Inside Furman is published monthly during the school year by the Furman University Department of Marketing and Public Relations. For story ideas, e-mail John Roberts, editor.
His specialty while a student at the University of Alabama was the quarter mile.
While in college, he was a classmate of Joe Namath.
He has met Jesse Owens.
He coached at Valley Jones High School in Birmingham, Ala., John C. Calhoun Junior College in Alabama and in Saudi Arabia before coming to Furman.
A successful track record
Gene Mullin, Furmans cross country and track and field coach, came to the university 17 years ago from an unusual place Saudi Arabia.
While working as an assistant track coach for the Saudi Arabian national team, Mullin befriended Bill Keesling, a former Furman track coach who was also coaching in Saudi Arabia. When Saudi Arabia reduced funding for its track program in the early 1980s and slashed coaching positions, Keesling, who had returned to Furman as the Paladin Club director, urged Mullin to consider coaching at his school.
Soon Mullin, a native of Albany, N.Y., who was on the track team at the University of Alabama, was packing his bags for Greenville. Although he has fewer scholarships to offer than most competing programs, Mullin has managed to build one of the most respected track and cross country programs in the Southern Conference.
During his career at Furman, Mullin has netted seven Southern Conference Coach-of-the-Year awards and his athletes have received 186 All-Southern Conference citations, more than any other school during the period except Appalachian State. In 1996, Mullin received the prestigious J. Lyles Alley Coach of the Year award from Furman.
But Mullins solid coaching credentials may be exceeded by his skill as an administrator.
Consider this: There are more than 21 track and field events to coach, and Mullins programs include more than 50 student athletes. Furthermore, the events occur throughout the academic year (cross country in the fall, indoor track in the winter and outdoor track in the spring).
"No doubt about it, if you are a track coach, you must be an organizer," he says.
Mullins skill as an administrator and coach helped the university attract the 1997 NCAA Division I Cross Country National Championships. The event, which brought more than 368 runners and 6,500 spectators to the campus, will return next year. Furman is the smallest school to host the prestigious event.
A longtime member of the NCAA Championships Committee for Cross Country and Track and Field, Mullin was recently named the chief administrator and coach of the USA National Junior Track and Field Team. Mullin was nominated for the position by members of the USA Track and Field International Committee.
In this coaching and administrative role, Mullin will spend this summer working with the junior team, mostly high school seniors and college freshmen who are among the best track stars under the age of 20. Mullin has been coaching elite U.S. athletes since 1987, including many Olympians.
Mullin, who specialized in the quarter mile at the University of Alabama, has coached at all levels. "My high school basketball and track coaches had a positive influence on me," he says. "Ive always wanted to be a teacher and to work with young people."
Although Mullin has a limited number of scholarships to work with, he has been able to build a competitive program by marketing Furmans excellent training facilities and academic programs to prospective recruits. Mullin also recruits athletes who can compete in multiple events.
"The biggest joy is working with the caliber of athletes that Furman attracts," he says. "They are responsible young men and women. You dont have to keep an eye on them."