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Watts steps down as cross country and track & field coach

04/18/2013

After 44 years, Doug Watts, announced he will step down from his position as the country and track and field coach at Edinboro University. Watts is the longest-tenured coach in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference.

“Needless to say, this is a large loss for Edinboro University and for the sport of running,” said Director of Athletics Bruce Baumgartner. “We knew eventually this day would come, but it seemed each year that Doug was getting younger, not older. I don’t know if you’ll ever see again a coach stay for as long as he has at one school, and I do know that coach will be hard-pressed to match his standards from a running and academic sense.”  

Watts built a legendary list of accomplishments during almost a half century of coaching and teaching. Since he arrived at Edinboro in 1969, his teams have been national champions six times and Division II runner-up six times in addition to numerous top-10 finishes. He also coached four individual champions in cross country and five in track.

Edinboro cross country long ago set the standard of excellence in the region under Watts.  His men’s teams won 29 PSAC championships and 22 regional titles. His women’s teams have finished in the top five at Nationals on five occasions, along with winning 15 PSAC crowns and 11 regional titles. He coached 102 cross country All-Americans, along with many more in track & field. 

As a result of Watts’ success, an "uncountable" number of conference, district, and regional "Coach of the Year" awards are scattered throughout his office. The National Coach of the Year five times, he was inducted into the Edinboro Hall of Fame in 2004 and named the PSAC Men’s Cross Country Coach of the Year for the tenth time this past fall. He also was named the PSAC Women’s Cross Country Coach of the Year seven times and has been honored as the regional coach of the year on numerous occasions.

Watts accepts the mantle of “legend” with characteristic humility and humor. “In this case, my image is defined by the many, many miles of hard training and dedication to performing at the best of one’s ability by a lot of quality student athletes,” he said.

Watts was not just about running, however. He has always taken great joy in the academic accomplishments of his student-athletes, and his squads have excelled academically. In 2012 alone, the women’s cross country team earned USTFCCCA All-Academic honors with a 3.63 GPA, the highest among all 32 teams qualifying for Nationals, and the men also finished as an All-Academic Team with a 3.4 GPA, also the best among national qualifying teams. 

Watts’ programs will be remembered for the balance he created in the Edinboro environment of national-level athletic performance, exceptional academic success, and his athletes’ memories that they had fun while doing it – though Watts chuckled at that.

“I only wanted to be a teacher,” he said. “I don’t know if I ever considered myself as a coach first. Education is not the same objective as professional sports.  Winning is not the only thing. All I ever aspired to was trying to create an environment where kids had the support to attempt to achieve the best they could be.”

Baumgartner said the university will explore its options in the coming weeks, adding that Watts has agreed to actively serve in a voluntary coaching capacity to assist in the transition for years to come.