The United States Sports Academy mourns the passing of legendary track and field coach and Academy Trustee Jimmy Carnes, who died Saturday, 5 March 2011, after a long and courageous battle with prostate cancer. He was 76.
Carnes, who built the stellar track program at University of Florida and the Florida Track Club, was named the U.S. Track and Field coach for the ill-fated 1980 Summer Olympic Games in Moscow, and was a member of the U.S. Track Field Hall of Fame.
Coach Carnes was a longtime personal friend and colleague of Dr. Thomas P. Rosandich, President and CEO of the United States Sports Academy, where Carnes had served as a member of the Board of Trustees since 2003.
“Jimmy Carnes will be missed by all, not only by the Academy, but by the profession of track and field in particular,” Rosandich said. “He did everything to restore track and field in the college program. He also was a major player with the Special Olympics for many, many years. He truly was a special individual. In everything he did, he did it well.”
According to Rosandich, Coach Carnes made a significant impact as an Academy Trustee.
“Jimmy lent a great deal of prestige to the board, just by his presence,” Rosandich said. “Not only was he a successful sports figure, he also was a great businessman. With his eminence and expertise, he was a great contributor to the Academy in many ways.”
Carnes, who enjoyed extraordinary coaching success at the high school, college and international levels, also became a leading positive force in re-organizing the sport of track and field.
He was born in Eatonton, Ga. in 1935, and later attended Mercer University in Macon, from 1952 to 1956, where played basketball and ran middle distance for the Mercer Bears track and field team. Carnes dated his future wife, Nanette, a Mercer education major whom he knew from Eatonton while they were undergraduates.
After graduating from Mercer in 1956, Carnes accepted his first coaching job as the head football, basketball and track coach at Druid Hills High School in DeKalb County, Ga. From 1956 to 1962, Carnes’ Druid Hills track teams were a perfect 52–0 in dual meets and captured six state championships. He was voted Georgia coach of the year six times.
In 1962, Carnes became the head cross country and track and field coach at Furman University in Greenville, S.C. His Furman track and field teams were 16–3 in dual meets, and won both the Southern Conference indoor and outdoor track and field championships in his two seasons there. In 1964, Carnes accepted the head coaching position at the University of Florida; he was just 28 years old. From 1965 to 1976, Carnes’ Florida Gators track and field teams finished in the top three in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) 15 times, won two SEC indoor track championships, and compiled a 93–3 overall record in dual meets.
Among his many Gators track and field athletes were 65 SEC individual champions, four NCAA individual champions and 24 All-Americans. In 1965, Carnes founded the Florida Track Club in Gainesville, an amateur track and field organization that helped to train high school athletes, college-level transfer students and future Olympians.
The Florida Track Club became a magnet for serious track and field athletes training for international competitions, including Jack Bacheler, Jeff Galloway, Marty Liquori and Frank Shorter, who won Olympic gold in the marathon in Munich in 1972.
In 1973, Carnes and Liquori co-founded Athletic Attic, one of the nation’s first sports equipment chain stores, with an emphasis on running shoes for training and competition. At the peak of the running craze, Athletic Attic had over 165 stores in the United States, Canada, Japan and New Zealand with over $40 million in annual revenue. Carnes resigned as the Gators track coach in September 1976 to focus on his Athletic Attic business interests and his Olympic coaching.
Carnes is survived by his wife, Nanette, three sons and a daughter. Memorial services are scheduled for Saturday, 12 March. Nanette told the Gainesville Sun that her husband had made a lasting impression far beyond the world of track and field.
“He just cared so much about people,” she said. “So many people talk to me about how much he’s done for them. What people will remember about him are the things he did for other people. He treated his track athletes like family and his family meant a lot to him. He had success in track, he had some accomplishments, but I’m constantly amazed how so many people come up to me and tell me about something he did for them.”
Carnes was diagnosed with prostate cancer 3 1/2 years ago, according to Nanette, but it had already metastasized to his bones before it was discovered.
“We are preaching the word to make sure you get checked,” she said. “And if they find something, don’t let them tell you to wait. Get a biopsy.”