Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Press Whelan, November 15, 2019

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

 

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00:00:00 - Kentucky Relays committee and development

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Partial Transcript: Alright, well I'm here with Press Whelan and, and Press, we wanted to bring you back in because you had some things that I think you felt like you wanted to cover in, in addition to what we covered the last time.

Segment Synopsis: Press Whelan talks about his relationships with Jack Hall and Phil Wright and how they helped develop the Kentucky Relays. He talks about the function of the Kentucky Relays Committee. He talks about relay promotion and exposure strategies and how and why the Kentucky Relays stopped after his retirement.

Keywords: Athletic directors; Career highlights; College exposure; College recognition; Committee chairmen; Crafts; Harry Lancaster; Jack Hall; Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC); Kentucky Relays; Kentucky Relays Committee; National meets; Networking; Phil Wright; Relays; Skills; Track meets

Subjects: Advertising.; College athletes; College sports--Economic aspects--United States.; College sports--Kentucky; College sports.; Committees; Friendship.; Program budgeting.; Publicity.; Track and field athletes.; Track and field.; University of Kentucky; University of Kentucky--Sports--History

00:05:48 - Media relations

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Partial Transcript: Okay so, uh, uh, you know, kind of tying in with the Bluegrass Relays, you know you obviously were a big promoter of the program.

Segment Synopsis: Whelan discusses forming relationships with various media personnel in order to gain coverage, exposure, and support for the University of Kentucky's track program.

Keywords: Alex Campbell; Big West Conference; Carl Luther "Hoot" Combs; Carl Luther Combs; Community runners; Hoot Combs; Jack Hall; Jim Engle; Kentucky Relays; Local news; Local runners; Local stations; Media personnel; Media recognition; Media relations; National recognition; Neighborhoods; News; News media; Program development; Program exposure; Program recognition; Student aid

Subjects: Advertising.; Big Ten Conference (U.S.); College sports--Economic aspects--United States.; College sports--Kentucky; College sports.; Press.; Program budgeting.; Publicity.; Sportscasters; Track and field.; University of Kentucky; University of Kentucky--Sports--History; University of Kentucky. Press

00:10:11 - Academic expectations for UK's track team

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Partial Transcript: Well, you know, another thing I know that was really important to you--kind of moving out of the, the relays and the, you know, the promotions and the media--I know another thing that was really important to you was the academics of your athletes.

Segment Synopsis: Whelan describes how he raised the track team's average GPA in the six years he was head coach for the program. He talks about study hall, reading courses, and Dr. Harriet Rose's role in this accomplishment. He talks about forming relationships with professors at UK and why his team's education was so important to him.

Keywords: Academic facilities; Academic resources; CATS Center (Lexington, Ky.); Center for Academics and Tutorial Services (Lexington, Ky.); Educational successes; Educational systems; Grade point averages (GPAs); Harriet Rose; Program budgeting.; Reading; Reading courses; School systems; Study halls

Subjects: College athletes; College discipline; College freshmen; College sports--Kentucky; College sports.; College students--Attitudes.; College students--Books and reading.; College students--Conduct of life.; College students.; College teachers.; Education, Higher--Kentucky--Lexington; Literacy.; Track and field athletes.; Track and field--Coaching; Track and field.; University of Kentucky--Sports--History

00:15:35 - Coaching innovation and philosophies

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Partial Transcript: Uh, okay, I want to--we're going to come back to sort of your relationships with the athletic director later and this kind of ties into this.

Segment Synopsis: Whelan describes the motivations behind why he went above and beyond to support his athletes on the track as well as in academics. He talks about letters he wrote to the athletic director at the time.

Keywords: Academic demands; Academics; Advertising.; Athletic demands; Coaching philosophies; Innovation; Mentors; Mentorships; Opportunities; Personal drive; Personal motivations; Program budgeting.; Program development; Program exposure; Program promotion; Program recognition; Publicity.; Supporting students; Supporting studies; Workloads

Subjects: Athletic directors; Coaches (Athletics); College athletes; College sports--Coaching; College sports--Kentucky; College sports.; Education, Higher--Kentucky--Lexington; Philosophies; Track and field athletes.; Track and field.; University of Kentucky; University of Kentucky--Sports--History

00:23:06 - Getting hired at UK / Athletic directors

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Partial Transcript: So your athletic director who hired you?

