Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Press Whelan, September 27, 2019

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries

 

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00:00:00 - Introduction / Running career in high school

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Partial Transcript: Alright, well I'm Dennis Emery and I'm here with Press Whelan and probably, you know, a Hall of Fame coach here, you know, uh, one of the--the person who really started the University of Kentucky down the path to national prominence.

Segment Synopsis: Press Whelan talks about his hometown. He talks about his successful high school running career at the St. Joseph School in Bardstown, Kentucky.

Keywords: "St. Joe"; "St. Joe's"; After school programs.; After-school practices; After-school training; County schools; Farm families; High school athletics; Mile runs; Small schools; St. Joseph School (Bardstown, Ky.); State championships; State mile; Transportation.

Subjects: Bardstown (Ky.); Cross-country runners; Cross-country running; Farm life.; High school; High school athletes; New Haven (Ky.); Rural families; Teachers.; Track and field athletes.; Track and field.

00:02:18 - UK's history with track recruitment

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Partial Transcript: Now, who was the coach at Kentucky at that time?

Segment Synopsis: Whelan discusses the University of Kentucky's earlier attitudes towards developing the track program and track recruitment. He talks about the first track scholarships at UK, Don Seaton, and Bernie Shively.

Keywords: Athletic scholarships; Bernie Shively; Fielders; Long-distance runners.; Long-distance running.; Program development; Program interest; Program support; Seaton Center (Lexington, Ky.); Shively, Bernie; Sports programs; Sports scholarships; Track scholarships; University of Kentucky--Football; University of Kentucky. Department of Physical Education

Subjects: Athletic directors; Coaches (Athletics); College athletes; College athletes--Recruiting; College department heads; College environment; College sports--Coaching; College sports.; Scholarships.; Scouting (Athletics); Seaton, Don Cash, 1902-; Student aid; Track and field athletes.; Track and field.; University of Kentucky; University of Kentucky--Sports--History

00:04:30 - Running career at UK

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Partial Transcript: Okay, so, you, you know, clearly you had a great running career.

Segment Synopsis: Whelan and Emery recall Whelan's track and cross country highlights as a student athlete at the University of Kentucky.

Keywords: All-American athletes; All-American honors; Bachelor's degrees; Cross country champions; Jack Martin; National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA); Olympic coaches; Record setting; SEC champions; Southeastern Conference (SEC); Steeple chase; Track champions; Two-person relays; Two-person ten-mile relays; World records

Subjects: College athletes; College sports--Kentucky; College sports.; College students.; Cross-country runners; Cross-country running; Long-distance runners.; Long-distance running.; National Collegiate Athletic Association; Southeastern Conference; Sports championships; Sports records; Track and field athletes.; Track and field.; Universities and colleges--Alumni and alumnae.; University of Kentucky; University of Kentucky--Sports--History

00:07:50 - UK's support of the track program / Old track facilities on campus

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Partial Transcript: Well, you know, at that time, how much did UK support track?

Segment Synopsis: Whelan describes how the University of Kentucky's support of the track program was reflected in their program budget. Whelan describes an photograph of old track and athletic facilities on campus.

Keywords: Athletic complexes; Athletic facilities; Athletic meets; Cliff Hagan Field (Lexington, Ky.); Cliff Hagan Stadium (Lexington, Ky.); Farmlands; Football fields; Indoor track and field; Kroger Field (Lexington, Ky.); Nelson, Vic; Outdoor track and field; Practice fields; Program support; Sports centers; Sports meets; Spring sports; Tennis courts; Track meets; Travel budgets; Travel resources; Traveling budgets; Vic Nelson

Subjects: College athletes; College campuses; College facilities.; College sports--Economic aspects--United States.; College sports--Kentucky; College sports.; Cross-country running; Education, Higher--Kentucky--Lexington; Long-distance running.; Program budgeting.; Track and field athletes.; Track and field.; University of Kentucky; University of Kentucky--Sports--History

00:10:47 - Career before head coaching at UK

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Partial Transcript: Alright so, now, before you come--become head coach at Kentucky, you have a period of time where you do several things it, it seemed like.

Segment Synopsis: Whelan discusses being a freshman track coach at UK, a head high school track coach, and an international track coach before arriving at his position as head track coach at UK.

Keywords: Assistant coaches; Assistant track coaches; Biology; College freshmen; Cross-country runners; Freshmen coaches; High school biology; High school teachers; High schools; International coaches; International track coaches; Lebanon.; Olympic athletes; Organization; Organizing; Overseas coaching; Seaton, Don Cash, 1902-; State championships; Track and field athletes.; Track championships; Turkey; duPont Manual High School (Louisville, Ky.)

