ORLANDO, Fla. - The U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association inducted Dennis Craddock and five other coaches into the Coaches Hall of Fame on Monday evening in a ceremony at the organization's annual convention.
The Class of 2013 marks the 19th induction into the Hall of Fame and included Craddock, Ron Allice, Al Cantello, Curtis Frye, Jim Hunt and Paul Olsen based on their accomplishments and impact on the history of track & field at the collegiate, national and international levels through their coaching and the legacies of their student-athletes. The July 2013 announcement from the USTFCCCA can be found here.
"This was a super special night in my life," the longtime Carolina head coach said, "My thank you speech recognized my family - my wife, Faye, especially - all the student-athletes, my administrators, and a very special thank you to all my assistant coaches who worked side-by-side with me in good times and long hours."
"I grew up very poor on a tobacco farm in Virginia and I look now where my journey through life has taken me with help from God and many people," Craddock said, "I have been blessed.
"I was given an opportunity and from there I made good choices in life - not always perfect choices, but honest choices, " Craddock added.
In his speech Craddock closed with, "There are seven wonders of the world: to be able to see, to be able to hear, to be able to touch, to be able to taste, to be able to feel, to be able to laugh, and to be able to love...but I would add an eighth one: to be able to coach."
Watch Craddock's Hall of Fame speech circa the 1:04 mark below.
Following the announcement over the summer, Craddock was showered with overwhelming admiration from his colleagues and former student-athletes. At the time, and in true Craddock fashion, he admonished that his successes only mattered because of the help he received along the way and his passion for giving back to others: "One thing that has always been important to me, no matter who you are, whether you're a CEO or president of a major company or starting as a student-athlete, is that you never do it by yourself," he said.
A favorite quote of Craddock's embodies his career and life: "I have learned not to go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands. You need to be able to throw something back."
"This induction is the highest accolade provided by our sport. The friends and I spent our time congratulating him and reliving old times," current UNC head coach Harlis Meaders said before the ceremony, "Last night, on the eve of his induction into the hall of fame, I had dinner with Coach Craddock, his wife, and a few close friends.
"Coach Craddock spent the time deflecting all praise and acknowledging everyone that helped him along the way," Coach Meaders added, "We spent our time telling him how much he gave to us and he talked about what we gave him.
"He continues to be the humble teacher, mentor, friend and coach that we all love. I could not be happier for a man that has meant so much to so many and to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill," Coach Meaders said, "I have always considered him a humble giant and history has proven me right. Today he deservingly joins the legends of our sport."
With 44 years of coaching between the collegiate and high school levels, Craddock has amassed a legendary resume that includes two women's NCAA cross country team titles (1981, '82), a women's indoor NCAA team title (1982), and an unparalleled 45 ACC team titles via coaching tenures at Virginia and North Carolina.
His nine seasons at Virginia built the foundations for what would become an all-time great career, as his 1981 women's cross country team recorded an NCAA Championships-record winning score of just 36 points, with four finishers in the top 12 and seven All-America honorees. The 1982 squad again claimed the title, this time with 48 points - the second-lowest score in NCAA women's history - led by winner and ACC individual champion Lesley Welch and three other All-Americans. His men's teams also found success at the national level with a fifth place finish in 1984. A combined 16 women's and three men's cross country All-America honors were earned under his watch.
In between the two women's cross country titles came an indoor national title in 1982 that featured a staggering 17 All-America performances - a large portion of the 45 indoor All-America honors his women earned along with nine outdoor awards. The men claimed 14 total track & field All-America certificates.
Craddock's women's teams went on to win the first three ACC outdoor titles after the conference began to sponsor the sport in 1983. His men's outdoor teams finished runner-up twice during his tenure and no worse than fourth.
He made the move to Chapel Hill in 1986 to become the head coach of North Carolina for 27 years, where he mentored 25 individual Tar Heel student-athletes to a combined 38 individual NCAA titles and coached 19 Olympians who went on to claim five gold and two bronze medals.
Prior to Craddock's arrival at North Carolina, the Tar Heel women had not yet won an ACC title; Craddock changed that quickly and in a big way. His women's teams would go on to win 15 indoor ACC titles and 14 outdoor titles, while his men's teams won two indoor titles and four outdoor crowns. In the period between 1988 and 2004, Craddock's women's team claimed indoor titles in all but two seasons and took the outdoor title in all but three. Craddock was named the 1994 NCAA Coach of the Year for his successes with the women's and men's track and field programs at Carolina.
His women's teams swept the cross country, indoor and outdoor ACC titles in both 1994-95 and 2003-04, a feat not yet accomplished by any other women's program in conference history. The 1994-95 campaign was particularly special, as the women claimed all three ACC titles and the men swept the track & field championships.
His Carolina track & field teams were also successful at the national level, as the women finished top-10 14 times (9 indoor/5 outdoor) at the NCAA Championships and the men accomplished that feat six times (4 outdoor/2 indoor). The women finished fourth overall twice indoors, while the men finished as high as fourth outdoors in 1996.
He served as a head coach of the Gretna and Albemarle (Va.) High School track and field teams for eight years before entering the college ranks. His high school teams compiled a 117-8 dual meet record, claimed three state crowns, and produced four individual national champions. Craddock was named the Virginia High School Coach of the Year in 1975.
Carolina's 20 national individual titles coached under Craddock include: Allen Johnson (1992, 55-meter hurdles); Ken Harnden (1995, 400-meter hurdles); Milton Campbell, Harnden, Tony McCall and Henry McKoy (1995, 4x400); Monique Hennagan (1996, 400 meters and 800 meters); Eric Bishop (1996 and 1997, high jump); Shalane Flanagan (2002 and 2003, cross country; 2003, 3000 meters); Laura Gerraughty (2003, 2004 indoors and outdoors and 2006 shot put); Vikas Gowda (2006, discus); Justin Ryncavage (2006 and 2007, javelin); Brie Felnagle (2007, 1500 meters); and Felnagle, Tyra Johnson, Kaltenbach and Kloss (2007, distance medley relay).
Craddock is a 1965 graduate of Ferrum College, where he played football and was named captain and MVP of the track and field team. After two years at Ferrum, Craddock earned his bachelor's degree at Lynchburg College. He is also an inductee in the Ferrum College Sports and Lynchburg College Athletics Halls of Fame. Craddock was named Man of the Year in 1975 by the Charlottesville Chamber of Commerce for his work in the community and with his church in honor of his commitments to the town and his family.
Craddock retired from UNC in June 2012, soon after being awarded the Priceless Gem as Carolina's top honor. He and his wife, Faye, have three children and six grandchildren. Faye also worked in the UNC athletic department before retiring.
Started in 1995, the USTFCCCA Coaches Hall of Fame exists to recognize coaches who have brought great distinction to themselves, to their institutions and to the sports of cross country & track & field. Each of the honorees exemplifies the qualities of dedication to the sport, leadership and passion for their profession that serve as an inspiration to coaches everywhere in the sport.
The full USTFCCCA Coaches Hall of Fame and information on all of its past inductees can be found here.