GREENVILLE, N.C. - Bill Carson, who guided the East Carolina track and field program from ground level to one that developed Olympic competitors, passed away in his sleep early Monday morning at his home in Winterville at the age of 75.
Under Carson's 40-year direction, ECU athletes advanced to the NCAA National Championships in 18 of his last 19 seasons. In addition, he produced 70 All-America selections and 40 individual event champions at the IC4A, Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) or Conference USA championships.
"It is hard to put into words what Bill Carson meant to ECU," head coach Curt Kraft said. "He had such a positive impact on so many student athletes as well as countless others in the world of track and field. It was an honor and privilege to work alongside him. My thoughts and prayers go out to Bill's family and the East Carolina community."
Known for his ability to produce top-notch sprinters year after year, Carson earned his share of coaching honors during his illustrious career, including being named the NCAA District III Coach-of-the-Year in 1988 and Southeast Region Coach-of-the-Year in 2002.
Among Carson's accomplishments, he was selected president of the IC4A in 1999, was named head coach of the South team at the 1993 United States Olympic Festival and served as the Broad Event Chairman for Sprint Development for USA Track and Field from 1991-97.
Carson also had several of his athletes earn MVP awards and special honors at CAA and IC4A meets. He was responsible for four CAA Rookies-of-the-Year and two CAA Athletes-of-the-Year. Additionally, his Pirate teams won three consecutive Southern Conference titles in the 1970s.
On the international scene, Carson is well-respected as he helped produce several Olympic-level athletes. Included in his list of prominent athletes is Lee McNeill, who was a five-time All-America selection at ECU before going on to represent the United States at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. McNeill competed for the U.S. on the 4x100-meter relay team. Carson also mentored current 400-meter Olympic champion LaShawn Merritt, who has earned the opportunity to defend his gold medal in the event at the upcoming London Games.
Carson spent the 1965 season as head track and field coach at Furman University and led the Paladins to the Southern Conference Outdoor Championship. He moved south later that year to the University of Florida, where he completed work on his master's degree in physical education and served as assistant coach from 1965-66.
After a short stint (1966-67) as head track coach at Florida's Ocala High School, Carson was hired at East Carolina in September 1967.