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Mizzou's Greatest, #23: 1965 Indoor Track

The Savitar

Steve Herndon. Cal Groff. Gene Crews. Robin Lingle. Earl Denny. Charlie Brown. These are the members of Missouri's last national championship team. Tom Botts' 1965 indoor track team was ridiculously dominant in a sport that was just getting its start, and the dual meet scores are just comical.

Mizzou 91.5, Arkansas 28.5, Drake 29
Mizzou 80, Oklahoma State 42
Mizzou 89, Indiana 42
Mizzou 83, Oklahoma 39

In the national meet, Mizzou thrived. Robin Lingle won the 1000-yard run (as noted in the Savitar, his time was, in 1965, the American and collegiate record), Gene Crews finished third in the shot put, Steve Herndon placed fourth in the high jump, and Earl Denny came in fourth in the hurdles. Brown, also a football player, dominated during the regular season in the 60-yard dash.

By the mid-1960s, Tom Botts, a Mizzou legend in his own right, was approaching 20 years on the job (he was Mizzou's head coach from 1946-72) and coming into his own. In all, he coached nearly 50 individual conference champions, nearly 25 all-americans, and five national champions. He was the mentor for two Olympians (Dick Ault and Dick Cochran). From his Mizzou hall of fame bio:

Statistically speaking, the athletic achievements of M.U. track teams under Coach Tom Botts run long. His track teams compiled a 135-56-2 dual meet record. During his tenure as head coach (1946-1972), Missouri won eight conference titles, four indoor and four outdoor; two Big Eight cross country titles; and the 1965 national indoor track championship, one of two M.U. national title (the other being the 1954 baseball squad under Coach John "Hi" Simmons). Following the 1970 cross country team's Big Eight title and sixth-place national finish, Botts was named the university division Cross Country Coach of the Year.

In 1961, Botts helped lead the U.S. track team through an undefeated tour of Europe.

At Missouri, Botts coached 48 individual conference champions, 23 all-Americans, five national champions, and two Olympians: Dick Ault and Dick Cochran. Ault took fourth in the 400-meter hurdles at the 1948 London Games; Cochran won a bronze medal at the 1960 Rome Games.

Coach Botts had been bestowed with numerous accolades as well. He was inducted into the Missouri State Sports Hall of Fame in 1977, the Drake Relays Coaches of Fame in 1979, and the National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1983, when he entered along with Lee Evans, Archie Hahn, Mildred McDaniel and LeRoy Walker. When the inaugural class for the University of Missouri Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame was released, in 1990, it was no surprise to see Tom Botts' name on the list.

He has served as honorary referee at the Kansas, Drake, Texas, and Michigan State Relays, and in 1954, Botts received the dedication of the official program of the Amateur Athletic Union Championships. In 1955, he became a member of the University of Missouri's Mystical Seven honorary fraternity. When he retired in 1972, the university appointed Botts professor emeritus.

Perhaps of greater significance is the type of man and coach he was and is: dedicated, disciplined, practical, efficient, humble, generous, a humanitarian, proud of his athletes.

Former M.U. football coach Don Faurot, in a 1983 Columbia Missourian interview, said of Botts: "He's such a gentleman. A fine, moral individual. He's had a big influence on the kids and keeps in touch with them all."

His team came to dominate indoor track rather quickly. And it all came together in 1965.

In the grand scheme of things, indoor track is not the most attention-getting of sports. And it certainly wasn't in mid-1960s. But while Mizzou's history is full of greatness, it isn't necessarily full of national champions. This team earned that designation and made Tom Botts, already one of Mizzou's most respected coaches, one of its most accomplished.