Dean Hayes, who served as Middle Tennessee State University’s track and field and cross country from 1965-2021, died Friday, Jan. 7, at the age of 84.
Hayes’ 57 years of coaching includes many team championships, All-Americans and Olympians. MTSU’s Dean Hayes Track and Soccer Stadium is named in his honor. He was inducted into the Blue Raider Sports Hall of Fame in 1982 and the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in 1994.
Hayes was selected multiple times as a coach for the United States track team in international competitions, including the 1988 Olympics in Seoul when the Americans took the top three spots in the long jump led by Carl Lewis. Hayes was a referee for the track and field events at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
“Dean Hayes was a champion in so many ways: As a father, mentor and role model, a world-class recruiter, and a winning coach at the highest echelons,” MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee said. “Dean was a living legend. I speak for Elizabeth and my family, as well as all Blue Raiders, in expressing our deepest and heartfelt condolences to Jan and all of his family.”
A family spokesperson indicated there will be a private funeral for family only. However, plans are under way for a Celebration of Life that will be open to the public.
“Words can’t express what Dean Hayes has meant to MTSU, the MTSU track and field program, international track and field, and the thousands of people whose lives he has impacted through his work,” MTSU Director of Athletics Chris Massaro said. “He is on the Mount Rushmore of Middle Tennessee, and not just athletics.
“Coach Hayes was a pioneer and an institution at MTSU. He will be sorely missed by the community, the university, and all of his former and present student-athletes. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Jan and his daughters Erin and Kara.”
Hayes said in a 2016 interview with the Murfreesboro Post that he made a list of schools that were using an assistant football coach as the track coach. He said MTSU was on the list and that he got the school “off the hook” by hiring him because it had been reprimanded by the Southern Association for hiring only MTSU graduates as coaches.
Hayes started coaching at MTSU with the men’s program in 1965. He began coaching the women’s team in 1987.
Hayes guided the programs to 29 Ohio Valley Conference titles, 18 Sun Belt championships, and 20 NCAA Top 25 finishes. More than 50 of his student-athletes have earned a total of 124 All-America honors, four have become national champions and many competed in the Olympic Games, World University Games and Pan-American Games.
In Conference USA, Hayes claimed four titles, three with the women’s team and one with the men’s team.
He was C-USA Coach of the Year three times and also won the honor 15 times in both the Ohio Valley Conference (including 10 in a row from 1977-1986) and Sun Belt Conference. He is a member of the Illinois Sports Hall of Fame and the Mason-Dixon Athletic Club Hall of Fame.
After the 1981 season, the Division I Track & Field Coaches Association voted Hayes the NCAA Outdoor Coach of the Year. Hayes then served as president of the TFCA in 1982-83.
He coached NCAA champions Tommy Haynes (1974) and Barry McClure (1972, 1973), as well as NCAA high hurdle champion Dionne Rose (1994). His most recent national champion was Mardy Scales, who won the 100-meter dash in 2003. He also coached Roland McGhee to nine All-America honors, and both McClure and Greg Artis won All-America honors seven times.
“I’ve always respected him,” McGhee said. “He took a chance on a kid from a small town in Ohio and gave hime a chance. I’ll be forever grateful for that. He was a great mentor and father figure. There were people who couldn’t go home for the holidays, but he opened up his home and made them part of the family. We were a family.
“To be able coach 50 plus years at one place, he was doing something correct. You don’t keep an employee 50 straight years if they don’t. He would challenge you, but he also instilled a belief in you that maybe you didn’t have yourself. I remember going to the Penn Relays, he really thought we could compete. We went two years, and I don’t think any of us thought we do so well and beat so many good teams. … He’s a legend and leaves a great legacy.”
According to Hayes’ biography on the Blue Raiders Sports Hall of Fame website, he is credited with opening MT Track and Field to minorities and recruiting MT’s first international competitors.
The Nashville Sports Council selected Hayes as the recipient of the 2014 Fred Russell Lifetime Achievement Award.
The Naperville, Ill., native also has served as an assistant at several international events, including:
• First Olympic Sports Festival in Colorado Springs, Colo. (1978)
• World University Games in Kobe, Japan (1985)
• Goodwill Games in Seattle, Washington (1990)
• World Cup in London (1994)
• World Championships in Athens, Greece (1997)
• Goodwill Games in New York (1998)
• World University Games in Bucharest, Romania (1981)
• World Championships in Helsinki (1983)
• Coach at the Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea (1988)
• Referee at Summer Olympics in Atlanta (1996)