Men’s and women’s track and cross-country head coach Bob Rothenberg ’65, a bellwether on the Brown sports scene, announced his retirement in May after seventeen years of stopwatch clicking. Rothenberg is generally credited with taking over a languishing program in the summer of 1983 and turning it into an Ivy League powerhouse.
The fifty-seven-year-old Rothenberg cites health concerns as the reason for his decision, noting that a recent checkup disclosed high blood pressure. "I tend to be passionate in an all-consuming kind of way," he said in a prepared statement. "I’ve enjoyed it, it’s the lifestyle we’ve chosen, but it takes its toll. This is the right decision for myself, for Anne [his wife and an assistant track coach], and for our family."
Rothenberg’s teams and the athletes he’s coached have compiled an impres-sive list of accomplishments. His stars have broken more than 100 individual school records and have been invited to ten NCAA cross-country championship meets, eleven NCAA indoor track tourneys, and twelve outdoor track NCAAs. Under his direction, the women’s track team has captured ten Heptagonal titles, and last fall, after grabbing its first Heptagonal crown, the women’s cross-country squad finished ninth at the NCAA championships. Among many other honors, Rothenberg has been named Regional Indoor and Outdoor Track Coach of the Year by the U.S. Track Coaches Association.
"Bob Rothenberg has been synonymous with the success of the Brown track-and-field program," says Athletic Director Dave Roach. "Bob created an excitement for the sport that is felt not only at Brown, but also throughout the Ivy League and the East. But even though he was the most successful track coach in Brown history, Bob wasn’t about wins and losses. He was there for every one of his kids whether it was an athletic situation, an academic situation, or a family situation. There was just this great support system, handed from coach to athlete to athlete, but starting with Bob."
Athletes who trained and competed under Rothenberg’s watchful eye praise his high standards and enthusiasm. "No one runs a track meet like Bob," explains Konique Ballah ’02, a sprinter on the women’s track team. "He really cares about the sport. He has a fervor for it. At our last meet [the Outdoor Heptagonals], I came in third in the 200 meters, which was kind of a surprise. Bob came over to me afterward and told me, ‘You are my hero.’ I couldn’t believe it."
Rothenberg’s ties to the track and cross-country programs extend all the way back to the 1960s, when he was a part-time assistant to the great Ivan Fuqua, a former Olympic gold medalist who coached the track and cross-country teams for more than twenty years. After Fuqua left in 1967, the program lost its direction, so that by the time Rothenberg arrived in 1982, the cross-country team, for example, did not have enough members to send the required five to competitions. Rothenberg, who coached and taught at schools in New Jersey and Maryland before returning to College Hill, immediately began to turn things around. In 1987, Brown entered the NCAAs for the first time in twenty-four years.
Succeeding Rothenberg will be associate head coach Robert Johnson, who for the past nine years has been working with hurdlers and sprinters. "The staff is in place," notes Rothenberg, "a lot of the athletes are coming back, and I leave feeling good about it, and myself."