Street will be named in honor of Carnes
Published: Thursday, August 16, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 15, 2012 at 11:30 p.m.
Jimmy Carnes was remembered as a coach who impacted not just track and field at Florida, but lives as well.
The late Carnes will be honored with a street-naming on Saturday in Gainesville. The corner of Fraternity Drive and Southwest 23rd Street, adjacent to the University of Florida track, will be renamed “Jimmy Carnes Boulevard.”
Carnes died on March 5, 2011, at age 76 after a three-and-a-half-year battle with prostate cancer. He coached UF track and field from 1964-76, leading the Gators to two Southeastern Conference Indoor Championships and 15 combined SEC Championship top-three finishes. His dual meet record was 93-3.
“Jim was an innovator,” Florida track and field coach Mike Holloway said. “He was someone who always thought about ways to make track and field better as a whole, to make the sport more popular and more marketable.”
Ronald Book, a Miami-based lobbyist, was the driving force behind getting the street name changed through the state Legislature. Book was a self-described “mediocre” middle-distance runner at UF in the 1970s.
“Jimmy Carnes was my coach, and we became extremely close friends after that,” Book said. “When I worked with Governor (Bob) Graham, I recommended Jimmy to become the head of the (Florida Governor's) Council on Sport and Physical Fitness.
“Jimmy was a wonderful man with a wonderful family. When he passed, I knew I had to do everything within my power as a lobbyist to make sure that he would get this honor.”
Carnes' influence at UF extended beyond SEC titles. He was the first coach to integrate Florida athletics, recruiting African-American long jumper Ron Coleman to a scholarship in 1968. Coleman, an Ocala native, went on to become captain of the team while earning SEC titles for the long jump (1969, indoors) and triple jump (1970, outdoors).
Holloway, who just returned from coaching the U.S. sprinters at the Olympic Games in London, said that Carnes was always encouraging throughout his coaching career.
“Beginning when I coached high school in the area, at Gainesville and at Buchholz, Jim was always an influence,” Holloway said. “He felt like track and field at Florida should be a national power.”
Tom Doerr, a UF track and field athlete from 1973-76, said Carnes was a “gentleman” who delighted in seeing improvement from his athletes.
“I learned so many things from him,” said Doerr, a television executive in Houston, Texas. “He was not only a coach for track and field, he was a coach for life.”
Doerr said he last saw Carnes at a UF track and field reunion in the spring of 2009.
“Whether you were a star or someone who was just on the team contributing, he treated you the same way,” Doerr said.
In 1965, Carnes founded the Florida Track Club, which attracted notable athletes such as Marty Liquori, Frank Shorter, Jack Bacheler and Jeff Galloway. Carnes was an assistant coach for the U.S. men's track and field team at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. He was scheduled to be the head track coach for the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow, but the U.S. boycotted the games following the former Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan.
The unveiling ceremony will take place at 11 a.m. and is expected to last 45 minutes. Carnes' widow, Nanette, is expected to attend the ceremony along with Carnes' four adult children. So are several former athletes who trained under Carnes, including Coleman and Liquori.
Book said the street-naming is a fitting tribute to a coach who touched so many lives.
“I loved the guy,” Book said. “I would have gone to the end of the earth to make sure that this got done.”