Subjects: Coaches (Athletics); College athletes; College sports--Coaching; College sports--Kentucky; Cross-country running; High school athletes; Track and field--Coaching; Track and field.; University of Kentucky; University of Kentucky--Sports--History

00:14:21 - Becoming head track coach at UK / Getting married

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Partial Transcript: How do you become the track coach at University--(Whalen laughs)--of Kentucky in April of 1967?

Segment Synopsis: Whelan talks about how he got the position as head track coach at UK. He talks about getting married and starting a family. He talks about the condition of UK's track program and his attitude coming in as head track coach.

Keywords: Academic probation; Athletic programs; Bernie Shively; Bob Johnson; French teachers; Grades; Job benefits; Job interviews; Johnson, Bob; Master's degrees; Mentors; Shively, Bernie; Student teaching; Track programs; Tuition waivers

Subjects: College athletes; College sports--Coaching; College students.; Families.; Marriage.; Program budgeting.; Promotions.; Salaries; Scholarships.; Teachers; Track and field athletes.; Track and field.; Universities and colleges--Faculty.; University of Kentucky; University of Kentucky--Sports--History

00:19:59 - Jim Green

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Partial Transcript: Okay and then now you--so you're going out, you know, you're obviously a very aggressive, hungry, young coach and you're going out and you're trying to get the best people you can get, and one of those people right off is Jim Green.

Segment Synopsis: Whelan describes what it was like to recruit and coach Jim Green at UK. He describes how Green's recruitment helped catalyze the recruitment of other black athletes at UK. He talks about Green's accomplishments, personality, and their relationship. He talks about Green's career after UK.

Keywords: Athletic directors; Bernie Shively; Black city officials; Black communities; Black leaders; Community leaders; Confidence; Guidance; Hard workers; Indoor track; Integration; Johnson, Robert L.; National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA); Oswald, John; Personalities; Racial climates; Recruitment committees; Robert L. Johnson; Rupp, Adolph, 1901-1977; SEC champions; SEC football; Segregation; Shively, Bernie; Southeastern Conference (SEC); Summer recruitment; Wallace, Perry; World records

Subjects: African American college students.; African American track and field athletes; African American trailblazers; African Americans--Sports; Coaches (Athletics); College athletes; College athletes--Recruiting; College sports.; College students, Black; Discrimination in education--Law and legislation--United States; Discrimination in higher education; Discrimination in sports; Educational change--Kentucky; Green, Jim; Minorities in higher education; National Collegiate Athletic Association; Race relations.; Racism--United States.; Southeastern Conference; Track and field athletes.; University of Kentucky; University of Kentucky--Sports--History

00:32:12 - Traveling the South with black athletes

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Partial Transcript: You know, let's, let's go into a little bit--you're the coach, you know.

Segment Synopsis: Whelan describes what it was like to travel to track meets in the South with black athletes on his team. He talks about racism and evidence of segregation still remaining in the South. He recalls a story about an encounter with the police in Mississippi.

Keywords: Allstate Sugar Bowl Track and Field Classic; Bathrooms; Civil rights workers; Driving; Green, Jim; Jim Green; Mississippi; Motels; Nelson, Vic; Police; Policemen; Safety; Southeastern Conference (SEC); Sugar Bowl Track and Field Classic; Track meets; Vic Nelson

Subjects: African Americans--Sports; Coaches (Athletics); College athletes; College sports--Coaching; College sports--Kentucky; College sports.; College students, Black; Discrimination in sports; Racism in sports.; Racism--United States--Public opinion; Segregation--United States.; Southeastern Conference; Southern States.; Track and field athletes.; Travel.; University of Kentucky; University of Kentucky--Sports--History

00:37:01 - Bill Lightsey

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Partial Transcript: Well, let's, let's move on to another guy then: Bill Lightsey.

Segment Synopsis: Whelan talks about William "Bill" Lightsey and his long jump accomplishments in the UK track program. He describes Lightsey as a student and an athlete.

Keywords: Bill Lightsey; Green, Jim; Indiana; Indoor champions; Indoor championships; Lightsey, Bill; Lightsey, William; Long jump; NCAA championships; National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA); National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA); National Junior College Championships; Scholarships.; Teachers; William Lightsey

Subjects: Broad jump; College athletes; College athletes--Recruiting; College sports--Kentucky; College sports.; College students.; Education, Higher--Kentucky--Lexington; National Collegiate Athletic Association; National Junior College Athletic Association; Scouting (Athletics); Track and field athletes.; Track and field.; University of Kentucky; University of Kentucky--Sports--History; Work ethic.

00:39:41 - Delegation of coaching assignments

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Partial Transcript: Um, did you have an as--because I know that you're a distance guy--so did you have someone coaching the sprinters and--

Segment Synopsis: Whelan talks about how he delegated coaching different kinds of runners among himself and other assistant coaches on the track team.

