SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Gray Horn has been busy since he was named interim head track and field coach at the University of California-Santa Barbara the first week of June.
There’s been a budget to review. He’s learning the administrative side of coaching. Details and more details have to be attended to.
But there is one detail he hasn’t had time to pin down yet. Is he or isn’t he the youngest head head coach in major college track at age 28?
“It’s very uncommon. I’ve asked around to a couple of people, a couple of mentors like Mike Holloway at Florida and he thinks I’m one of the youngest if not the youngest head coach in the country,” Horn said. “That’s not proven yet, but from what we’ve seen I’m one of the youngest.”
Horn, a graduate of Waynesfield-Goshen High School, was the Southeastern Conference decathlon champion three times at the University of Florida, finished third in that event at the United States Olympic Trials in 2012 and narrowly missed a trip to the Olympics.
He was hired as an assistant at UC-Santa Barbara last September after three years as an assistant at Tiffin University and one year at Ashland University.
His move to the head coach’s job came when longtime UC-Santa Barbara coach Pete Dolan was fired.
Horn wants the next move for him to be having the word “interim” erased from his job title.
“The goal is that I take over in the 2018-19 season and in the 2019-20 season that interim title is removed,” Horn said.
In the immediate aftermath of the 2012 Olympic Trials, in which a third-place finish might have earned him a trip to the London Olympics except his 7,954 points didn’t meet the Olympic qualifying standard, Horn talked about making another run at the 2016 Olympics.
Coaching track was always in his long-range plans. But when he couldn’t find adequate sponsorship to continue competing, it became his focus a few years earlier than he originally planned.
“I’m just very competitive. Giving up the sport was hard for me, as it is for almost everybody,” Horn said.
“I still kind of feed on that competitive feeling and pour it back into my athletes. You can’t replace something that important to you with nothing. I had to find a way to keep that side of me fed, so I chose coaching.”
UC-Santa Barbara, which competes in the Big West Conference would probably be described as a mid-major track program. The Gauchos sent two athletes to the NCAA national meet and six to the regional.
“You can say we’re up and coming and we hope to put more people on the national stage over the years,” Horn said.
Horn is a fourth generation coach in his family. His great-grandfather Joe Horn was a discus state champion in the late 1930s and also coached, his grandfather Joe Horn coached track for more than 50 years, and an uncle, Jay Horn, coached high school football and basketball.
“The biggest challenge so far is getting used to everything operationally, getting used to the budget. We’re a mid-major so we’re not on an unlimited budget. Right now my task is learning how to be a good administrator as well as a good coach,” he said.
Back in his college days at Florida, Horn considered another challenge. He approached then-Gators coach Urban Meyer about joining the football team.
“I asked him if I could try out and he said, ‘How good are you at track?’ I said, ‘I’m good enough,’ and he said, ‘Just stick with that,’ ” Horn said.
He did. And the latest place it has taken him is into the head coach’s office.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.