Eastern Kentucky announced the retirement of Rick Erdmann, its longtime cross country and track and field coach, on Tuesday.
Erdmann, who has been at EKU for 39 years, led the Colonels to 73 Ohio Valley Conference championships and won 70 OVC Coach of the Year awards. His retirement is effective June 30.
“I have had the privilege of working with some wonderful people and coaching many very talented and successful student-athletes here at EKU,” Erdmann said, according to a news release by EKU. “However, all of the championships won and awards achieved do not compare to the feelings of pride I receive watching student-athletes excel in life after graduation. No trophy brings me joy like hearing the news that a former athlete landed their dream job, or got married, or had their first child. Those are the moments that bring me the greatest sense of accomplishment.”
EKU's news release said that Erdmann "built his program around the simple premise: ‘If better is possible, good is not enough.’"
“For nearly four decades, Rick Erdmann has brought national, and often worldwide, recognition to Eastern Kentucky University through the success of his men’s and women’s track and field and cross country teams,” EKU Director of Athletics Stephen Lochmueller said. “The consistent success at the highest levels of NCAA competition, and the success of his student-athletes in global competitions — including the Olympic Games — are a source of great pride for our university. However, the success that his student-athletes have found outside of competition is even more impressive. Very few coaches can match his accomplishments and the level at which he impacted the lives of so many. He is truly a treasure to our department and our university.”
Erdmann’s final season was one of his best. In 2017-18, he led EKU to conference titles in men’s cross country, women’s cross country, men’s indoor track and field (the Colonels’ first since 2008) and men’s outdoor track and field (the Colonels’ first since 1957).
In all, Erdmann has won 31 OVC women’s cross country titles (including 19 straight from 1981 to 1999 and 11 of the last 12), 23 OVC men’s cross country titles (including the last 12), nine OVC women’s outdoor track and field titles, four OVC women’s indoor track and field titles, five OVC men’s indoor track and field titles and one OVC men’s outdoor track and field title.
"I want to thank all the many assistant coaches and staff that I have had the pleasure to work with over the years,” Erdmann said. “The success of these programs was the result of the work and passion of many people.”
Before becoming EKU’s head coach in August 1979, Erdmann spent eight years as the cross country/track and field head coach at Hagerstown Junior College in Maryland. Erdmann’s tenure at the school culminated in his being named the 1978 National Junior College Cross Country Coach of the Year after guiding his team to a second-place finish at the National Junior College Championship meet in Champaign, Ill.
A native of Ligonier, Pa., Erdmann competed in track as a sprinter at Ashland (Ohio) College, where he graduated in 1965. He went on to earn his master’s degree in physical education from Eastern Kentucky in 1966.