HOUSTON, Texas — If you happen to see Rice head women’s track and field/cross country head coach Jim Bevan with an extra pep in his step this week, it›s with plenty of good reason.
Last year’s recipient of the Elizabeth Gillis Award (given to a Rice staff member who demonstrates unflagging commitment and service to the university), Bevan was inducted into the Adams State University Hall of Fame on Sept. 29, joining 10 others into his alma mater’s illustrious class.
Bevan received the same honor last Friday when he joined eight others inducted into the Rice Athletics Hall of Fame at the Briar Club in Houston.
One of the most successful coaches in Rice history, Bevan has led the Owls to 11 conference championships between cross country and track and field during his 12 years as head coach. A part of the Rice program for 31 seasons, Bevan has been named Coach of the Year 11 times among the SWC, WAC, and C-USA.
Prior to his illustrious career at Rice, Bevan was a standout athlete and assistant coach at Adams State University. Bevan was the 1983 RMAC triple jump champion with a distance of 47-8.5.
The year prior he was the triple jump runner-up and score in the long jump both years. His efforts resulted in appearances at the NAIA Indoor Track & Field Championships (1982 and 1983) along with the NAIA Outdoor Track & Field Championships (1982 and 1983).
Following his Adams State career, Bevan remained in Alamosa as an assistant coach for the cross country and track & field programs from 1983-86. His time as an assistant coach was highlighted by three NAIA cross country national titles and top 10 finishes on the track and field circuit.
Prior to Friday’s induction into the Rice Hall of Fame we caught up with Bevan to discuss his big week and reflect on the impact he’s had both at Adams State and Rice.
Q: What has this last week been like for you? It’s not very often you can go into multiple Hall of Fame’s in just a week’s span.
Bevan: “Both of them came as a big surprise. When I look back it was nice to go to Colorado last week because that’s where I was raised and the foundation for my coaching career started. I got to see a lot of old friends and get back to my roots. It’s been a wonderful week.”
Q: What type of memories come back going home and reflecting on where it all began?
Bevan: “I’ve always felt like it’s kind of interesting because I came from a small teachers college (Adams State) in a cool climate at 7,500 feet elevation and coaching men. And I came to Houston from a small town in Alamosa, Colo.; it’s a big city, hot and humid, an elite academic school, and I’m coaching women. It was 180 degrees.
The commonality of the two though is I had a tremendous mentor at Adams State (Joe Vigil) and my coaching foundation comes from him. He was the head of coaching education in the United States, he started it for track and field. And then coming here to Rice, Victor Lopez hired me and he was the head of coaching education in the Central American and Caribbean region, which he started here. I had a 19-year apprenticeship with Victor and what he did with what he had to work with, the things we accomplished in those 19 years, it was amazing. In my opinion he’s the master of Rice.
So, I go from one tremendous coach to another. Now, Victor is the head of Coaching Education for World for the IAAF.
I went from one completely different environment to another, but the commonality was I had this other tremendous mentor waiting for me at Rice. Even though the environments were completely different, I had two masters I was able to apprentice under and I’m just the continuity. I’ve utilized what I’ve been taught. Victor is an unbelievable teacher and coach and laid the foundation here. I’m just trying to keep things rolling from the foundation he’s laid. I feel real lucky going from Adam State to Rice. As odd as it seems, the two completely different locations, I was fortunate to have those two mentors.”
Q: A lot of coaches and athletes don’t like to reflect on their accomplishments until they hang `em up and call it a career. But do you ever sit back and think about everything you’ve been able to accomplish?
Bevan: “Every year is a new year. You don’t know exactly the variables that are going to arise that season with the group that you have.
But, coaching is coaching. Both Victor and Coach Vigil were great teachers. You look at it more from a teaching standpoint and what you have to work with. Whatever you accomplish, a lot of it is the teaching and how well you do with the hand that you’ve been dealt. Sure, recruiting plays a big role. But you just want to maximize with what you have. Sometimes you maximize things and you go a long way.
We’ve had some cross- country teams in the top 15-25 in the country, but sometimes the ones you remember the best are the ones that overachieved when they had a lot of problems. They may not have won a conference title or gone to nationals. Every group is unique.
The nicest thing about coaching is every year is a new year. That’s what keeps it vibrant and enjoyable. People are different, there’s no two kids that are alike. The other variable is being around 18-23-year-olds keeps you young and ingrained in what’s going on in the modern-day world at that age.”
Q: Through the years, what have been the biggest changes in this industry and at Rice?
Bevan: “Rice is still Rice. I’ve said it many times in my life, I feel very fortunate because I think I get to work with the best kids in the United States. I’ve coached many great athletes but they’re even better people.
Rice is always a challenge but the rewarding thing is when I see alumni that are 30, 40, or even 50 years old now, they tell me how happy they were coming to and competing at Rice. We can look each other in the eye and they were happy with their experience at Rice. That’s the most rewarding thing, is what that experience have led to.
The achievements, those are wonderful. But it’s the experiences, the friendships, the preparation that Rice gave them, that’s what’s most rewarding. Although the conferences have changed throughout the years, Rice is still Rice. We’re supposed to be an arm of education and I still believe we do it better than anybody. Athletics should be an arm of education and an arm of preparation for the real world and the lessons they learn from athletics they can carry with them the rest of their lives. That’s holistically what you want. This is a great place to be a true student-athlete and to accomplish what you should learn in college and how to prepare for life, and athletics is an arm for it.”
Kenny Bybee is the Assistant Director of Athletic Communications for Rice University in Houston, Texas.