May 8, 2014
By Richard Finn
Special to BIGEAST.com
VILLANOVA, Pa. - Marcus O’Sullivan didn’t set out to be one of the most successful track and field coaches in the storied history of the sport at Villanova.
After his own illustrious pro running career as a four-time Irish Olympian and three-time World Indoor Champion, he didn’t even think that coaching was something that he wanted to pursue, let alone be his dream job.
“Most of my background was in finance,” said O’Sullivan, 52, who got his MBA from Villanova and worked for two years in the school’s marketing department.
“I always thought that I wanted to do something in business, building a business. I was kicking the tires on several different things, but coaching was not one of them. I got catapulted into it by circumstances,” said O’Sullivan.
Now 16 years later, O’Sullivan is living his dream job as the Frank J. Kelly Endowed Track and Field coach of the men’s cross country and track and field teams at his alma mater.
This week he is preparing his Wildcats for the BIG EAST Men’s and Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Championships presented by New York Life at Villanova Stadium on Saturday and Sunday with a chance at doing something really special.
The highly regarded Wildcats come into the championships with a shot at a rare BIG EAST “triple crown” of having already won the cross country and indoor crowns this season. If Villanova wins the outdoor title on Sunday to have all three men’s titles in the same academic year, the Wildcats would join Georgetown as the only programs to win the “triple crown.” Georgetown accomplished the feat in 1987-88, 1989-90 and 1994-95.
“I don’t think it is pressure, I think expectations is a better word,” said O’Sullivan. “A lot of teams have come close but there has always been some upsetting moment.”
If the Wildcats were to pull off the trifecta this weekend, it would bring O’Sullivan pretty much full circle back to 1983 when Villanova held all three BIG EAST running crowns simultaneously, but not in the same academic year.
O’Sullivan was part of a lot of success during his own legendary running career at Villanova where he was a two-time NCAA champion, part of six Penn Relay titles and captured 10 BIG EAST crowns.
Success has continued to be a trademark of O’Sullivan’s coaching tenure on the Main Line. He has kept Villanova in a place of national prominence while coaching 15 national champions, 80 All-Americans and 149 BIG EAST champions.
Pretty impressive results for a coach who never was looking to get into the profession.
“I didn’t set out looking for the job,” said O’Sullivan, whose first year was 1998. “I set out trying to get somebody else the job.
“I was essentially involved in selecting the next coach and really was an advocate for Tom Donnelly (who was then and still is the Haverford College coach), who was my professional coach to get the job,” recalled O’Sullivan. “He decided during the process that he didn’t want the job and through an evolution of several months it led me to the position.”
Through the years O’Sullivan feels he has gotten to be a better coach in both teaching running skills but also life lessonsto his student-athletes.
“I have grown also as a better helper to that group of people from age 18-22 from when they are transitioning from adolescence to adulthood,” said O’Sullivan.
“I have gotten more patient, more tolerant at times and because of that development I think you allow athletes not only to become better athletes but better people,” he said.
To say O’Sullivan is surprised he’s still coaching two decades after accidentally falling into the position might be a bit of an understatement.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” said O’Sullivan. “It was one of those things that if you asked me if I would be doing this in another 20 years, probably not. And here I am.
“This has grown into my dream job.”