Publisher's note: The author of this post, Crystal Baity, is a contributor to ECU News Services.
Curtis Frye '74 has had little downtime since being named an assistant coach for the U.S. Olympic men's track team.
In his 20th year as head coach at the University of South Carolina, Frye has been traveling nonstop to collegiate conference, regional and the national track and field championships while also preparing for the Olympic Trials and upcoming games in Rio de Janeiro.
Frye's attention has turned from his own student-athletes to those vying for a coveted spot on the U.S. Olympic team.
He will visit with USC recruits in between handing out Olympic team jerseys and leaving for training camp in Prairie View, Texas, on July 26. The Games kick off Aug. 5, and the track and field competition begins Aug. 12.
Frye poses with his South Carolina team following the Penn Relays in Philadelphia in April. Photo courtesy South Carolina Athletics.
Frye will be coaching the men's sprinters and hurdlers more than a decade after serving as an assistant coach for the 2004 U.S. Olympic women's track team in Athens, Greece.
"I'm dedicated to making us the No. 1 team in the world,"
While at USC, Frye has coached 25 Olympians who have won 13 Olympic medals. He has coached or overseen more than 60 NCAA champions, 116 SEC champions, 14 academic All-Americans and more than 450 NCAA All-Americans, according to his biography on the USC website.
Frye also oversaw sprints and hurdles at the 2013 IAAF World Championships in Moscow and served as head coach of the national team at the 2001 Goodwill Games. He was recognized by the U.S. Olympic Committee in 2008 as recipient of the Order of Ikkos Medallion, which is presented to the coach of an Olympic or Paralympic medalist. Frye received the honor after coaching South Carolina native Jerome Singleton Jr. to a silver medal in the men's 100-meter race at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing.
The United States picks team members based on individual performances at trials in the weeks before the Games instead of performances over the course of a season. That means if a top athlete performs poorly on a given day, gets a cramp or slips or falls, he or she could go home regardless of an outstanding year. Athletes must finish in the top three in an individual event to make the team.
"The person who gets to this point has dealt with handling pressure,"
Frye says. "If you're not pressure-ready, even if you're the most talented, you won't be able to handle the Olympics."
It was Frye's time at East Carolina University that helped mold his organization and leadership skills. He joined student government and the Young Democrats. "Just being involved, East Carolina gave me a chance to have leadership, be creative," he says. "I was going to impact the world. East Carolina prepared me to work with people of all genders, all races, all sizes."
Frye was mentored by assistant ECU football coach Henry Trevathan and Bill Carson, who built ECU's track and field program over 40 years in Greenville.
Frye had planned to attend another state university to play football, but Carson convinced him otherwise after first scouting him and other athletes at Union Pines High School in Moore County. Carson even helped Frye decide on a major - physical education.
While Frye's football career didn't progress as he hoped at ECU, Carson made him a student assistant and gave him the opportunity to throw shot put at a meet against Pembroke State University. Frye's one and only throw garnered ECU one point, and ECU won the meet by one point, he recalls.
After graduating in 1974, Frye was named ECU's head soccer coach and an assistant track coach, helping to break barriers as the university's first black coach.
"East Carolina is who I am,"
Frye says. "It's about bringing a community and whole state together. In that era, change became the norm."
Frye says his priorities continue to be faith, family and community - values instilled growing up in the small town of Vass.
"Really, it's a mission,"
he says. "It comes from a goal of how can I be of service to my country? How can I serve my faith and my family? How do I make my God and family proud?"
When he retires, Frye intends to return to North Carolina, where he regularly visits and hosts 5K races and golf tournaments to benefit the Frye Foundation. The foundation is dedicated to helping families cope with diabetes and mental illness.
Before becoming head coach at USC, Frye served as assistant head coach at the University of North Carolina for four years. He also was as an assistant coach at the University of Florida and N.C. State University.
Frye and his wife, Wilma, have three children, Crystal, C.J. and Curtrell, and seven grandchildren.