Al Schmidt, who in 22 years made the Bulldogs a major player on the national scene, has bequeathed his head coaching duties to longtime assistant Steve Dudley. But Schmidt isn't going anywhere.
The 59-year-old will become MSU's Director of Track and Field, a newly created position. Both that and Dudley's promotion must still gain IHL Board approval.
The reorganization was all Schmidt's idea.
"That way I can retire (soon) with quite a few years behind me," Schmidt said. "I believe that Steve had earned the right to be the head coach. I wanted to make that happen."
Schmidt, who also was the women's cross country coach, will still have plenty to do. He'll coach the women's 800-meter and 1,500-meter runners, and he'll have a hand in the cross country team. He will also oversee operations of the Spencer Stadium/Maddox Track, which is in the midst of a $3.2 million renovation, and he'll be in charge of scheduling.
"This way I could still be the godfather," Schmidt joked.
Dudley, 38, has been MSU's associate head coach for 10 years. He lettered for the Bulldogs from 1991-95, has two degrees from the school, and is married to former Lady Bulldog distance runner Tiffany McWilliams.
Dudley looks at this opportunity in a way his athletes would understand.
"It's no different than me taking the sprint guys to nationals, and all of a sudden we're in the semifinals, and we're not supposed to move on to the next round. But this is a benchmark moment in their career, what are you going to do? You gonna step up, or are you gonna shy away?
"We can't ask our kids to do unbelievable things in those special moments and then us as coaches, when we get the opportunity, not do the same thing."
Dudley, a distance runner when he was at MSU, has coached the sprinters for Schmidt. The male speedsters have long been a strength of the team, perhaps never more so than this past year.
At the 2010 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championship, they powered MSU to a tie for 17th place, with the 4x400-meter relay team finishing second.
Nationally ranked sprinters like Tavaris Tate and O'Neal Wilder will be back for next season and beyond.
"Obviously the way the sprinters have been at this point, (Dudley) deserves all the credit and all the accolades," Schmidt said. "Even though he was a distance runner, he's become one of the best sprint coaches in the country."
As part of the reshuffling, men's cross country coach Houston Franks, a Tupelo native and MSU alum, will now coach the women as well.
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571 or email@example.com.