Dr. THOMAS ROSANDICH
Dr. Rosandich has had a long and storied career in the profession of sport dating to the early 1950s. During this time, he embarked up a career as a coach in football and track and field, an avocation that eventually had him named to the Helms Track and Field Hall of Fame. As a sports administrator, he has served as an athletic director within the University of Wisconsin system and then as President of the United States Sports Academy for more than 43 years. A highly regarded track coach, his athletes included numerous Olympic and world record holders. Among these were Bob Mathias, Olympic Champion and world-record holder decathlete, Josh Culbreath, world record holder in the 400 meter hurdles, Al Cantello, in the javelin and Bob Gutowski, in the pole vault. Gutkowski the first in a succession of four world record holders in the pole vault, a group that included John Uleses who was the first person to go over 16 feet.
Also at that time the world was transfixed by the duel between Roger Bannister and Wes Santee to see who would be the first to break the four-minute barrier in the mile. While Bannister won the duel, Santee was the best middle distance runner in the United States at the time and was a mainstay in Rosandich’s stable of athletes. Recognizing his talents as a coach, the U.S. State Department appointed him as a Sports Ambassador and tasked him with using sport as a vehicle for elevating America’s relationship with nations throughout the world. This was an appointment that would eventually take him to 43 nations and helped to lay the foundation for much of the work that the Academy would undertake in later years. While his first stop was the Kingdom of Laos, the first national team he took to an international competition was Malaya – which was eventually to become Malaysia. The Academy still works in Malaysia to this day. Following his assignment for the State Department, Rosandich, then an officer in the United States Marine Corps, served as the All-Marine Coach and founded the Marine Corps Schools Relays at Quantico, Virginia, which became one of the premier events on the track and field circuit in the mid-1950s. Following a successful coaching career with the Corps, Rosandich returned to Southeast Asia where he was appointed as the National Track and Field coach for Indonesia. While in Djakarta, Rosandich spent four years developing the Indonesian national teams and he prepared them for both the Asian and Olympic Games.
During his tenure as the Indonesian coach, combined with his earlier experience in a number of nations in the region from his State Department days, he recognized the need for these teams to receive more seasoning in international competition in order to successfully compete again the powerhouses of Japan and Korea. Thus Rosandich played a pivotal role in the establishment of the Southeast Asian Games, a quadrennial event that also continues to this day. Political turmoil in Indonesia caused him to leave his post there and returning to the United States, Rosandich founded Olympia Sport Village in Upson, Wisconsin. At the time Olympia was the only dedicated all-season sports camp in the nation. Individual athletes and sports teams from throughout the United States would make an annual trek to the north woods of Wisconsin to hone their skills under a very fine coaching staff drawn from colleges and universities throughout the United States. These coaches also served as clinicians in the annual coaching clinics organized by Rosandich with the objective of instilling professional skills in the coaching profession. Many of these skills he learned from observing coaches from the Eastern Bloc nations of the Soviet Union and East Germany during his tenure in Indonesia. Also while working at Olympia, he founded the Paavo Nurmi Marathon in 1969, a race that is still run every July in Hurley, Wisconsin.
Dr. Rosandich was recruited by the Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin system to become the first Athletic Director at the University of Wisconsin – Parkside campus in Kenosha. There he played a major role in developing the physical education and sport facilities for this fledgling university. The first project he completed was the design and construction of a world-class cross-country course that has since become the permanent home for the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) national cross country championships. He also brought to the campus a number of exceptional coaches, many of whom had worked with him at Olympia and elsewhere earlier in his career. From there, Dr. Rosandich went to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee as the Athletic Director and became actively engaged in a number of professional associations whose mission was to develop professional skills in sports among which was the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA).
An astute observer of the sports profession, he was very much concerned with the detrimental effect that the franchise fights that were prevalent at the time between the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), the governing body for five major Olympic sports, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) were having on American sports. This was also the time that there emerged a body research, such as that done by the faculty at the University of North Carolina, entitled the Blyth-Mueller Report. The Blythe-Mueller Report proved conclusively the correlation between the professional preparation of coaches and the number and severity of the injuries to their athletes. Rosandich had seen first-hand and understood that untrained coaches tended to hurt their athletes, a fact compounded by a lack of sports medicine (athletic training) available in the country at the time. Concurrently, the subpar performance of the United States Olympic Team at the 1972 Munich Games highlighted the need to address systemic problem with sport in the country. This belief became the impetus that launched the formation of the Academy in 1972.
