of memorable moments. The first one was in 1995 when we heard the results of the World Championships. Kim Batten won the World Championship and set a world record. At that time she was not part of the team but she had been a team member for four years. She graduated from FSU in 1991 and stayed here to train. It was probably the first time FSU had a world champion and a world record holder. She won the championship in Sweden and by the time we got the results it was morning here. The second memorable moment happened when we were in the Metro Conference. They only had men’s competition and we had never lost a conference championship. When I took over the program in 1988, we had that winning streak which we continued all the way through 1991. Then we started women’s conference competition in 1988 and we won all three of those. It was quite remarkable that one university could win every track and field competition men and women in the history of our involvement with Metro conference.
What differences do you see from a recruiting aspect from when you were in Tallahassee?
Not very many things have change with regards to this aspect. This team that we have now it’s comparable with the best men’s team we have ever had here. The coaches have done a very good job in recruiting. However, there is more intense recruiting done now. I think Ken Harnden has done a phenomenal job in the sprint area and that shows up. Coach Braman brought out very good distance runners. And of course some of the really great athletes were here when I left: Garrett Johnson, Rafeeq Curry and Lacy Janson. I still follow their performance really closely.
What administration differences do you see?
It is the same administration for the most part. But there has been a progression of interest and support that began to grow when we won women’s championship in 2000. I think that we got the attention of the administration and we laid out the foundation for a successful team. I think the administrators, Director Hart and associate AD Charlie Carr, are seeing closely to the growth of the program and to the well being of our student athletes.
We were limited by equipment and facilities… we ran on a dirt track in exactly the same place
How were the facilities when you were at FSU?
They just begun to use one minute vaulting polls, they didn’t have fiber glass yet and no foam rubber. We were limited by equipment facilities, we ran on a dirt track here at FSU in exactly the same place so when I came back we had very good facilities. For example, in the late 50s we had only men’s athletics and all men’s teams used the locker room that is now the volleyball locker room. The basketball, baseball, tennis, track and field teams were all in the same place. We all shared the same locker room and the same equipment room. What we have now it reflects a phenomenal growth. We have team rooms, locker room and film rooms. It’s becoming more and more evident that if you don’t have these things you are at a very severe recruiting disadvantage. This building was donated to us in 1989 and we were able to use it for weigh training and changing. However, the good aspect of the past facility was that we interacted with other sports. The camaraderie we had was unique to its time
What specifically has changed in your sport?
As a student-athlete, I did not participate in ACC championships. Almost everything the team did was regionally oriented and we had a greater emphasis on team competition. We ran scored competition a lot and not as many relay competitions. During that time, when you ran, you either won or lost. So, I grew up in an environment where the team was very important.
In general, track and field and cross country are difficult sports because you mostly have to beat the time. How did you motivate your athletes?
If you ever find a track athlete who I, as a coach, have to go motivate every day, they aren’t going to be any good. The motivation has to be internalized and for great athletes it is internalized. What you do as a coach is channel that motivation. You might enhance it in some days, you might be aggressive on other days when everybody had a down day, but the rest of it is teaching. Most of it is a process of education that revolves around the mental and physical aspect of athletics. But most of all, the process involves getting to know your athletes and get them to the point where they trust you.
Was the emphasis more on athletics or academics?
Florida State has always been able to create a very good mix. When I was in school we did not have tutors or academic support people so, we either made it or we did not. If we needed help we got with the instructor and worked out. I think today there is a lot of support geared to allow a student-athlete to be successful in school and in sport at the same time. What you do in sport is fun and it is good but by enlarge you are going to live with your education.
What was the atmosphere on campus? Were student-athletes looked up to?
Sure, they were. They were the ones that were on the stage. Burt Reynolds was playing football then but he was not the Burt Reynolds, he was Buddy Reynolds and he was just another guy. Back in those days there weren’t any drugs. The worst that you could do was to smoke cigarettes and drink beer. You did not have marijuana, cocaine or heroin – you had a very comfortable life style.
So, do coaches have a tougher job today than in the past?
Sure they do. There is a lot more temptation to fight. People and especially students can’t possibly go without cable TV, laptops, fast speed internet connection and cell phones. In the 1950s, we did not have so many distractions, we had very little television, we did not have a TV station in Tallahassee – the closest one was Jacksonville. When we went home from school or practice we read books, listened to music and hung out with friends. Not everybody had a car, you were happy to go to class and you were happy to have some peanut butter sandwiches. Plus a lot of people lived at home and we did not have so many transient students. Life was a lot simpler.
Are you still actively involved in the FSU athletics program?
I still work with a couple of athletes who were former FSU student-athletes, and will do so this year and maybe next year. Other than that I don’t go to so many games as I used to, the crowds are little more than I want to fight with. But FSU has been a phenomenal place where I spent more than 50 years of my life. So I will always have a special relationship with this university. It will always be a part of me.