The quest for championships begins with the coaching staff, and for 25 years, Gary Stanley has served on the track and field staff at Louisiana Tech University. This year will mark his eighteenth as the head coach for the Bulldog and Lady Techster track and field programs. He has amassed for himself 13 Coach of the Year titles by his conference peers and has seen 15 conference championships in four different conference.
Now, Stanley has returned the track and field program to championship contenders and defenders and has led his team to the 2005 and 2006 Indoor and Outdoor Championships for the women, with the men constantly climbing the ladder to the top.
Stanley directed the men and women's teams to their previous best finishes as members of the Western Athletic Conference three years ago which earned him the WAC Outdoor Women's Coach of the Year honor after a second place finish by the Lady Techsters. It is the fourth different conference to bestow the coach of the year honor on Stanley after being named coach of the year previously by the Sun Belt, Southland and American South Conference.
His long and illustrious career in Ruston began in 1982, when Stanley began his first of two years as a graduate assistant for the track and field program. He began his collegiate coaching career fresh off a Louisiana High School Athletic Association Class 4A state championship at Bonnabel High School in 1980.
In 1984, Stanley was promoted from graduate assistant to a full-time assistant coach. Also in that year, he was given the reigns as the head coach for the cross country program here at Tech.
Stanley was an all-star runner in his days of competition. After earning all-district honors at East Jefferson High School he went on to letter four years at Southeastern Louisiana. His honors include the 1970 New Orleans cross country city champion, 1972 Southern AAU three-mile champion, 1973 Southern AAU one-mile champion, 1973 All-Gulf States Conference, 1975 U.S. Track and Field Federation all-regional cross country and the 1975 LSU Invitational three mile champion.
One of Stanley's highlights was helping lead SLU to its only conference cross country championship in 1973 while finishing eighth overall.
"I was fortunate that Coach Dyes operated our program under a dual coaching system," Stanley said. "By that I mean he gave me full control of the distance program and cross country team. This allowed me, in essence, to be the head coach of that program. That experience made my transition into the overall head coaching role much easier and probably much more successful."
After serving four years as a full-time assistant, Stanley was named the head coach at Louisiana Tech in 1988. The past 15 years have seen his program become one of the best and most consistent on the Louisiana Tech campus and throughout the state in track and field.
Stanley coached John Ratcliffe at Bonnabel High School as the future Tech star set the Louisiana state record in the 3,200 meters of 9:12, a mark that is still standing today. Ratcliffe then ran an astounding 8:53 in the 3,200 meters at a national high school post season event. Ratcliffe eventually signed with Arkansas but ended up at Tech where he had a stellar career as a Bulldog.
Prior to winning back-to-back WAC Championships, Tech's biggest team achievement under Stanley's guidance came at the national championships in 1999, with the women's team finishing 17th in the country in 1999 at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Boise, Idaho, ahead of national powerhouses Tennessee, Michigan and Miami. Out of the top 20 teams, Tech was the smallest school. That speaks volumes to Stanley proving that he can compete with the nation's best despite running a program that has just two full-time coaches.
The women's team finished 10th at the NCAA Mid-East Regionals in 2004 with 22 points, placing the Lady Techsters second in the state behind LSU and ahead of national elite programs like Wisconsin, Michigan State, Purdue and Ole Miss.
Stanley's expertise with distance runners has led Tech to qualify runners in every event at nationals from the 800 meters to the 10,000 on the men's side. LSU is the only other track program in the state to accomplish such a feat. The Bulldogs posted the fastest times in Louisiana in the 800, 1,500, 3,000-meter steeplechase and the third fastest 5,000 meters in the state a year ago.
For the past five years, Stanley has led the Tech track and field program into one of the nation's toughest conferences in its sport after Tech jumped from the Sun Belt Conference to the Western Athletic Conference.
In the past 35 years, the WAC holds an impressive 18 national titles in track and field, meaning Stanley has faced tough task of making Tech competitive among the nation's best track and field squads.
After five seasons in the WAC, Stanley has shown that his Tech program definitely does belong. Stanley has rebuilt the women's program from the bottom of the league to a perennial powerhouse that needs no introduction. The Bulldogs have emerged from the basement of the league to the middle of the pack in the WAC with hopes of joining the top echelon of track and field teams in the conference.