Another award for Nutty
JEFF SCHORFHEIDE/Herald photoEd Nuttycombe has earned an impressive number of awards andaccolades in his 25 years as head coach of the Wisconsin men’s track team.However, his induction into the Madison Sports Hall of Fame June 4 has uniquesignificance.“It’s an honor,” Nuttycombe said. “When I look at all the names of the peopleon the plaques on the wall, I just realize how exclusive of a group it is.”It’s a typically modest response from a man who has few reasons to be humble.During his tenure as head coach, Nuttycombe has led the men’s team to 23combined indoor and outdoor Big Ten titles, produced 159 All-Americans, andlast year, made Wisconsin the first Big Ten school to win a national title intrack.From the start, Nuttycombe was destined to find this success in coaching. Hisfather was a Hall of Fame high school track coach, and as a child Nuttycombewould run his own backyard track meets.“Maybe five or six times during the summer, we’d host a neighborhood track meet,and we’d have 40 or 50 kids from the neighborhood come and run in it,”Nuttycombe said.This love for the sport would lead to him become a four-year letter-winner intrack at Virginia Tech and eventually helped him gain an assistant coachingposition at Wisconsin under Dan McClimon.“[McClimon] gave me the opportunity to get started in the coaching world,”Nuttycombe said. “Dan was a wonderful person. … It was a wonderful opportunity,but too short a period of time.”A tragic plane accident claimed McClimon’s life in 1983, leading to Nuttycombebeing named head coach. The transition was eased by the fact McClimon alreadyhad the program’s foundation in place.“What we did was supplemented it,” Nuttycombe said. “He put things in place,and we just kind of refined it and tried to improve on it.”As his r?sum? ?shows, Nuttycombe’srefinements to the program have worked out quite well. Assistant coach MarkGuthrie is quick to point out Nuttycombe’s success should be attributed as muchto the man himself as to the foundation he took over.“He really has a great relationship with his athletes,” Guthrie said. “Hetreats them like men.”Senior captain Peter Dykstra agrees.“He has kind of a laid-back relationship with his athletes,” Dykstra said. “Ithink one of the main reasons he’s been so successful is that he gets a veryhigh level of respect from his athletes. He treats each one like an individual.He’s not out at practice just to give orders.”Nuttycombe’s history as a decathlete also gives him the benefit of being well-versedin many events.“He’s had experience in almost all the events,” Dykstra said. “He’s reallyknowledgeable across the whole field.”As much as his peers and athletes laud him, Nuttycombe is quick to defer muchof the credit to his assistants. However, the boon of having a good coachingstaff is also a bane.“Keeping staff intact is difficult, especially when you’re successful. Peoplewant to come and take your staff from you because they see them as being partof the formula,” Nuttycombe said. “And there’s no question that having goodquality staff like we do now [is important]. There’s a chemistry that you asthe head coach orchestrate from the top, but those guys are the ones in thetrenches getting the work done.”As modest as Nuttycombe is, he also carries a confidence about what he’s done,with the 2007 indoor national title being a point of special pride.“It was something that we had dreamed of, that I had dreamed of for manyyears,” Nuttycombe said. “It felt like the culmination of a lot of work from alot of coaches and a lot of athletes. I’m really proud of it for the programand for the university and for myself personally.”In the wake of that national title, it would be reasonable to feel extrapressure to succeed, especially when combined with the way UW has dominated BigTen track and field during Nuttycombe’s tenure. However, he believes the onlypressure on the team is self-imposed.“I think yes, there’s pressure, but it’s pressure that the coaches and athletesput on themselves,” Nuttycombe said. “That’s what makes you stay hungry afterall these titles.”In the end though, it’s not the titles or the awards Nuttycombe wants to beremembered for.“It’s very simple: someone who was a good person, who took care of hisathletes,” Nuttycombe said, in typically modest fashion.But just that?“And,” he added, “someone who put together a good, competitive track program ona yearly basis.”As his history and colleagues can attest, he should have no troubleaccomplishing that either.