WSSU eliminating men's track

Posted March 28, 2012


Winston-Salem State University has decided to eliminate men's indoor track and field, men's outdoor track and field and men's golf in an effort to enhance its overall athletics program.

Of the 19 athletes in men's track and golf who are on scholarship, five are seniors and will not be affected. The programs will be eliminated by August. Men's cross country will be one of the five remaining sports for men. The womens programs will continue.

Complete Story - Winston-Salem Journal
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The WSSU men (photo), led by coaching legend Wilbur Ross were NAIA National Team Champions in 1959 and 1960, and the runner-up in 1958. The men won seven NAIA individual titles. WSSU did not have a track in those days, and the team worked out on grass and in parking lots. Ross was the author of The Hurdler's Bible. He left WSSU after six years (1959) and went to Maryland State College -- a school that did have a track. The 1960 track team was led by another coaching legend -- Clarence "Big House" Gaines -- known primarily as a basketball coaching great.

Among WSSU's historic track and field greats are Leon Coleman (photo) who placed 4th in the 1968 Olympics 110 Hurdles Final and former world-record holder Elias Gilbert (photo 1, photo 2).

At the 1959 Penn Relays, Gilbert won the High Hurdles, the 440-yard Hurdles, with Russell Rogers second and Herbert Conaway third. They won the 480-yard Shuttle-Hurdles relay in a record-setting 57.5 with Carl Brown, Russell Rogers, Joe Middleton and Elias Gilbert. Godfrey Moore won the triple jump and WSSU's 440-yard Relay team won a class relay.

Ross once wrote: "Gilbert won the 1958 NCAA 110 Meters Hurdles, Fran Washington won the 1959 AAU 220 yard Lows, and Gilbert had won the 1957 lows while breaking Harrison Dillard's record in 22.5 at Dayton, Ohio. The name of Winston-Salem was known around the nation and the world at that time."

"Both Gilbert and Fran Washington won the MVP honors at the NAIA championships in 1957, 1958 and 1959. We were viewed by the University and College teams throughout the country as the Hurdles power. Only Lee Calhoun was in our way in the 110 Meters event and Ancil Robinson in the 200 Meters hurdles event. Track and Field News called me the Magician of Hurdlers, and named me as one of the six best track coaches in the world. In spite of all these victories and honors we did this without a 440 Yard running Track and adequate support. I left Winston-Salem much better off than when I arrived, to prove it, the following season our team won the NAIA championship for the second year, with Coach Clarence "Big House" Gaines as the coach. What a way to end my Mission at Winston-Salem Teachers College. Big House Gaines later revealed to me, "That the athletes that I left that made up the 1960 team, were some of the finest young men he had ever associated with, a great group of student athletes and Champions "When I look back over this experience I can't believe it really happened,because it was such an enjoyable part of my life."

Coach Gaines once said about Wilbur Ross: "When I'm asked to name a coach who did more with less, I always point to Wilbur Ross."


WSSU's NAIA National Champions in track and field:
1958: Elias Gilbert (High Hurdles)
1958: Francis Washington (440-yard Hurdles)
1958: Godfrey Matthews (3000m Steeplechase)
1959: Gilbert (High Hurdles & 440-yard Hurdles)
1959: Godfrey Moore (Triple Jump)
1960: Moore (Triple Jump)

WSSU's Penn Relays Champions in the Shuttle Hurdle Relay:
1957: 59.8
1958: 58.6 Meet Record (broke UNC's 59.3 1949 Meet Rec)
1959: 57.5 Meet Record (lasted 'til 1972) C. Brown, R. Rogers, J. Middleton, E. Gilbert
1960: 59.3
1962: 59.3
Photo of Ross and the 1959 team.
Photo of Ross and Elias Gilbert.
Photo of Penn Relays Shuttle Hurdle Champions (Middleton, Jackson, Washington, Brown).
Photo of 1959 Penn Relays Shuttle Hurdle Champions (Middleton, Gilbert, Brown, Washington).
Photo of Francis Washington.
Photo of CIAA championship team.
Photo: Francis Washington going over hurdle.
Photo: Godfrey Matthews, CIAA 2-Mile Champion.
(Above photos from

Other WSSU Greats:
Alfred Adams - 1973 All-American, 440-yard Hurdles