Retiring USC coach Allice leaves enormous footprint

LOS ANGELES — Ron Allice, USC’s director of track and field, likes to say “track is a developmental sport.”

He has certainly done plenty of developing over his 50 years in coaching, 19 of of which have been at USC, where he will officially retire on June 30.

Under the guidance of Allice, 32 individual NCAA championships were won by Trojans. There were 286 first-team All-Americans. The women’s team won an NCAA title in 2001; the men’s and women’s combined for 25 top-10 finishes at the NCAA championships.

Allice’s stops in coaching included the Long Beach Comets AAU Program, Long Beach Poly High School, Long Beach City College, and Long Beach State. In total, he’s guided 27 Olympians, four world-record holders, and seven American-record holders.

In keeping with his theme of coaching at all of his alma maters, Allice took over the USC track program in 1995. There were certain things he wanted to make sure he got done,  like bringing back the USC-UCLA Dual Meet.

“(That was) my first objective,” he said.

He also wanted to change expectations. The target end of the season was no longer considered the NCAA championships but the USA Track and Field Championships.

“Anyone that comes in here and certainly that’s on scholarship, the first thing I talk to them about, from a training perspective, is not only through the NCAA (championships) but the US Championships too because the ultimate thing in your sport is to represent your country,” Allice said.   

He also wanted to make sure no one forgot the past.

History was important and the USC track and field program had plenty of it. There’s no greater example of this than the Heritage Room adjacent to his office inside the USC track and field facility; the room in itself is a history lesson. It has NCAA plaques, conference championship trophies, and pictures scattered all over the walls of great Trojan track stars of the past. Allice took all of the memorabilia and built an exhibit with his own hands.

He wants to make sure it’s well taken care of after he leaves the program.

“We need to find a donor to have this done professionally, not coach Allice with some thumb tacks,” he said. “I appreciate the people who’ve come before. I don’t think people should be forgotten because they made a contribution to what this place is and the reputation that it established.”

And when Allice, 73, finally decided he wanted to retire, he couldn’t because there were still things that he needed to get done so his retirement was postponed. Originally scheduled for this time in 2012, Allice had to continue one more season on the job.

USC was scheduled to host the Pac-12 championships in 2012, but since it was an Olympic year, the track powers-that-be decided they wanted the conference finals to be in Eugene, Ore., as the US Olympic Trials were there as well.

USC’s chance to host the conference championships were pushed back a year.

“I said, ‘well, I want to put this on and I want to do a good job equivalent to what they did at Oregon,’” Allice said. “Oregon is kind of the mecca of track and field in terms of facilities and how they put on a meet.

“We put it on and we got nothing but good comments and accolades of what kind of job we did. It was a lot of hard work but I’m leaving the situation where the track’s been redone, the field’s been redone. We got new pits, (and a) new surface.”

Allice has plenty to be proud of.

However, in all things there comes a time when a change must be made. And for Allice that became clear a couple of years ago when he lost his wife of 48 years, Sharlene, to cancer.

It was then he says his “perspective changed.”  

“(I began focusing on) what’s really important,” he said. “I’ve been chasing athletic Rambo’s all my life but she was a partner in all of that and she tolerated me doing that and when I lost that piece, I had some regrets.”

Retirement brings about a newness he hasn’t experienced in quite some time. He’s not sure what he’ll do. Allice’s not a golfer so his time isn’t likely to be consumed on the links.
He plans to spend time with his three adult children and two grandchildren. The self-proclaimed “jazz buff” will have more time to listen to his music.

And the track won’t be far away.  

It all goes back to development — for Allice, that part will never stop. Watching those developments take place contributed to his greatest joys in the sport.

And although he won’t officially be the coach at USC, Allice won’t stop coaching. He’ll return to his hometown of Long Beach and set up shop. He’ll continue to help those athletes that seek his assistance.

“It’s a new adventure for me,” he said.