When people start to think about the Olympics, a few thoughts comes to mind. Record Breaking feats, Medal Counts, Locations, Sports, and even political significance. But when it comes to Olympic Success, every great athlete has a great coach. Edward Temple from Tennessee State was one of them.

A Complex Environment

When Temple became the coach of Tennessee State in 1950, things were very different. During that time, coaches had to teach classes and coach at the same time. That is bizarre compared to today’s standards. Thousands of college athletic departments are dedicated to the business and requirements of the athletic competition. But back then, Temple stimulated students brains and their athletic abilities.


Racial Issues were a problem at the time as well. Tennessee is a state full of Civil Rights history. The Nashville Sit-Ins. The Nashville Race Riots. The Clinton, TN integration conflicts. The Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. The list goes on and on. The Civil Rights movement was alive and well during this time. And for Temple, coaching an HBCU track team during this time was difficult. When traveling in the south, the athletes had to “hit the field” just to use the bathroom. Competing in a region full of Jim Crow laws was almost impossible.

From a broader perspective, female sports did not really get proper funding and respect until Title IX came into play.

"No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance." (US Dept of Education)

This was a huge moment not just for college athletes, but for any athletic organization in the county. Governments and educational institutions were forced to have equal funding for female sports. But unluckily for Temple, this law did not become effective until almost halfway through his coaching career.

Despite the various circumstances, Temple developed a hard track program. He established 3 a-day practices in the summer heat. He consistently trained his athletes to be the best. Temple named his team “The Tigerbelles”. The Tigerbelles won 34 National Titles in his 44 years as the head coach. His expertise led him to the Olympics.

Olympic Expertise

Temple was the head coach of the U.S Olympic Women’s track and Field Team in 1960 and 1964. He was the assistant coach in 1980.

The 1960 Summer Olympics were held in Rome, Italy. Under his reign as coach, the team won Gold in the 100 and 200 Meter dashes, Gold in the 4 by 100 Relay, and Bronze in the Shot Put. Tokyo, Japan was the location of the 1964 Olympic Games. Once again, Temple’s team won medals on the biggest stage in the world. They won gold in the 100 and 200 Meter Dashes. They won silver in the 4 by 100 Relay as well.

Ed Temple is also known for the athletes he SENT to the Olympics. Over 40 Tigerbelles who once ran for Temple competed at the Olympics. 23 Medals have been won by former Tigerbelles. 13 of them are Gold Medals. Ed Temple’s Tigerbelles have won more Gold Medals than India, Egypt, Thailand, Portugal, Belarus, and Ireland.

Historic Legacy

Ed Temple was more than a track coach. He was a father. He demanded that all of his athletes maintain at least an C average during their studies. 39 of his 40 Olympic Tigerbelles graduated college. 28 of them received Master's degrees while 14 received an MD, Ph.D., or Ed. He understood that there was going to be a time when the meets stop and careers end. Due to this, he pushed his athletes to be ready for life. I appreciate this from Coach Temple. I watch a lot of college sports where coaches think about winning more than the well-being of their athletes. Temple was not that type of coach. He expected the best on the field, in the classroom, and in life.

Temple was inducted into numerous halls of fame including the US Olympic Hall of Fame. 

I talked about the coach but how about the runners? In my next HBCU Olympian Profile, I will talk about the Tennessee State Tigerbelles.

All statistics were gathered from the Tennessee State Athletic Department and the United States Olympic Committee.

Lead Image Credit: settlja via Flickr Creative Commons