Former KU Track Coach Bob Timmons Passes Away
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Legendary Kansas track & field and cross country coach Bob Timmons, who led his Jayhawk teams to four NCAA titles and 31 conference championships, passed away Tuesday evening at the age of 91. He is survived by his wife, Pat; children, Susan (Tammie), Rebecca, Priscilla and Dan, as well as two grandchildren.
Timmons served as the head coach of the Kansas track & field and cross country squad for 22 seasons from 1966-88. “Timmie’s” teams captured 13 Big Eight indoor titles, 14 outdoor titles and four cross country league titles. He led the Jayhawks to three NCAA indoor championships in 1966, 1969 and 1970. Timmons’ 1970 outdoor team tied for the national championship with Oregon, Brigham Young and Drake to give him four titles in five years. To this day, Timmons’ four NCAA Championships are the most among any head coach in Kansas Athletics’ history.
“The Kansas Track & Field family has lost a legendary figure in our history,” said current KU track & field head coach Stanley Redwine. “Coach Timmons led KU to unprecedented success during his time here and should be remembered, not only as a great coach, but as a great mentor as well. He continuously strived to set a standard of excellence that we fully recognize to this day. His contributions of our home cross country course of Rim Rock Farm also shows what a truly dedicated Jayhawk he was. Our thoughts are with Pat, their children and the rest of the Timmons family during this difficult time.”
“KU has lost a true treasure,” said Kansas Athletics Director Sheahon Zenger. “Coach Timmons was one of the all-time greats. His legacy, though, does not end with championships and medals. His real legacy is how much he cared about his student-athletes and the University of Kansas.”
Born in Joplin, Missouri, Timmons grew up in Pittsburg, Kansas, where he attended Pittsburg High School. He joined the Marines in 1943 and spent time deployed in the South Pacific during WWII before being discharge in 1946. Upon returning to the states Timmons turned his attention to coaching.
He began his career in track & field with the Jayhawks as a student manager and assistant coach starting in 1946 until he graduated in 1950. He worked and learned under another Kansas track & field coaching legend, Bill Easton, during his time as an undergrad, which ignited his love for coaching and mentoring young athletes.
He spent eight years as a high school track, swimming and football coach, beginning his career at Caldwell High School in 1950 and also spending time at Emporia High School, Wichita West High School and Wichita East High School before returning to his alma mater in 1965. Timmons helped the Wichita East swimming program to prominence, enjoying eight-straight undefeated years in all competitions and boasting 52 individual state champions and seven state swimming titles. His high school teams also ran to four cross country crowns and six state track championships.
Timmons took over the Kansas program for the future Hall of Famer, Easton, in 1966 and continued to take the Jayhawk program to new heights over the next 22 years. In addition to all the team’s success, he oversaw the coaching and development of seven Olympians, 16 world record holders, 77 NCAA All-Americans and 24 NCAA Champions. Included on his highly impressive résumé, was being named the U.S. Track & Field Coach Association (USTFA) Coach of the Year in 1975 as well as being tabbed as the District V Coach of the Year in 11 of his 22 seasons at KU.
Timmons’ coaching career also included teaching one of the world’s best track athletes in Jim Ryun. Recruited to Kansas by Timmons, his former high school coach, Ryun emerged as one of the most iconic track athletes in American history. In 1964, at the age of 17, Ryun became the first high schooler to run a sub-four-minute mile. In fact, his high school mile mark of 3:55.3 stood for 31 years. With Timmons leading the way in Lawrence, Ryun put together a spectacular stint at KU from 1965 to 1969, he owned world records in the 880 yards, 1,500 meters and mile run and added an additional four American records during his time under Timmons. Ryun was a five-time NCAA champion and, to this day, still holds 13 Jayhawk school records.
He was also the main force behind the creation of one of the top cross country courses in the nation, the home of Kansas Cross Country, Rim Rock Farm. Timmons acquired the land to the north of Lawrence in the early 1970s and quickly turned it into the main home for his cross country squads by 1974. Even after his time at KU came to an end, Timmons remained the caretaker at Rim Rock Farm until he gifted it to the University in 2004. Rim Rock has been the host site for some of the top meets in the nation and the region as it hosted the 1998 NCAA DI and DII Cross Country Championships, 2006 and 2014 Big Championships, numerous Kansas State High School Championships, as well as the upcoming NCAA Midwest Regional Championships in November.
Timmons handed off the reins of the KU track program in 1988, but continued to maintain his close ties to the team. He remained a loyal supporter at Jayhawk home meets and continued to make appearances at the Kansas Relays for many years after his retirement.
In 2011, Timmons became the 11th Jayhawk to be inducted into the National Track & Field Hall of Fame. Along with the National Track & Field Hall of Fame, Timmons is also a member of the Kansas Athletics Hall of Fame, the Kansas Relays Hall of Fame, the Drake Relays Hall of Fame, the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame, the Kansas High School Activities Association Hall of Fame and the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches of America (USTFCCCA) Hall of Fame.
A visitation will be held on Monday, Aug. 10 from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. at the Mustard Seed Church in Lawrence. A funeral service will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 11 at 2p.m. at Mustard Seed. A public memorial service is being planned for a later date.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be sent in his name to the Williams Education Fund – Track and Field, Mustard Seed Church or the American Red Cross and may be sent in care of Warren-McElwain Mortuary.
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