The quest for championships begins with the coaching staff, and for over 26 years, Gary Stanley has served on the track and field staff at Louisiana Tech University. This year will mark his twenty-first as the head coach for the Bulldog and Lady Techster track and field programs. He has amassed for himself 16 Coach of the Year titles by his conference peers and has seen 19 conference championships in four different conferences.
Now, Stanley has returned the track and field program to championship contenders and defenders and has led his team to the women's 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 Outdoor Championships and 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2009 Indoor Championships, with the men constantly climbing the ladder to the top.
Four different conferences have bestowed 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 before the Western Athletic 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.
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 went on to have a stellar career as a Bulldog.
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, after being a district champion in the mile and being crowned the city of New Orleans Cross Country Champion while at East Jefferson High School went on to letter one year at Pensacola Junior College and three 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, 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 in the race.
Stanley attributes his success to the guidance of former head coach Jerry Dyes during his six year assistant position under Dyes.
"Coach Dyes was the greatest coach I've ever been around," said Stanley. "He was so instrumental in my growth as a young assistant."
After serving six years as a full-time assistant, Stanley was named the head coach at Louisiana Tech in 1988. The past 21 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.
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.
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.
In addition to running in some of the nation's most prestigious meets in indoor and outdoor track every year, Stanley has also 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 2001.
In the past 35 years, the WAC holds an impressive 18 national titles in track and field, meaning Stanley has faced a tough task of making Tech competitive among the nation's best track and field squads.
After eight 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 while the Bulldogs have emerged from the basement of the league to the top three with hopes of winning it all soon.