Chuck Rohe Induction to Furman University Hall of Fame.

by
Coppley Vickers, presented at Chuck Rohe's induction
into the Furman University Hall of Fame

Whatever Chuck Rohe does he does it with zest, ingenuity, high level of energy, focus, relentlessness and with the highest degree of integrity. Marvin West, a renowned sports writer and author, identified Chuck Rohe as a genuine legend and as his personal poster-person for the power of positive thinking.

Chuck Rohe loves life and doesn’t want to miss anything. He takes all those around him along for the ride. He has been credited with coining the Nike phrase “Just Do It”. Although he personifies this phrase, he denies any credit for having coined it. Always up before the crack of dawn, he greets each morning with “What a day!”

He has mentored and instilled his philosophy of life into countless young athletes and coaches on his journey. I often recall, with a smile, the time Coach Rohe picked up our cross-country team from the athletic dorm at 5:30 in the morning and took us to the Tennessee agricultural campus to one of the many steep, long hills. It was a great morning to run. The temperature was about 34 degrees with spitting snow and sleet. He stood under a street light and as we sprinted up hill in the sleet and snow his words rang out “What a day! You ought to have to pay to run today!”. At that time, I didn’t appreciate it nearly as much as I appreciate it now.

At his induction into the United States Track and Field and Cross-Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame, he was recognized as the “father” of track and field in the South. I am not sure if he has ever been identified as the father of track and field at Furman University, but he was, in fact, the father of track and field at Furman University; and he went on to become the father of track and field at the University of Tennessee.

He began his historic journey at the University of Southern Mississippi where he played football, ran track, and became a graduate assistant. In 1955 and 1956 he was the track coach at Hattiesburg High School where his teams won state titles both years. He came to Furman as an assistant football coach and also as the head track and field coach in 1957. One of his most treasured career accomplishments was bringing Furman University its first Southern Conference Championship in any sport. This past February 25th marked the 50th anniversary of Furman’s first Southern Conference Championship. When he left Furman in 1962, he suggested that Furman hire a high school track coach from Druid Hills High School in Atlanta by the name of Jimmy Carnes. Coach Carnes continued the dominant tradition that Coach Rohe initiated. Furman’s first eight Southern Conference Championships were in cross-country and track and field. During the tenure of Coach Rohe and Coach Carnes, Furman had one of the finest collegiate cross-country and track teams in the southeast. Furman dominated the Southern Conference, the State of South Carolina, and most of the southeastern conference teams; and was competitive on a national level. Coach Rohe and Coach Carnes went on to become Olympic track coaches and served on the United States Olympic Committee. Coach Rohe was renowned for his ability to recruit athletes, including David Segal, a British Olympic gold medalist, to compete for Furman.

Coach Rohe was the head track and field coach for the University of Tennessee from 1963 to 1971 where he amassed 21 consecutive SEC titles in cross-country, indoor and outdoor. The University of Tennessee had never won an SEC indoor or outdoor championship prior to Chuck Rohe. He was also the Director of football recruiting, and he was the architect of a connection between track and football recruiting. He recruited several athletes who were All Americans in both track and football. The most notable of which was Richmond Flowers, an Alabama resident whom he recruited away from Bear Byant. During the time he directed the football recruiting for Coach Doug Dickey, UT posted the nation’s best seven year record and appeared in seven consecutive bowl games. While at the University of Tennessee, he was selected as the United States Track and Field Coach of the Year in 1967. He founded the Knoxville Track Club, which today is one of the leading track clubs in the United States.

He was the Director of Athletic Administration and Recruiting at Virginia Tech, the General Manager of the Houston Texans in the World Football League, the Vice President of Pace Management Corporation in Houston, the President of Rohe and Associates, and has promoted Broadway shows to the south, along with many spectacular events. He is currently the National Director of the Nike Coach of the Year Football Clinics.

He served a 20 year tenure as Executive Director with the Florida Citrus Sports. Under Coach Rohe’s leadership, the Tangerine Bowl became the Florida Citrus Bowl and took major steps in growth and prestige, such as corporate sponsorships from the Florida Department of Citrus and Comp USA, a New Year’s Day date with ABC Sports, the expansion of the Florida Citrus Bowl into a 70,000 seat world-class facility, a national championship game, and an agreement matching the Big Ten runner up or co-champion with the best team in the SEC not playing in a bowl championship series. During Coach Rohe’s tenure, the Florida Citrus Bowl earned a reputation as “The Best Bowl Trip in America”.

Coach Rohe has been inducted into the Southern Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame, the Knoxville Track Club Hall of Fame, the Greater Knoxville Hall of Fame, and the United States Track and Field Hall of Fame, and serves on the Board of Directors of the Florida Sports Hall of Fame.

Coach Rohe is truly a sports legend in his own time-“What a Day!” and “What a Journey!”


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