The Shadow

by Gary Pine ’84

Truth be told, Kevin Reid is rather thick skinned; he has to be in order to deflect artillery that would drop a lesser man. And yet he remains quite comfortable in his own skin—a man at ease and at peace.

The Azusa Pacific University men’s track and field coach combines his humility with a mild-mannered, low-key approach that has allowed him to take over the greatest track and field program in annals of Christian colleges and universities. Now in his seventh year at the helm, Reid has carved his own niche—though it did take time and require patience.

In summer 1995, as a youthful 30-year-old, Reid accepted the baton of Azusa Pacific’s program; he took it from his former coach and longtime mentor Terry Franson, Ph.D., vice president for student life and dean of students. In the previous 13 seasons, Franson led the Cougar men to 11 NAIA outdoor championships, while garnering national Coach of the Year recognition a record 10 times.

For some aspiring coaches, such an opening is an opportunity. For others, it is a well-disguised curse. For Reid, by his own will and ways, it was a challenge seized, but there were times when he wondered if being the track coach at APU was something to enjoy.

At first, success appeared sweet. Reid guided Azusa Pacific to the 1996 NAIA Indoor Track and Field Championship, an event Franson never won in his 15 seasons as a coach. Yet, like a Vale ski slope, it was all downhill from there: APU failed to win another title for five more years.

“I think he felt like there was an expectation that he should be stringing out national championships, and that he was disappointing people like myself,” Franson said as he reflected on Reid’s coaching career.

Not until 1999 did Reid really assemble a team with no ties to the Franson era. And that 1999 recruiting class has not necessarily rebuilt the program, but perhaps redesigned it with similar results.

Cougar national champions Bryan Clay ’02, Jesse Roberge ’02, and Chris Carlson ’02 are the bell-ringers from that class, and they have each forged a unique relationship with a coach who is also a close friend.

“Our relationship is more of friendship,” said Clay, an NAIA-record 18-time All-American. “Someday when I have my own family, I can see our families spending Christmas or Thanksgiving dinners together. It is one of those relationships that will never end.”

An approachable, unthreatening figure, Reid has relied on his down-to-earth personality to put together teams that are strong in the decathlon, jumps, and throws. His peers on the national level recognized his skills in terms of operations, and when he was an assistant coach, placed him on the governing committee of the NAIA Track and Field Championship meet, a position he has held for several years. He is relaxed working behind the scenes, building necessary parts of a meet, a program, or a person.

“Kevin is a very selfless individual when it comes to promotion and adulation,” Franson added. “He’s a solid guy, trying to do things God’s way.”

Reid followed his 1996 rookie season with fine showings at successive NAIA Indoor and Outdoor Championship meets. In fact, the Cougars put together a streak of six straight top-five finishes. But none of them was a national championship.

“I began to realize that there was a lot of pressure on Kevin,” said Clay. “I could tell he was waiting for his year to come.”

And it did last spring. With one of the strongest units in APU track and field history, the Reid-led Cougars stormed to their first NAIA Outdoor Track and Field Championship since 1995, capturing the 2001 title by a whopping 47 points. For his effort, Reid was named the NAIA Outdoor Coach of the Year, which coupled with the same honor he received during the indoor season, made him one of the select few ever to be tabbed as both Indoor and Outdoor Coach of the Year in the same season.

This past winter, Reid did it again. He led APU to the 2002 NAIA Indoor Championship, and was named National Coach of the Year a third consecutive time.

Franson traveled with last year’s team for his first appearance at an NAIA Championship Meet since his 1995 retirement from coaching. “Knowing that I passed the baton, that Reid carried it very well, and that a young man had developed into a godly coach makes last year’s championship as special as any of the other ones before.”

At Azusa Pacific, championships do not make the person. Rather, consistency and commitment to a Christian life that serves others are the true measures. And Kevin Reid met those standards long ago.

Gary Pine ’84 is the assistant director of athletics in the Office of Athletics. [email protected]