Darroll Gatson is in his eleventh season as head coach of the Spartan track and field team.
In 1999, Michigan State won the Big Ten Indoor Championship, its first conference championship since 1972. For guiding his team to the conference crown, Gatson was honored as the 1999 Big Ten Indoor Coach of the Year.
"The name Michigan State is a well-known recognizable name", explained Gatson. "When you think of Michigan State, you think of a great institution. What I want to do is take this great institution that is already attractive for its academics and make it attractive as a track team. I think we woke up the giant a little bit with our success in the past couple of years, but we can go even further and accomplish more, we just need to stay healthy."
During his time directing the Spartans, MSU athletes have earned All-America honors 15 times, including four-time track and field All-American Jim Jurcevich.
While on-the-track success is important to Gatson, he understands that his athletes are first and foremost students. He takes great pride in his team's success in the classroom. A goal for the team is always to earn a GPA of 3.0.
"When you do well in the classroom, you are going to do well on the track," explained Gatson. "We have to prepare our kids for life as much as we have to prepare them for track meets."
Gatson has also assisted in the development of the sprinters for the women's track and field program. He coached Sevetheda Fynes, who was the 1997 NCAA Champion in the 55-meter, 100-meter and 200-meter runs. Fynes also placed third at the 1997 World Championships.
A native of Detroit, Gatson assumed coaching responsibilities in 1996, replacing the legendary Jim Bibbs. His primary responsibilities include coaching the MSU jumpers, sprinters and hurdlers.
He came to Michigan State after spending a year-and-a-half as the head coach of the men's and women's track and field programs at Lincoln University in Missouri. While at Lincoln, he reinstated and developed the women's cross country program.
Not only was he instrumental in the track and field program, but he also made a difference in the lives of the athletes. Gatson recruited and has continued to coach post collegiate athlete Lorriane (Graham) Fenton. Graham was a silver medalist in the 400-meter run (49.58) and as a member of the 4 x 400 team during the 2000 Olympic Games. She was also ranked second in the world in the 400 meter in both 2000 and 2001.
Prior to accepting that position, Gatson spent six successful years with the Tigers of Missouri where he coached five All-Americans, a former NCAA indoor record holder and 1992 Olympic silver medalist (4 x 400 relay) Natasha Kaiser-Brown.
Gatson's coaching experience also includes assistant coaching positions at Western Michigan (1986-88), Ferris State (1985) and Southwestern Michigan College (1980-82). He coached two All-Americans and an Olympic Trials competitor while at WMU.
After graduating from Detroit East Catholic High, Gatson spent two years at Southwestern Michigan College where he was runner-up and earned junior college All-America honors for his performance in the 400 meters at the 1976 NJCAA Championships before finishing his collegiate career at the University of Alabama. There he earned All-America honors as a senior, in 1978, when he placed third in the 400 meters (45.96) at the NCAA Championships. Gatson was also a part of the mile-relay team (3:15.11) that captured the NCAA indoor title. His time of 45.12 in the 400 meters is an Alabama record, and he previously held the 400-meter record at Southwestern (46.7).
Gatson was tabbed the "Bama Bullet" by Sports Illustrated in 1978 in recognition for his efforts at the Penn Relays.
Also during his time at Alabama Gatson earned a bachelor's degree in history (1980) and a master's degree in student personnel in higher education (1984).
He and his wife, Vicky, have three daughters, Darrielle, Dia and DeAnna, and reside in the Lansing area.
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