Rohe Track Era All About Us!

Compiled by Tom Scott 03/14/2014 


Charlie Durham, co-founder of Knoxville Track Club

Chuck Rohe has been a special friend for over 50 years. He was one of the best recruiters in the USA in track and football and a great motivator and promoter. His work ethic was amazing. I first met Chuck after he was named the new track coach at UT in 1962. I was directing an AAU Olympic Development Meet at the old Evans-Collins track. He dropped by to say hello and to meet some of the KTC officials. He asked that we arrange a meeting with KTC guys in his South Stadium office to discuss his plans to improve the UT program and work toward a SEC championship.

Little did I realize then that we would be meeting with him on a bi-weekly basis, although we all had full-time jobs and family considerations. The Vols won the SEC Outdoor Championships two years later in Lexington, Kentucky, and I recall seeing the athletes bury Chuck in the sawdust pole vault pit after winning. Soon, UT was one of the dominant programs in the USA, and Chuck was named the United States Track & Field Coach of the Year in 1967.

The KTC worked tirelessly to help plan, direct, and officiate all the meets in Knoxville, both high school and college. The Vols hosted the 1969 NCAA outdoor championships at the new Tom Black track. Jerry Wrinkle and I organized the annual Vol Track Classic, one of the top high school meets in the USA. Chuck helped organize the growth of the KTC officials and was indeed the motivation of our club. Frankly, he worked our butts off. We spent many Saturdays at the track, working ten hours or more with no pay beyond an occasional “baloney” sandwich. But we loved him and what he stood for—to win with hard work and character.

I have a favorite story about a trip in 1978 that Al Rovere and I took to Baton Rouge to help Chuck with a huge international indoor meet he was putting on for his company, Pace Management of Houston, Texas. I was with the Atomic Energy Commission in Oak Ridge. Chuck called to see if we could get off from work for about a week. Chuck said we would have an enjoyable, expense-paid trip with perhaps a night on Bourbon Street. Man, that sounded great! How could we turn down such a deal?

Chuck met us at the airport and took us directly to the meet headquarters on the top floor of a large hotel. The entire floor was reserved for coaches and athletes. In typical Rohe fashion, he showed us his yellow pad of things that had to be accomplished prior to Saturday’s meet. There was one problem. He had to leave that evening to return to Houston on some important business, but he said he had full confidence that Al and I could handle everything. Sure we could, Coach Rohe! For the next 36 hours we worked steadily, meeting coaches and athletes from many nations, arranging transportation, paying star athletes like Dwight Stone, and so on. Unfortunately, we had little time to sleep, but Chuck always said, “More work can be done when there is no sleep.” We all remember Chuck frequently working 20 hours a day at UT.

Chuck was supposed to meet us at an oyster bar on Bourbon Street around midnight on Thursday evening, but he never showed up. At 2:30 am Friday morning we started back to the hotel in Baton Rouge. We were just about asleep at 4:00 am when the phone rang. It was Chuck Rohe. He had travel problems but planned to be in Baton Rouge for an 8:00 am meeting. Al and I struggled to make the meeting. We were totally exhausted, but Rohe was fired up and ready to work.

The meet on Saturday was outstanding with some world-class performances. At the end of the day, Coach Rohe yelled, “What a day!” He was happy. We were dog-tired. About 11:00 pm Chuck took us to a local steakhouse, our second nice meal of the week. Our trip home on Sunday was delayed by an ice storm in Atlanta and Knoxville, but we finally got home on late Monday afternoon. It was a great week for Al and I, and we thanked Chuck for a wonderful opportunity to have fun helping with an outstanding indoor track meet. But it was nice to get some peaceful sleep and three meals a day back in Rocky Top.