According to the Daily Nebraskan, published this week, multi-sport collegiate athletes are now rare when in fact they used to be quite common.
"This is an exciting model but can only work if football is on board. You need a head coach with a broad vision for his players and program. This is as much about recruiting future elite football players as it is about making the current ones better," said UNI head track coach, Dan Steele
Last year star running back, Carlos Anderson followed his football season by winning the MVC Championship in the 60 meter dash and anchoring the Outdoor MVC Championship 4x100 meter relay team. Hot on his heals was wide receiver Jarred Herring. Herring followed his outstanding football season by finishing second in the 60 meters to Anderson and winning his third conference title in the 100 meters.
The third football star who crossed over to the track last year was Wilmot Wellington. Wellington scored in the sprints indoors and outdoors and was a two-time conference champion in the 4x100 meter relay. All three football players, including track athlete Derek Kramer, were members of the UNI 4x100 meter relay team that advanced to the 2011 NCAA Championships.
"Carlos, Jarred and Wilmot are amazing student-athletes, but I don't think they are uncommon," Steele said. "All over America, kids like them are excelling in track and football at the high school level. Then they go to college and most have to choose. I am very fortunate to have a coach like Mark Farley leading UNI football. He understands the value of two sport athletes for football and really for the entire athletic department."
At the University of Southern California, former coach Pete Carroll did not allow USC football players to participate in track despite a long standing agreement between the two programs. When Lane Kiffin took over he "revived" the agreement allowing his players to compete in track. USC found instant success in the jump and sprints like they did previous to 2000 when the crossover ended.
"The best way to train for speed is to work with experts and compete against the best," said UNI head football coach, Mark Farley. "We try to work closely with our track program for those reasons. When our football athletes train and compete against the best in the country, they become more confident and thus more productive for us. I have always felt the dual effort by our student-athletes allows a unique opportunity we can recruit towards and benefit from."
"There are a lot of very talented track/football players out there who want to do both sports in college," Steele added. "There is a real opportunity for any program who can offer these kids a great experience in both sports."
Steele and Farley are in agreement that academics come first for these unique student-athletes. Not every student can manage the demanding schedule of two Division I sports. Any UNI athlete wishing to participate in both sports must first demonstrate success in the classroom.
"The key to the success of this shared responsibility is the communication that takes place between the student-athlete, Coach Steele and me," said Farley. "Accountability towards academics, teammates and training is a balance that is critical to success for all involved."
Among the UNI football players who will be participating in track & field this season is freshman, Charles Brown. Brown, from Ft. Meyers, FL, redshirted this fall in football. Steele believes Brown has the ability to score in everything from the 60 meter dash to the 400 meters and add significant points in the long jump and triple jump.
"Charles Brown is a great example of why this relationship works," said Steele. "You want to know why a great athlete from Florida travelled all the way to Cedar Falls, Iowa for his education. It's because Coach Farley recognized the opportunity and offered him something nobody else did; a big-time track/football experience at a world-class institution. That takes vision."