Leonard Braxton's second inquiry into a coaching position at Arizona State went better than the first, and as a result, Morgan State is looking for an athletic director and track and field coach.
Braxton, who coached at Morgan State for 15 years and was the Bears' athletic director since 1988, was introduced yesterday as head coach of the Sun Devils' men's and women's track and field programs.
"You could say this is a dream come true," Braxton said via telephone from Tempe, Ariz. "Everything a coach needs is here, the facilities, the money to run a program properly, the support staff."
Braxton will return to Baltimore tomorrow, and work four more weeks at Morgan State, coordinating the Mid-Eastern Athletic Athletic Conference fall championships at Morgan State on Nov. 6-7.
Dr. Raymond Downs, Morgan State's vice president for student affairs, said the university will hold a national search for a replacement. Assistant athletic director Joe McIver will serve as interim athletic director, and the track teams will be under the direction of Arlise Cooper, a full-time assistant coach who was hired last month.
Morgan State runners earned All-America honors 135 times since Braxton took over the cross country and track and field programs in 1978.
Two standouts of the 1980s starred at the Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain, in August. Jack Pierce was the bronze medalist in the men's 110-meter hurdles, and Rochelle Stevens won a silver in the women's 4x400 relay. She was the only United States woman to reach the open 400 final.
"It couldn't have hurt," Braxton said, when asked if their accomplishments increased his visibility.
Braxton said he has "mixed emotions" about leaving Morgan State, but he actively sought other positions in recent years. He was a finalist for head coaching jobs at Maryland and Rutgers and turned down an offer from Ohio State, but didn't
get past the application process when Arizona State hired Tom Jones four years ago.
Jones replaced Beverly Kearney at Florida earlier this summer, and Sun Devils athletic director Charles Harris said Braxton was an attractive successor.
"As an administrator and a coach, Leonard's reputation precedes him," Harris said. "Our forte has been in the sprints, and Leonard has been turning out great ones for years. We feel like we have one of the good track and field programs in the nation, and he's going to keep us there."
Arizona State is a member of the Pacific-10 Conference, one of the nation's best in track and field. Last year the Sun Devils scored 12 1/2 points at the NCAA men's championships and 12 in the women's, and both teams return two NCAA finalists.
Besides having the full complement of scholarships allowed by the NCAA, Braxton will have three full-time assistant coaches and the luxury of practicing outdoors year-round. Morgan State is unable to host meets because the track at Hughes Stadium is in need of repair.
Braxton was interviewed by Harris two weeks ago, and decided Sunday to accept an offer from the Sun Devils.
As athletic director at Morgan State, Braxton oversaw the attempt to restore the football and men's basketball programs to the stature they enjoyed in the 1970s. Those teams have been struggling since the Bears' move from Division II to I-AA in 1980, but Braxton said both programs made positive moves in recent years with the hiring of coaches Ricky Diggs for football and Michael Holmes for basketball.
"Both of those programs are on the right track," Braxton said.