Oregon football fans could tell you stories about the disruption that can be caused in a college sports program by a coaching change. They can also tell you about how programs can adapt, survive and thrive despite the disruptions. Student athletes who can stand strong and stay focused when these changes take place and Coaches who can quickly adapt to a new situation deserve a lot the credit for smoothing out what can be a roller coaster ride. The collegiate athletics landscape has been changing quickly. Coaches can face “instant changes” in available athletes brought about by the existence of the NCAA Transfer Portal. College Athletes now enjoy greater freedom due to being able to control their “Name, Image and Likeness.” Dealing with these changes are becoming critical to program success.
At the end of the 2022 outdoor track and field season, Oregon chose to make a change at the top of the cross country and track and field program. Without comment from Oregon, Coach Robert Johnson’s contract was not renewed by the University. While a variety of reasons for the change could be cited – team performance (Oregon’s Women had not won a National Outdoor NCAA Championship since 2017 and the Men since 2015 and neither team could garner a top 10 finish in the 2022 NCAA’s) along with concerns being raised about the treatment of athletes, particularly women athletes, in the end the University declined to specify. Ultimately, except for whatever lessons the new Coaching Staff might take from the incident, the reasons for the move are between Oregon and Coach Johnson.
The Ducks wasted little time in naming a successor. Within 2 weeks Oregon chose Jerry Schumacher as the new Cross Country and Track and Field Head Coach. Most recently Schumacher has been coaching with the Bowerman Track Club in Beaverton, spending 15 years burnishing a reputation as an outstanding Coach, mentor and leader of athletes. Prior to Bowerman, Schumacher gained collegiate coaching experience at the University of Wisconsin winning a 2005 NCAA Championship in Cross Country and an Indoor Track and Field title in 2007. Schumacher’s distance athletes accounted for almost three-quarters of the Badgers points in that Indoor Meet.
Schumacher has coached collegiate champions and Olympic Medal winners. The Bowerman Track Club under his leadership has 11 athletes participating in the current Oregon22 World Track and Field Championships being held at Hayward Field. He is widely viewed as one of the top distance running Coaches in the country and has won numerous awards including the 2017 USATF Coach of the Year. Schumacher’s expertise in coaching distance events should be particularly exciting to Oregon Track fans, as the Program gained national prominence by developing some truly outstanding distance athletes including well-known champions and Olympic Medalists such as Steve Prefontaine, Lisa Martin, Alberto Salazar and Galen Rupp.
Schumacher becomes just the 8th permanent Head Coach of Oregon’s Program since 1895 and joins such Duck legends as Bill Bowerman, Bill Dellinger and Bill Hayward. The combined Men’s and Women’s Oregon Cross Country, and Indoor and Outdoor Track and Field Programs have won 32 NCAA Championships. Duck fans will be looking for Schumacher to add to that historic total.