Segment Synopsis: Whelan discusses being hired by Bernie Shively as head coach of the track program at UK. He talks about the temporary athletic director appointed after Shively's death, Greg Page's death on the football team, and Bob Johnson's assignment as permanent athletic director.

Keywords: Bernie Shively; Bob Johnson; Deaths; Fatalities; Football training; Full time athletic directors; Full time positions; Greg Page; Oswald, John W. (John Wieland), 1917-1995; Practice fatalities; Robert Johnson; Student deaths; Student tragedies; Temporary athletic directors; Temporary positions; Training

Subjects: Athletic directors; Coaches (Athletics); College sports--Coaching; College sports--Kentucky; College sports.; Track and field--Coaching; University of Kentucky; University of Kentucky--Football; University of Kentucky--Sports--History

00:24:53 - Harry Lancaster / Cliff Hagan

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Partial Transcript: Well, uh, basically, so, Robert Johnson leaves at some point and Harry Lancaster comes in, and--

Segment Synopsis: Whelan describes his relationships with Harry Lancaster and Cliff Hagan in their positions as athletic directors at UK.

Keywords: Administrative support; Assistant athletic directors; Cliff Hagan; Harry Lancaster; Mailing budgets; Phone budgets; Program budgets; Program development; Program importance; Program proposals; Program relevance; Program support; Roadblocks; Secretarial assistance; Secretarial work

Subjects: Athletic directors; Fund raising.; Professional relations.; Program budgeting.; Track and field.; University of Kentucky; University of Kentucky--Sports--History

00:27:14 - More on coaching philosophies

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Partial Transcript: Well it seems to me like when I'm reading the documentation and everything, you approached it like somebody building a business, and at that point in time, you know, my impression was other coaches were not approaching it that way.

Segment Synopsis: Whelan compares his coaching philosophies to other coaches' philosophies on UK's campus at the time.

Keywords: Building businesses; Business models; Businesses; Coaching philosophies; College sports.; Head coaches; Personal drive; Personal motivations; Program development

Subjects: Coaching (Athletics); College sports--Coaching; Philosophies; Track and field--Coaching; University of Kentucky; University of Kentucky--Sports--History

00:28:05 - Racism and athletics at UK

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Partial Transcript: Well, you know, one of the things that we want to go back to was, you know, you coached during a highly charged racial time and your star, as we talked about last time, was Jim Green.

Segment Synopsis: Whelan talks about how the racial climate and newly integrated state of athletics at UK affected his runners, especially referencing Jim Green. He talks about how he supported black students like Jim Green during that time on campus. He talks about Adolph Rupp and integrated recruitment, as well as meetings with black community leaders and UK athletic staff.

Keywords: Black communities; Black leaders; Campus environments; College environment.; College histories; College offerings; Community meetings; Community support; Conversations; Goals; Incentives; Integration; Opportunities; Pioneers; Program development; Racial climates; Scouting (Athletics); Setting goals; Southeastern Conference (SEC); Staff meetings; Tom Payne

Subjects: African American college students--Social conditions; African American college students.; African American trailblazers; African Americans--Education--Kentucky--Lexington; African Americans--Sports; Coaches (Athletics); College athletes--Recruiting; College sports--Kentucky; College students, Black; Discrimination in sports; Race relations.; Racism in sports.; Rupp, Adolph, 1901-1977; Segregation--United States.; Track and field athletes.; University of Kentucky; University of Kentucky--Sports--History

00:36:23 - Comparing the SEC to other conferences / Recruitment strategies / Interview conclusion

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Partial Transcript: Was the SEC stronger than the Big Ten back then or was the Big Ten stronger--

Segment Synopsis: Whelan compares the Southeastern Conference in track and field to other conferences in track and field throughout the nation. He talks about how he convinced star athletes like Bill Lightsey to come to UK. He reflects on his life and details his hometown.

Keywords: Athletic facilities; Bill Lightsey; Cancer survivors; Chemotherapy; Chuck Peters; College facilities; Goal setting; Goals; Indoor track; Long jump; New Haven (Ky.); Personal reflections; Southeastern Conference (SEC); Sports facilities; St. Joseph Prep School (Bardstown, Ky.); St. Joseph School (Bardstown, Ky.); Tobacco warehouses; Transportation.

Subjects: African Americans-Sports; Big 12 Conference; Big Ten Conference (U.S.); Childhood; Coaches (Athletics); College athletes--Recruiting; Families.; Scouting (Athletics); Southeastern Conference; Track and field athletes.; Track and field.