Dean Hayes, the MTSU Blue Raiders’ legendary track coach of 57 years and athletics pioneer, has died.
Hayes, 84, passed peacefully with his family by his side at Ascension St. Thomas Rutherford Hospital Friday afternoon.
“Dean Hayes was a champion in so many ways: As a father, mentor and role model, a world-class recruiter, and a winning coach at the highest echelons,” university President Sidney A. McPhee said.
“Dean was a living legend. I speak for Elizabeth and my family, as well as all Blue Raiders, in expressing our deepest and heartfelt condolences to Jan and all of his family.”
A family spokesperson indicated there will be a private funeral for family only; however, plans are underway for a Celebration of Life that will be open to the public. Date and time of the Celebration of Life is to be determined.
‘On Mount Rushmore of MTSU’
“Words can’t express what Dean Hayes has meant to MTSU, the MTSU track and field program, international track and field, and the thousands of people whose lives he has impacted through his work,” said Director of Athletics Chris Massaro.
“He is on the Mount Rushmore of Middle Tennessee, and not just athletics. Coach Hayes was a pioneer and an institution at MTSU. He will be sorely missed by the community, the university, and all of his former and present student-athletes. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Jan, and his daughters, Erin and Kara.”
Throughout the recent history of Middle Tennessee track and field, there were two constants — veteran coach Hayes and a legacy of championship performances.
Overall, Hayes guided the programs to 29 Ohio Valley Conference titles, 19 Sun Belt Conference championships and 20 NCAA Top 25 finishes.
Fifty-three of his student-athletes have earned a total of 125 All-America honors, five have become national champions six times and a number of them have gone on to compete internationally in the Olympic Games, World University Games, World Championships, Goodwill Games, Pan-American Games and African Championships.
In Conference USA, Hayes claimed seven titles, five with the women and two with the men’s team. Most recently, sweeping the 2021 men’s and women’s cross country championships.
His men’s teams dominated the Ohio Valley Conference, and the women’s teams duplicated that success after Hayes took over the program in 1987. Both squads continued their success in the Sun Belt Conference, capturing 19 of the 51 indoor and outdoor titles for which they were eligible to win.
Hayes added four Conference USA Coach of the Year accolades, 15 Sun Belt Coach of the Year awards to complement his 15 OVC Coach of the Year honors, which included 10 in a row from 1977 to 1986.
Halls of fame, other accolades
He was inducted into the Blue Raider Sports Hall of Fame in 1982 and the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in 1994. Hayes also became a member of the Illinois Sports Hall of Fame in 1993, the Mason-Dixon Athletic Club Hall of Fame in March 2005, the USTFCCCA Hall of Fame in 2008, the Lake Forest College Hall of Fame in 2009 and the Naperville Hall of Fame in 2019.
Following the 1981 season, the Division I Track & Field Coaches Association voted Hayes the NCAA Outdoor Coach of the Year. Hayes then served as president of the TFCA in 1982-83.
After MTSU joined the Sun Belt full-time before the 2000-01 academic year, Hayes and his staff were instrumental in helping Middle Tennessee capture the school’s first Vic Bubas Cup — the league’s all-sports trophy — in 2001, when the track programs won three Sun Belt titles. The teams also played significant roles in Middle Tennessee winning the trophy in 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2011.
Hayes’ experience was not limited to the collegiate level. He also coached numerous international teams, including those sponsored by the United States Olympic Committee, USA Track & Field or an international federation.
His international experience began at the first Olympic Sports Festival in Colorado Springs, Colo., in 1978. Since then, he coached numerous international teams including the World University Games in Kobe, Japan, in 1985; the Goodwill Games in Seattle, 1990; the World Cup in London, 1994; the World Championships in Athens, Greece, in 1997; the 1998 Goodwill Games in New York; and the Ghanaian International team at the Senior Championships in Durban, South Africa, in 2016.
The Naperville, Ill., native also served as an assistant at several international events. Aside from the first Olympic Sports Festival, Hayes worked as an assistant at the 1981 World University Games in Bucharest, Romania, and the 1983 World Championships in Helsinki and was a coach for the Summer Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea, in 1988. He also acted as a referee at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta.
Because of Hayes’ international success, numerous international athletes over the years sought out Middle Tennessee as their college of choice.
Coaching premier athletes
Hayes’ most successful student-athletes at Middle Tennessee have competed in the NCAA triple jump, an event in which Hayes specialized.
He coached NCAA champions Tommy Haynes (1974) and Barry McClure (1972, ’73), as well as NCAA high hurdle champion Dionne Rose (1994). In 2003, he coached national champion Mardy Scales, who won the 100-meter dash.
His most recent national champion was Kigen Chemadi, who won the 3000M steeplechase in 2021. Hayes also guided Roland McGhee to nine All-America honors, and both McClure and Greg Artis won All-America honors seven times.
Hayes earned his Bachelor of Arts degree at Lake Forest College in Illinois, where he competed in the 800-meters, the long jump and the triple jump. He was an NCAA qualifier in the latter event.
After earning his master’s degree in education at Northern Illinois, Hayes began his coaching career at the high school level in Chicago, where he coached for three years followed by one year in Minneapolis. He then jumped to the collegiate ranks at his alma mater, Lake Forest, before coming to Middle Tennessee in 1965.
Hayes is survived by his wife, Jan, a professor emerita in the Womack Department of Educational Leadership in MTSU’s College of Education; his daughters, Erin and Kara; and his sister, Judy. The family welcomes receipt of any stories, messages or reflections at firstname.lastname@example.org.
— MT Athletics (www.goblueraiders.com)