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Sports : Allice's Wonderland : Long Beach City Track Coach Says Timing Was Right to Accept USC Job

July 14, 1994|KIRBY LEE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Ron Allice has nothing but reverence for the position of track and field coach at USC, a factor that prompted the Long Beach City College coach of 16 years to accept the job with the Trojans last month.

"As a student, athlete and a young coach, this was the pinnacle of the profession," Allice said. "The tradition is like a 'Who's Who's' book. The people who have been here are etched in stone. It's an honor for a person to head this program at some time during their career."

But it was far from an easy choice for Allice, who was invited to apply at USC three times in the past 11 years by Trojan administrators and also turned down job offers from Arizona State, UC Santa Barbara, Long Beach State and Cal State Los Angeles to stay at Long Beach the last 16 years.

"If I didn't take the opportunity this time, maybe three or four years down the road, I would wonder what I could have done," Allice said.

At Long Beach, he was practically unbeatable.

The Cerritos resident guided the Long Beach men to 11 state titles and 14 Southern California regional championships. The Vikings placed no lower than second in either the state or regional meets. Long Beach also won 16 consecutive conference titles and amassed a 78-1 dual meet record during that span.

Ensuring future success at Long Beach was Allice's main priority before leaving. Sprint coach Jim Richardson was appointed head coach at Allice's request. He also met privately with each of his assistant coaches to ensure they would remain for at least one more season at Long Beach.

Even then, Allice, who interviewed for the men's track position at USC in 1984 and 1990, needed more than a week to make a choice that he called "the biggest career decision and challenge" in his life.

"He was torn between going to USC and staying at Long Beach," said Joe Lanning, 67, who coached Allice at Long Beach in 1959-60 and has been an assistant under his former athlete since 1979. "He was leaving a lot of things he felt comfortable and happy with. He was concerned things kept rolling and expressed to me to make sure that the program remained intact."

At USC, Allice will serve as director of the recently consolidated men's and women's track teams, overseeing scholarships, budgets, recruiting, fund raising and other administrative duties. Men's Coach Jim Bush and women's Coach Barbara Edmonson will remain on staff.

"I handled all the administrative end of (the track program at) Long Beach and did all the recruiting," Allice said. "The amount of money we have to raise here is a new dip in the water but I didn't come (to USC) to be just an administrator, I am going to coach as well."

Allice, however, has been doing little coaching or fund raising in the past two weeks. He is teaching summer school classes at Long Beach and most of his time at USC is spent trying to acquaint himself with NCAA regulations and university policies.

"I am dealing with stringent academic standards and that will be a big adjustment," Allice said. "It's not like a junior college where all you need is a pulse and fast-twitch muscle."

And it is unlikely that the teams at USC will approach the size of the squads Allice had at Long Beach, which usually numbered about 70 athletes. Trojan teams in the past have been small with an emphasis in the sprints.

"I always believed in balance and I believed in numbers," Allice said. "A lot of the emphasis here has been in certain areas, but I believe sprints, jumps, throws, distances. . . . everything is important to have a real and true track and field program. I might find out at this institution that this might not lend itself to be balanced but that's something I have to learn for myself."

Allice faced a similar situation coaching at Long Beach State from 1974-78, where he once held the school 440-yard record of 49.2 seconds. But the Long Beach Poly High and Long Beach City College alumnus managed to guide the 49ers to a seventh-place finish in the 1976 NCAA meet. Long Beach, a team with only three full scholarships, also ranked among the top 13 dual-meet teams in the nation by Track & Field News Magazine four times in Allice's five seasons.

He has 12 men's and 16 women's track scholarships at his disposal at USC, but Allice, who also coached at Cal Poly Pomona and Long Beach Poly, Long Beach Wilson and Compton high schools, will encourage walk-ons and plans to recruit athletes from the football team. He also plans to uphold his longstanding policy of allowing any athlete to compete regardless of ability.

"I never turn anybody away," Allice said. "Anybody can be part of my program. I will do the same here. The only problem is there aren't many people who are going to spend $18,000 a year to go to school unless their parents are in a different tax bracket. I've had to use creativity wherever I've been. Who knows? I might have to start taking out ads in the Daily Trojan."

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