By: Sean Cartell
SEC Digital Network
COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Pat Henry has established himself as one of the greatest track and field coaches in the history of his sport, winning a total of 33 team national championships at the NCAA Division I level at both LSU and Texas A&M.
Henry, who has led the Aggies to three consecutive NCAA Outdoor Championships on both the men’s and women’s sides, has vast experience with the Southeastern Conference during a storied career at LSU, during which helped make the Tigers as the pre-eminent track and field program in the nation, winning 27 NCAA team championships while in Baton Rouge.
Henry sat down with the SEC Digital Network to discuss what Texas A&M’s move to the SEC means for the sport of track and field.
SEC Digital Network: What does Texas A&M’s move to the SEC mean for your track and field program?
“First, the Big 12 has been a very competitive track and field conference. There are great institutions in the Big 12 and great coaches. Moving to the SEC, and having been in the SEC, the competitiveness of both conferences has been very evident by results at the national championships over the past few years. I believe the SEC, from top to bottom, to be the most competitive conference championship in the country. Bringing our program to the SEC is a great challenge and one we are looking forward to.”
SEC Digital Network: Having spent many years of your coaching career in the SEC, what are the unique strengths that the SEC as a conference brings to the sport of track and field?
“The initial strength of the SEC is the conference championships, which is the first step to being competitive at the national meet. If you look at the SEC over the past 25 years, the national strength has been very evident with more team champions coming out of the SEC than any other conference.”
SEC Digital Network: Especially with the addition of Texas A&M to the SEC, the SEC meet will feature a large majority of the athletes and teams that are in contention at the national meet. How does that dynamic at the conference level help SEC teams be successful at the national level?
“Rivalries are important in college athletics. As we see in all sports, athletes rise to the occasion. Somebody wins that nobody thought would win, or somebody loses that nobody thought would lose. That dynamic has made the SEC the most outstanding conference in the country.”
SEC Digital Network: Your men’s and women’s teams have won three consecutive NCAA Outdoor Championships. What have been the keys to success for your teams to win those national titles?
“The key for our program has been not only to hire great assistants, but to follow a plan and create an environment that attracts young people. A work ethic and the support of your administration are critical factors. I have been blessed to be the head coach at two great institutions in the Big 12 and SEC and have always felt the support for our sport.”
SEC Digital Network: For SEC fans that may not know, talk about your facilities and what you have done to create a strong track and field fan base and home-meet environment.
“First, I received a commitment from this institution in regards to facilities. We have accomplished half of that commitment to this point. The next half of our facility upgrade is schedule to begin in 2012 with an outdoor track and field stadium. Our indoor facility, I feel, is the best in the country. For not only the athlete, but the fan who watches the competition. We have tried to have an environment within our facility that allows the fan an opportunity to watch a meet from start to beginning without being there all day. Relatively short competitions, which are competitive, are good for the fans and bring fans back to our sport. I’m committed to having those types of competitions and believe it helps our sport establish a fan base.”
Special thanks to Texas A&M’s Shawn Price for his assistance with this article.