Tardy Sprinters Part of Coach’s Legacy
ATLANTA (AP) _ Stan Wright vividly remembers wanting to throw a chair at Howard Cosell during a television interview at the 1972 Olympics in Munich.
The sportscaster was laying the blame on Wright because two U.S. sprinters were eliminated from the 100-meter competition for missing their starting time in a preliminary round.
It really wasn’t Wright’s fault, but he shouldered the blame anyway.
``That was a very devastating part of my life from an emotional standpoint, very devastating and traumatic because it not only affected me, it affected my family,″ Wright said. ``I had young children.″
The 75-year-old Wright, who was inducted into the national Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1993, plans to retire for good at the end of the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, where he will finish his service as special assistant to the president of USA Track and Field.
He recalled the circumstances surrounding the disappointment at Munich during the recent USATF convention in Atlanta.
Wright said the Germans changed the scheduled starting times for second-round races in the 100. That information was given to the U.S. team manager and head coach, but never reached the assistant coaches.
Wright said his sprinters had advanced through the first round in the morning and returned to the Olympic village so Rey Robinson could receive treatment for a pulled hamstring. Wright had a schedule that showed two heats of the 10,000 meters would be run before the second round of the 100. That was reversed by the Germans.
When he and the sprinters were returning to the stadium, they saw Cosell and other ABC personnel watching a monitor, he said. They asked what was on and were told it was the 100. They soon discovered it wasn’t reruns of the morning heats; it was live.
By the time they reached the stadium, it was too late for Robinson and Eddie Hart. Robert Taylor got to the starting line just in time for his heat, still wearing his warmups.
Wright told him to false start, giving him time to remove his warmups and put on his track shoes and take a few knee-bends. He finished second in the heat behind the Soviet Union’s Valery Borzov _ the same way they finished in the final.
``The other two kids and I almost lost our minds,″ Wright said. ``We were crying. It was shocking. We really didn’t know what had happened.″
Wright became angry with Cosell when he appeared on ABC that night after the sportscaster claimed Robinson said Wright had given the sprinters the wrong schedule.
``It was a damn lie,″ Wright said. ``Rey Robinson never told him that.
``He (Cosell) treated me atrociously and he just did a number on me, being nasty and mean about it, (saying) that I owed the American public an apology.
``I wanted to take the chair and throw it at him and leave,″ he said. ``I couldn’t do that. I had to maintain my composure. So, yes, I took the blame, and very frankly, it was hard.″
Wright built his coaching fame at Texas Southern, where his teams were dominating in the Texas, Kansas and Drake relays. He also coached at Western Illinois and Sacramento State, and served four years as athletic director at Sacramento and six at Fairleigh Dickinson.
He retired from his college work in 1988 and since has had tenures on the U.S. Olympic Committee and performed various duties with the nation’s ruling track federation, now the USATF.
``My greatest fulfillment has been in coaching,″ he said. ``I liked the challenge of administration and I liked working with the people. Coaching is hands on, that nitty-gritty relationship with athletes. That’s what I always wanted.″
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