By Chris McGee
Those who follow college sports very closely know Mike Kryzewski and Joe Paterno are names synonymous with winning athletic programs. For more than thirty years, Eastern has had its own coach who is no stranger to winning: Rick Erdmann, head coach of the men’s and women’s cross country team. Erdmann has amassed so many OVC championships that some might be willing to mention him in the same sentence as former Eastern coaching great Roy Kidd. The women’s team alone won 18 consecutive championships beginning in 1982.
One might assume that Erdmann competed in cross-country in high school and college. Coach Erdmann competed in football, in addition to track and field. His first coaching stint was at Hamden Hall High School in Hamden, Ct., at the age of 24, as the football and track and field head coach.
Erdmann came to Eastern in 1979. During his tenure, both the men and women’s teams have won numerous championships.
“I look up to Rick,” Coach Doug Molnar, Austin Peay’s cross-country coach. “He runs a class-act program at EKU. Their team is the one to beat every year.”
Erdmann, who is in the Kentucky U.S.A. Track and Field and Cross-Country Hall of Fame, believes that intense discipline and internal motivation, or drive, are the two main qualities of a strong cross-country program. In addition, he feels that cross-country is very much a team sport as opposed to track and field, which is more of an individual sport.
One of Erdmann’s greatest coaching influences was Bob Geiger, his former coach.
“Bob Geiger was very demanding and disciplined,” Erdmann said.
His dedication to discipline and demand for excellence is demonstrated by his practice schedule. His players are expected to be in the pool at 6 a.m. every morning to begin wet vesting. This is a low-impact form of water aerobics. Erdmann does not want his players to run in the dark for safety and health reasons.
He says that running on concrete all the time is not healthy, saving running for the afternoon.
Tennessee Tech Head Coach Tony Cox feels that Eastern’s program has a great history and is a dominant program.
“His class, character and knowledge of how to train an athlete have contributed to his success and longevity in coaching,” Cox said.
One person that has had a close eye on Erdmann’s success is Eastern Athletic Director Mark Sandy.
“Coach Erdmann has been an invaluable asset to EKU.” Sandy said. He has built a winning program, which has been dominant year after year.”
Erdmann’s 40 OVC Coach of the Year awards have in no way diminished his modesty or humility.
“It’s not about personal achievements, it’s about the kids,” Erdmann said. “They are the reason why I have remained in coaching for as long as I have. I enjoy watching students push themselves to be the best that they can be.