Keywords: Assistant coaches; Bob Johnson; College athletics; Conditioning; Delegating; Exchange students; Flexibility; Flexibility training; Johnson, Bob; Long-distance running.; Lopez, Oscar; Oscar Lopez; Runners; Scholarships.; Sprinters; Stretchers; Teachers; Weight training; Weights

Subjects: Coaches (Athletics); College athletes; College sports--Coaching; College sports--Kentucky; College sports.; Cross-country runners; Cross-country running; Long-distance runners.; Track and field athletes.; Track and field--Coaching; Track and field.; University of Kentucky; University of Kentucky--Sports--History

00:42:07 - Vic Nelson

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Partial Transcript: Well, other stars for you: Vic Nelson.

Segment Synopsis: Whelan talks about coaching Vic Nelson. He talks about Nelson's recruitment onto the UK track program, his personality, and his accomplishments on the team and career-wise.

Keywords: Auburn University; Grade point averages; Grades; Greyhound buses; High school academics; High school athletes; High school athletics; High school careers; High school sports; National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA); Nelson, Vic; Ohio State Championships; Ohio State University; Personalities; Professors; Record breakers; Record holders; Southeastern Conference (SEC); Two-mile relays; Vic Nelson

Subjects: College athletes; College athletes--Recruiting; College sports--Kentucky; College sports.; College students.; College teachers.; Computer science.; Halls of fame; National Collegiate Athletic Association; Scholarships.; Southeastern Conference; Track and field athletes.; Track and field.; University of Kentucky; University of Kentucky--Sports--History; Work ethic.

00:45:08 - Other track stars at UK / Highlights of his coaching career at UK

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Partial Transcript: Who were your other big stars?

Segment Synopsis: Whelan talks about other track stars he coached at UK and their various accomplishments and records in the SEC and NCAA. He talks about the greatest highlights of his coaching career.

Keywords: Bill Lightsey; Four meter relays; Glasgow (Ky.); Green, Jim; High jumping; High school students; High schoolers; Host schools; Jesse Stewart; Jim Green; John Stewart; Lightsey, Bill; Mike Stullen; NCAA champions; National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA); Olympic athletes; Pole vaulters; Ray Sabatini; Relay champions; SEC champions; SEC cross country champions; Sabatini, Ray; Shot-putters; Sixty yard dash; Southeastern Conference (SEC); Stewart, Jesse; Stewart, John; Stullen, Mike; Training camps

Subjects: Career moves; College athletes; College athletes--Recruiting; College sports--Kentucky; College sports--Scouting; College sports.; College students.; Cross-country runners; Cross-country running; Javelin throwing; Long-distance runners.; Long-distance running.; National Collegiate Athletic Association; Program budgeting.; Scholarships.; Scouting (Athletics); Shot putting; Southeastern Conference; Track and field athletes.; Track and field--Coaching; Track and field.; Triple jump; University of Kentucky; University of Kentucky--Sports--History; Weight throwing

00:50:21 - Women's track and field at UK / Promoting UK's track program

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Partial Transcript: Now, and this is going to be a dumb question for us, but--

Segment Synopsis: Whelan talks about the lack of a women's track and field program at UK in his day. He recalls ways the track team creatively promoted their program and the university to gain exposure and program budgeting.

Keywords: Barnhart, Mitch; College exposure; College promotions; Mitch Barnhart; Non-revenue sports; Program development; Program exposure; Program promotion; Spring sports; Track programs; Women's athletics; Women's sports; Women's track and field; Workouts

Subjects: College athletes; College athletes--Recruiting; College publicity; College sports for women; College sports--Kentucky; College sports--Scouting; College sports.; Discrimination in sports; Program budgeting.; Sex discrimination against women; Sex discrimination against women--History.; Sex discrimination against women--United States.; Sex discrimination.; Track and field athletes.; Track and field--Training; Track and field.; University of Kentucky; University of Kentucky--Sports--History

00:55:08 - Development of the Kentucky Relays

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Partial Transcript: Well you, you referred earlier to your connections with the governor's office.

Segment Synopsis: Whelan talks about how the Kentucky Relays became a widely recognized program and track meet. He talks about how hosting these meets helped publicize UK's track program. He describes more ways they promote the program.

Keywords: Advertising; Bob Johnson; Committee chairmen; Company vice presidents; Event planning; First Security Bank (Lexington, Ky.); Ford, Wendell H., 1924-; Johnson, Bob; Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC); Kentucky Relays; Kentucky Relays Committee; Phil Wright; Program development; Program exposure; Program growth; Program promotions; Program relevance; Southeastern Conference (SEC); Sponsors; Sponsorships; Spring meets; Track meets; University of Kentucky--Basketball; Wright, Phil

Subjects: College athletes; College athletes--Recruiting; College publicity; College sports--Economic aspects--United States.; College sports--Kentucky; College sports--Scouting; College sports.; Committees; Kentucky--Governors; Kentucky. Office of the Governor; Program budgeting.; Publicity.; Southeastern Conference; Track and field athletes.; Track and field.; University of Kentucky; University of Kentucky--Sports--History

01:00:40 - Harry Lancaster

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Partial Transcript: Well, uh, Bernie Shively passes away as you said in the interim and you end up with Harry Lancaster as your athletic director.