Rosandich believed that education for those who aspired to a career in sports was the key to solving these problems. Once again, Dr. Rosandich, turned to his network of coaches and administrators to help bring this vision to life. He called upon his colleagues at NACDA to serve as the first Board of Visitors for the Academy to develop a curriculum that could be taught in an academic setting. Many of the luminaries in NACDA went on to become members of the Academy’s Board of Trustees, a relationship that continues to this day. Recognizing that were he to succeed in bringing his vision embodied in the Academy to life, he would need to resign from his position as Athletic Director at UW-Milwaukee and focus full-time on the development of the Academy and building it into the institution that it is today. Given the breadth of his experience in the world of international sport, Dr. Rosandich pursued and signed his first major international contract in 1976 with the State of Bahrain, a small island nation in the Arabian Gulf.
Through this program, the Academy undertook the full-charge conduct of the national sport effort of that nation. Rosandich brought to the country a number of national caliber coaches in different sports while building the first sport medicine center, human performance laboratory and strength and conditioning center in the Arab Middle East. From this start, the Academy has gone on to develop and deliver sport education programs in more than 66 nations around the world. It is significant to note that the revenue generated through the international programs conducted by the Academy subsidized the education of literally thousands of American graduate students who obtained their degrees from the institution. Another significant development that occurred in 1976 was the relocating of the Academy from Milwaukee to the campus of the University of South Alabama in Mobile.
There, Rosandich continued to grow the institution both through student enrollments and intentional programs such as one that lasted more than 14 years in Saudi Arabia. However, Rosandich left an indelible mark on the South Alabama campus having arranged for the installation of their first 400 meter all-weather track, a world-class sport medicine center, a human performance lab and a fully equipped strength and conditioning center. The Academy also launched innovative programs such as Operation Bounce-Back, the first cardiac rehabilitation program in Mobile that over the years has greatly enhanced the quality of life for thousands of Mobilians who suffered from cardiovascular illness. Over time, the Academy outgrew the facility that housed it on the University campus and the institution moved again and in 1986 settled into its permanent home in Daphne, Alabama. The campus, which has won architectural awards for its beauty, also houses the American Sport Art Museum and Archives (ASAMA).
Founded in 1984, ASAMA embodies the enduring connection between sports and art. Through tireless effort, Rosandich built the collection from a half dozen pieces into a world-recognized museum housing almost 1,900 pieces in all mediums whose estimated value is more than $12 million. It is thought to be the largest museum of the sport genre in the entire world. In recognition of the uniqueness of the facility and collection, the main campus building was dedicated by then Alabama Governor Fob James in 1998 as the American Sport Art Museum and Archives. One of the little ironies of the Academy is that while it is the only free-standing, regionally accredited sports university in the United States, it does not field any collegiate sports teams. This unique feature of the Academy was a consequence of how it evolved from a graduate school to one having an undergraduate program that is entirely online. Regardless, Rosandich thought it appropriate that the Academy, possessed of its’ expertise in the various disciplines of sports, was ideally suited to recognize those individuals who have made substantial contributions to the sports profession.
From this inspiration was born in 1984 the Academy’s Awards of Sports whose theme is a “Tribute to the Artist and the Athlete.” This program was initially held annually in Mobile or Point Clear as a black-tie event. While the format has changed over the years, the Awards of Sports program continues to this day and over the years has recognized the most notable sports personalities from all corners of the globe. These include sport artists, athletes, coaches, media personalities, philanthropists, scientists and administrators. The Academy remains the only institution in the Mobile area that has brought five heads-of-State to the port city as a part of its awards and recognition programs. As Rosandich noted in his remarks to the assembled Trustees, “I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you for your unconditional support that you have given me over the years, and the opportunity to educate a generation of sports professionals.
It has been a good ride and I hope that my bold aspirations will continue to guide our efforts to create a better future for our students, the Academy, and our society.” Dr. Thomas P. Rosandich founded the United States Sports Academy in 1972 in response to an inferior performance by the United States Olympic team in the 1972 Munich Games. Athletes were lacking quality coaching and training. The Academy’s programs served as an education resource to upgrade coaching through instruction, research and service. The Academy’s campus is also home to the American Sport Art Museum and Archives (ASAMA), which was founded in 1984. The collection contains more than 1,000 works of sport art from world-renowned artists, many of whom have been honored by the Academy as Sport Artist of the Year.
The Academy is also developing an outdoor Sculpture Park on campus, which is dedicated to celebrating sport with the erection of numerous environmentally friendly sculptures. Another aspect of the Academy is its Awards of Sport series, also known as its tribute to “The Artist and the Athlete.” These awards honor sports figures for their accomplishments and achievements in such things as performance, humanitarian activities, fitness and media. The United States Sports Academy is a regionally accredited, sport-specific institution located in Daphne, Alabama. It offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs as well as certificate programs. Founded in 1972, the Academy has provided its sports programs to more than 60 countries around the world.