George Williams’ legend grows
Thirty-two NCAA Division II team championships, more than 150 Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association titles and 200-plus coach of the year awards. But who’s counting? Certainly not George Williams.
Williams, the legendary Saint Augustine’s track and field coach, has built a dynasty during his 37-year tenure at the helm of the program. It was something he certainly never dreamed of when he took over the program as a favor until the school found a permanent replacement for the outgoing track coach in 1976. At the time, he was working as an administrator in the school’s alumni office.
A 1965 graduate of St. Augustine’s, Williams played basketball for the college and ran track as a way to keep in shape. But he knew nothing about coaching track and field athletes.
“The first year, I think my team scored four points in the conference championship,” Williams said.
A friend of Williams’, legendary Winston-Salem basketball coach Clarence “Big House” Gaines, also shared his thoughts with the young coach as well after seeing one of St. Augustine’s meets.
“Big House said, ‘George, I saw your program. You’re trying to run track with basketball players. You need to get track athletes,’” Williams said.
Williams heeded the advice. Since Williams led the Falcons’ men’s outdoor squad to the CIAA title in 1978, the program has won every outdoor conference championship but two.
Williams claimed his first NCAA trophy in 1985 with Saint Augustine’s women’s indoor team. They won the title after the team road-tripped from Raleigh to North Dakota in vans, barely making the start of the meet. He has since risen to the pinnacle of his sport multiple times, whether it be with men’s or women’s, indoor or outdoor teams, including his latest championship in March, when the program captured the men’s indoor national title.
Williams has not only excelled in the DII coaching ranks, but has coached some of the world’s greatest athletes. Named the head coach of the 2004 U.S. Olympic Men’s Track and Field Team, Williams’ athletes brought home 19 medals from Athens, Greece. He also served as an assistant coach for the 1996 Olympic Team and has mentored 32 Olympians during his career, including three goal medalists.
The veteran head coach said there is no secret to winning in track, just recruiting student-athletes that can run fast.
“I try not to mess them up,” Williams said. “I don’t change too much, but I do go back to school and learn different things about biomechanics, because kids are different now. They have better tracks and lighter shoes. I try to keep up with that, but I don’t change the [practice regimen].”