Purdue seems to have found the right leader to inject life back into the track and field program.
After a “comprehensive national search,” athletic director Morgan Burke chose Rolando Greene as Purdue’s new head coach of the cross country and track and field programs.
“Rolando unquestionably rose to the top,” Burke said in a press release. “His long-term success at one of the great programs in the country, competing in one of the premier conferences, is impressive, and he articulated a functional plan for building our cross country and track and field teams into a championship-caliber program.”
Greene has served the women’s program as associate head coach in charge of sprints, hurdles, horizontal jumps and multi-events at Arkansas for the last 16 seasons. Most recently, the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association has named him the South Central Region Assistant Coach of the Year the past two seasons.
Listening to Greene talk about being at Purdue and what is important to him as a coach made it clear what made him such an easy choice to head the program for Burke. Greene made sure to use the phrase “student-athlete,” and to stress the student part.
The thing he seemed most excited about was being a head coach in the Big Ten, a conference he believes focuses on both academics and athletics more than any other.
“The Big Ten is the most prestigious and prominent conference in the United States, in my humble opinion,” Greene said, “and for any coach to come back to the conference to coach, in any discipline, it’s an honor. It isn’t something you take lightly. When given that opportunity, you have to come in with a mindset that says ‘I’ve got to go to work.‘”
Greene said that while it might be challenging, the goal must be to change the track and field environment at Purdue to one that commits itself to being great, whether it’s in the classroom or on the track.
“It’s going to take us developing a culture that when our new athletes come onto campus, there’s a level of expectation and excellence that will be existing already that they slide into rather than coming to the team and not knowing what to expect.”
Greene, a native of Nassau, Bahamas, has mentored six Olympians in over 20 years of coaching.
He has coached four student-athletes to five NCAA event titles, 29 athletes who earned 96 All-America honors, 16 Southeast Conference champions, two SEC Runners of the Year, an SEC co-Freshman Runner of the Year and two U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches’ Association South Central Region Runners of the Year.
This spring, Purdue’s men’s track team finished 10th at the Big Ten Championships while the women finished 11th. Greene said getting to the level of his former school might take a while from where the program is at now, but there’s a formula for getting there.
“Arkansas didn’t get the program they have overnight,” Greene said. “We didn’t wake up one day and say: ‘Oh wow, we’re a national track and field power.’ It took every individual on the staff going out and recruiting the right caliber and quality student-athlete.”
At Purdue, Greene will be the director of the entire cross country and track and field programs as an overseer. More specifically, he will be focusing on sprints, hurdles, horizontal jumps, relays and multi-events.
“I spearhead everything and then there are six other coaches that will form beneath me and then we’ll execute the job,” Greene said. “(It’s because) there are so many different disciplines in track and field.”