Former Michigan track coach Red Simmons dies at age 102
Kenneth "Red" Simmons, the first women's track and field coach at the University of Michigan, died Friday. He was 102.
After a 25-year career with the Detroit Police Department, Simmons started the Michigammes women's running club in Ann Arbor in 1960 and was hired as the university's first women's track coach in 1976.
AnnArbor.com file photo
In 1990, Simmons became Michigan's first honorary 'M' man. A 1933 graduate and track standout at Michigan State Normal College (now Eastern Michigan), Simmons is also a member of the EMU Hall of Fame.
He frequented athletic events on both campuses.
"Red Simmons was a fixture at many sporting events and was always supportive of the department and our coaches," Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said in a statement. "He lived a long, productive life and made a positive impact on the lives of thousands of others. Red will be missed by our athletic department, but his legacy will endure as an accomplished coach, a wonderful person and a great Michigan Man."
After retiring from the Detroit Police Department in 1959, Simmons was hired by then-athletic director Fritz Crisler to teach Michigan athletes his training methods, according to the school. While teaching physical education classes, he also completed his master's degree in the subject at the school.
Simmons and his first wife, Betty, founded the Michigammes to give women an opportunity to compete in track and field. The first member, Francie Kraker Goodridge, competed in the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City and the 1972 Games in Munich.
The Michigan women's track team gained varsity status in 1978, two years after his hiring. He retired from the program in 1981 at the age of 71.
"As I approach the middle of my 28th year as a head coach and prepare to have my 25th wedding anniversary celebration in a week, this has hit me like a ton of bricks," current Michigan women's track coach James Henry said in a statement.
"The person who has made me who I am today has just passed on. I feel heartbroken. I feel a little dazed and confused because I would not be the person I am today if it wasn't for Red putting me in the position to have the type of life I'm leading now. I'm doing what I love to do and that's coach and help kids and Red is responsible for that.
"He built a legacy of integrity, hard work and honesty. He has made my job easy because I live by his example as an individual and as a coach."
Simmons won two track state titles for Redford High School in 1928, was on the mile relay team at Michigan State Normal College that won a national title in 1932 and participated in the 1932 Olympic trials. He won medals at the Senior Olympics into his 90s.
In a blog post on MGoBlue.com, Brandon wrote that Simmons "was still driving his Chevrolet to the athletic campus early this year and working out or walking the steps at Crisler Center."