Jerry McGee, Track and Field Head Coach
Jerry McGee brought fame and accolades to Catholic University from all across the United States and various parts of the world. But simply calling him an outstanding track and field coach would not begin to capture the positive impact he had on the countless young men he developed during his 41-year CUA coaching career.
“Jerry dedicated his career to training and mentoring hundreds of student-athletes at Catholic University,” said Dr. Tom Fitzpatrick, an All-American in the mile relay in 1969. “He not only trained his teams in track and field techniques, but also prepared them for life decisions after college. His untiring efforts significantly affected the lives of his team members, and he left a lasting impression on the CUA athletic program.”
McGee’s coaching ability and guiding hand helped his athletes win three national championships and attain All-American status 38 times. He was twice (1975, ’79) selected to coach the USA national team and led the American squad to victories over the Soviet Union. Nearly every school record was set during his tenure.
McGee, who ran at Maryland from 1953-57, came to CUA after coaching at nearby Bladensburg and Richard Montgomery high schools. In just his second year (1966), he led the undefeated Cardinal cross country team (9-0) to its first appearance in the NCAA College Division Men’s Cross Country Championship. CUA, one of 48 teams, placed 24th. In the first 18 Mason-Dixon Conference cross country, indoor and outdoor track and field championships contested under his leadership (1965-71), the Cardinals won 14 titles. He concluded his career as cross country coach with Mason-Dixon championships in 1973 and ’74.
“Shortly after he arrived, the nation’s top runners began to dread facing an opponent wearing Catholic on his chest,” said Kevin Keating, who ran four years of track and cross country for McGee from 1969-73. “They knew when they stepped to the line they had a fight on their hands, a fight they would inevitably lose. All of our successes were a tribute to the man’s talent.”
Mark Robinson became McGee’s first athlete to capture a national championship when he won the 1974 Division II 800-meter outdoor title at Eastern Illinois. The two-time All-American repeated the feat the next year at Cal State-Sacramento. In 1976, Robinson qualified for U.S. Olympic Trials.
From 1976-81, CUA competed at the Division I level. Tom Caffrey became McGee’s second national champion when he won the 1991 1500-meter outdoor crown at the NCAA Division III Men’s Track & Field Championships. Four-time All-American Paul Drumgoole, competing in the 800 meters in the mid-90s, was a national runner-up three times. Joe Fisher, a 1975 NCAA All-American and the Cardinals’ longtime women’s cross country and track and field coach, teamed with Keating, Robinson and Jim Blackburn to place third in the two-mile relay at the 1973 AAU national championships in Madison Square Garden.
Sean Duggan was McGee’s final All-American, which is awarded to the top eight performers at the NCAA championships. Duggan in 2004 was named Capital Athletic Conference Men’s Track & Field Athlete of the Year and placed fourth in the NCAA shot put and hammer throw in Decatur, Ill.
McGee, a five-time New Jersey champion in cross country and track at Seton Hall Prep, was honored by his home state as one of the top 100 athletes of the last 100 years. He was inducted into his high school’s Hall of Fame in 1999. Soon after his 2006 retirement, he was honored with a CUA Lifetime Achievement Award. Coach McGee died in 2008 at 74 after dedicating his life to the service of others.
“Only a great coach can mold unheralded raw talent into winners,” Keating said. “The breadth of his accomplishments ranged from the international stage to the collegiate level. He was so brilliant his Division III teams would often bump off Division I opponents. He was that good.”