When Jerry Schumacher was considering quitting his job as an assistant track coach at Wisconsin to become the coach for the Nike-sponsored Bowerman Track Club professional group, he created a list of the pros and cons and then consulted a trusted colleague.
“The advice I was given was, it’s a unique opportunity that most college coaches will never get a chance to do,” Schumacher recalled. “You’ll travel in circles that none of us may ever get a chance to travel in and those circles will probably make you a better coach.”
Then came the clincher: “You can always come back,” he was reminded.
Schumacher is officially back.
After 14 years in Portland with the Bowerman Track Club, Schumacher returned to the college ranks last month when he was named coach of the storied Oregon track and field and cross country programs, replacing Robert Johnson, who wasn’t retained in June following a 10-year run that included 14 NCAA team titles.
Wednesday at Autzen Stadium, Schumacher, 51, held his first press conference as a Duck.
“I’m really excited to be here, coaching at the University of Oregon,” he said. “This university has been helping to shape track and field both in America and across the globe for the last 50 years. So, it’s not something I take lightly and it’s a privilege and a wonderful opportunity.”
In the three-plus weeks since being hired, Schumacher coached 11 of his BTC athletes at the World Athletics Championships, hired three assistant coaches with two more hires still to come, and is dealing with an overflowing inbox as he’s been inundated with potential recruits and transfers reaching out.
“My head is still spinning,” he said with a laugh. “I have a lot of pins up there right now.”
Here are some takeaways from Schumacher’s press conference:
- With Oregon athletes off campus for the summer, Schumacher has met most of the returning and incoming Ducks via Zoom, though he said he has spoken with star men’s sprinter Micah Williams and expects him back next season. The 2020 Olympian set the school record in the 100 last season and was fourth at the USATF Outdoor Championships in June.
- The cross country season, which typically begins the first weekend of September, is fast approaching and Schumacher said he and his staff are still working on a schedule for when the team will reassemble in Eugene. Though the Ducks haven’t announced a meet schedule, Oregon State lifted the veil off the Ducks’ annual home meet when it announced last week that it will be competing in the Bill Dellinger Invitational in Springfield on Sept. 23.
- As a professional distance coach, Schumacher, as expected, admitted he’s been more of a fan of cross country and outdoor track and has traditionally viewed indoor track as more of a good way to prep for the outdoor season. However, now that he’s at a school that has won a combined 12 NCAA indoor team titles since 2009, Schumacher confidently said, “We’ll do all three seasons, and we’ll do them well.”
- On retaining associate head coach Curtis Taylor, who has been in charge of Oregon’s sprinters, hurdlers and relay teams for nine years, Schumacher said, “His record speaks for itself, I mean, just outstanding if you look at the UO records that’ve been set and just what he’s done since he’s been here. It was kind of an easy decision.”
Schumacher also confirmed what has been expected since he was hired on July 11: The Bowerman Track Club and its cadre of Olympians and American record holders are relocating to Eugene after the 2022 season ends.
Schumacher will continue to coach the team, along with Shalane Flanagan, Oregon’s new assistant men’s and women’s distance coach, who has also been coaching the BTC athletes for three years.
“We’ve been able to build a great staff over the years and find people that work really well together and the Bowerman Track Club has become a very well-oiled machine,” Schumacher said. “For me, it’s a really great opportunity and fun challenge combining the two pieces of what I’ve done for almost the last 30 years of my life.
“It’s really wonderful opportunity and I’m excited about it.”
As he is about his return to the college coaching since he left Wisconsin in 2008.
“I took that leap of faith and went and started coaching professionals, which I love, but there’s always been a part of me that’s missed the collegiate game,” he said. “Part of that is finding those 18-year-olds that want to be a part of what you’re doing and then getting a chance to shape their lives.”
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