Segment Synopsis: Whelan describes Harry Lancaster's personality. He describes what Lancaster was like as the athletic director at UK and how he regarded the track program.

Keywords: Advertising; Athletic advertising; Attitudes; Basketball coaches; Bernie Shively; College advertising; Conflicts; Financial loopholes; Harry Lancaster; Lancaster, Harry; Phone bills; Program advertising; Shively, Bernie; Tension; Track programs

Subjects: Athletic directors; College athletes--Recruiting; College publicity; Interpersonal relations.; Professional relations.; Publicity.; Reputations; University of Kentucky; University of Kentucky--Sports--History

01:03:39 - Significant changes to UK's track program under Whelan

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Partial Transcript: I have here your budget that, you know, you were talking about.

Segment Synopsis: Whelan discusses the improvements UK's track program saw in budgeting, finances, and with student athletes in academics and at meets under his time as head coach.

Keywords: Coach salaries; Edrick Floréal; Financial aid; Floréal, Edrick; Full time coaching; Full time jobs; Grants; Recruitment budgets; Sports equipment; Staff salaries; Student aid; Supplies; Track equipment; Travel budgets; Traveling budgets; Tuition

Subjects: Coaches (Athletics); College athletes; College athletes--Recruiting; College facilities.; College publicity; College sports--Coaching; College sports--Economic aspects--United States.; College sports--Kentucky; College sports.; Educational change--Kentucky; Program budgeting.; Scholarships.; Track and field athletes.; Track and field--Coaching; Track and field.; University of Kentucky; University of Kentucky--Sports--History

01:10:37 - Resignation letter

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Partial Transcript: Well, you, you know, you gave me your, you gave me your resignation letter here that you wrote and, you know, I'd just like to read part, part of that, you know?

Segment Synopsis: Emery reads Whelan's resignation letter. Whelan discusses why he resigned as head coach of the UK track program despite loving his work.

Keywords: All-American athletes; Career accomplishments; Career achievements; Cross-country running; Family responsibilities; Federation National Champions; Growing families; Head coaches; Long-distance running.; NCAA champions; NCAA championships; NCAA titles; National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA); National records; Personal reflections; Program accomplishments; Program development; Program successes; Resignation letters; SEC champions; SEC championships; SEC titles; Southeastern Conference (SEC); Team records; World records

Subjects: Coaches (Athletics); College sports--Coaching; College sports.; Employees--Resignation; Families.; Interpersonal relationships.; National Collegiate Athletic Association; Resignation.; Southeastern Conference; Track and field--Coaching; Track and field.; University of Kentucky; University of Kentucky--Sports--History

01:14:36 - Induction into UK Athletics' Hall of Fame / Senior relays / Spiritual experiences and having cancer

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Partial Transcript: In 2013 you get inducted into the, the UK Athletic Hall of Fame.

Segment Synopsis: Whelan recalls his induction into the UK Athletics' Hall of Fame. He talks about his speech and honoring student athletes he coached. Whelan talks about running later in his life. He talks about having cancer and a supernatural experience of healing.

Keywords: Cancer survivors; Caribbean North American Championships; Christianity.; Families.; Georgia; Green, Jim; Health concerns; Health issues; Induction ceremonies; Jim Green; Nelson, Vic; Ray Sabatini; Sabatini, Ray; Spiritual experiences; Supernatural experiences; UK Athletics' Hall of Fame; Vic Nelson

Subjects: Cancer--Patients.; Cancer.; Coaches (Athletics); College sports--Coaching; College sports--Kentucky; College sports.; Halls of fame; Memories.; Retirement.; Speeches.; Track and field athletes.; Track and field--Coaching; Track and field.; University of Kentucky; University of Kentucky--Sports--History

01:21:40 - Legacy

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Partial Transcript: Your legacy here at the university: Hall of Famer, you know, started the program on the way to national prominence.

Segment Synopsis: Whelan describes how he would like to be remembered by people in Kentucky and at the University of Kentucky.

Keywords: College publicity; College recognition; Edrick Floréal; Floréal, Edrick; Harry Lancaster; Lancaster, Harry; National recognition; Program development; Program foundations; Program recognition; Remembrances; Track programs

Subjects: Coaches (Athletics); Legacies; Track and field--Coaching; Track and field.; University of Kentucky; University of Kentucky--Sports--History