Longtime FMU Cross Country/Track and Field Coach Dr. Thomas Whiteley Announces Retirement
FLORENCE, S.C. – Longtime Francis Marion University men’s and women’s cross country and track and field coach Dr. Thomas Whiteley has announced that he will be retiring this summer.
Whiteley has coached the Patriot cross country and track and field teams since 1977, while also teaching and holding various other administrative positions.
“We are fortunate to have had Coach Whiteley serve the university in a variety of roles,” said FMU athletic director Murray Hartzler. “Over the past 24 years, he touched the lives of thousands of FMU students, in the classroom, on the playing field, and in the area of student affairs. He will most definitely be missed.”
Hartzler added that a search for Whiteley’s successor would begin immediately.
“I have been in the coaching profession for nearly 40 years, and I just decided now is a good time to leave,” Whiteley said. “To be a good coach, you must outwork your competition and have a burning desire to win. I still want to win, but the desire is not at the level I require of myself, and I also want to retire when I can still enjoy life.”
“I want to thank (former FMU athletic director) Gerald Griffin for bringing me to Francis Marion, where I have been fortunate to have been able to work with a high caliber group of coaches. I am also grateful to the late Jack Baker (former FMU vice president for college activities) and Joseph Heyward (current senior vice-president for student affairs) for giving me the opportunity to work with the Francis Marion student body as dean of students. I was indeed very fortunate to work with these two special individuals.”
Whiteley earned the A.B. degree in physical education from Guilford College, the M.Ed. degree from East Carolina University, and the Ed.D. degree from UNC Greensboro. While an undergraduate student at Guilford, the Greensboro native played on both the Quaker baseball and basketball squads. He is a graduate of Pleasant Garden High School.
Prior to joining the Francis Marion staff in 1977, Whiteley coached at Carolina Military Academy in Maxton, N.C., for six years, UNC Greensboro for three years as a graduate assistant basketball coach, and St. Andrews Presbyterian College in Laurinburg, N.C., for six years as head basketball coach.
When he first came to Francis Marion, he served in the role of intramural director and head coach for the men’s cross country and track and field teams, while also teaching as an assistant professor of physical education. In 1981, he was named dean of students, a position he held until 1997. In 1994-95, he served as acting vice-president for university activities.
While continuing to teach and coach, over the past four years he has held the titles of interim director of academic advising and retention, director of tutoring and athletic services, coordinator of physical education, and NCAA compliance official.
Between 1977 and 1991, Whiteley’s cross country teams captured eight NAIA District Six men’s team titles and finished second each of the other seven seasons. Patriot runners won the district individual title 11 times in those 15 years, and Patriot runners participated in the NAIA National Championship Meet following 12 of those campaigns. During that time, Francis Marion accounted for nearly half (50 of 105) of the runners earning All-District Six honors.
Whiteley earned District Six cross country “Coach of the Year” honors eight times, and was named the area “Coach of the Year” once.
In 1992, the year Francis Marion moved to NCAA Division II affiliation and the Peach Belt Conference, he helped established women’s cross country as an intercollegiate sport at FMU.
FMU produced one individual champion and placed among the top five men’s teams at each of the Peach Belt Conference meets between 1992 and 1998. The Patriot women finished in the top five in six of their first eight PBC Championship Meets. Both squads have produced Division II All-Region performers.
Whiteley’s success also stretched into the spring on the track, where his Patriot men’s teams won eight of 10 District Six championships in the 1980s, and 10 team titles over a 15-year span. At the 1987 district meet, 19 of his 22 team members scored en route to taking the team title. Under Whiteley, 84 Patriot athletes garnered All-District track and field recognition.
He earned district “Coach of the Year” honors nine times and was named the NAIA Area VII “Coach of the Year” in 1986. Patriot athletes advanced to the NAIA national championship outdoor meet in 1982, 1983, 1984, and 1986.
With track and field not an official PBC-sponsored sport, the Patriot squad began competing in a season-ending Carolinas Track and Field Championship Meet in 1993.
Whiteley established the women’s track and field program in 1994, and that squad captured three consecutive Carolinas titles between 1996 and 1998. He was named the women’s “Coach of the Year” following the 1996 and 1998 seasons. His athletes have advanced to both the NCAA Division II indoor and outdoor national championships.
His four programs produced two All-Americans and his athletes earned Academic All-America recognition 19 times. Over the past four years, eight of his squads have earned team academic honors.
He has also directed the FMU Day Camp for many years, impacting on the lives of thousands of area youngsters between the ages of five and 12.
Looking back at his time at Francis Marion, Whiteley said, “It has been a plus to get to deal with students both in the classroom and on the playing field. What I will miss the most are the student-athletes coming back to visit after graduation.
“Athletics is a means by which one may obtain a good college education. In fact, if not for athletics, this country boy from Greensboro would not have gone to college.”