Tom Botts
Tom Botts

Mexico, Mo.

Missouri Coach (1947-74)

Led Mizzou to 1965 NCAA Indoor title ... Eight Conference Championships

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A native of Mexico, Mo., Botts coached track and field at MU from 1947 to 1972. Under his direction, MU won the 1965 NCAA Indoor Track Championship, one of only two national titles in the school's history. His teams also won eight conference championships - four indoors (1947-48-64-65) and four outdoors (1947-48-49-51). He coached 48 individual conference indoor champions, 48 individual conference outdoor champions, five individual national champions, two U.S. Olympians and 23 al-Americans. Botts was inducted into the State of Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 1977, the Drake Relays Hall of Fame in 1979, and the National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1983.


Note: The original feature was written in 1998 by Missouri Media Relations associate Kevin Fletcher. A follow-up was written in 2004 prior to the 8th annual Tom Botts Invitational.

You can take the man off the track, but it's hard to take the track out of the man. Thomas Warfield Botts - track competitor, coach and fan - guided the University of Missouri track and field teams for 31 memorable years. After retiring, he continued to volunteer his time as an honorary official at meets throughout the Midwest. And Botts was on hand for the groundbreaking ceremony for the Audrey J. Walton Track and Field Stadium. A gentleman coach all of his years at Missouri and a man of quiet dignity, he produced his share of winners on the track; more importantly, the high-principled coach left a positive impact on the countless athletes who competed for him.

Statistically speaking, the athletic achievements of M.U. track teams under Coach Tom Botts run long. His track teams compiled a 135-56-2 dual meet record. During his tenure as head coach (1946-1972), Missouri won eight conference titles, four indoor and four outdoor; two Big Eight cross country titles; and the 1965 national indoor track championship, one of two M.U. national title (the other being the 1954 baseball squad under Coach John "Hi" Simmons). Following the 1970 cross country team's Big Eight title and sixth-place national finish, Botts was named the university division Cross Country Coach of the Year.

In 1961, Botts helped lead the U.S. track team through an undefeated tour of Europe.

At Missouri, Botts coached 48 individual conference champions, 23 all-Americans, five national champions, and two Olympians: Dick Ault and Dick Cochran. Ault took fourth in the 400-meter hurdles at the 1948 London Games; Cochran won a bronze medal at the 1960 Rome Games.

Coach Botts had been bestowed with numerous accolades as well. He was inducted into the Missouri State Sports Hall of Fame in 1977, the Drake Relays Coaches of Fame in 1979, and the National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1983, when he entered along with Lee Evans, Archie Hahn, Mildred McDaniel and LeRoy Walker. When the inaugural class for the University of Missouri Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame was released, in 1990, it was no surprise to see Tom Botts' name on the list.

He has served as honorary referee at the Kansas, Drake, Texas, and Michigan State Relays, and in 1954, Botts received the dedication of the official program of the Amateur Athletic Union Championships. In 1955, he became a member of the University of Missouri's Mystical Seven honorary fraternity. When he retired in 1972, the university appointed Botts professor emeritus.

Perhaps of greater significance is the type of man and coach he was and is: dedicated, disciplined, practical, efficient, humble, generous, a humanitarian, proud of his athletes.

Former M.U. football coach Don Faurot, in a 1983 Columbia Missourian interview, said of Botts: "He's such a gentleman. A fine, moral individual. He's had a big influence on the kids and keeps in touch with them all."

Those "kids" held a deep respect for their coach. Many viewed him a father figure and fled compelled to give something back to the man from whom they had received so much. In 1966, track alumni surprised Botts with a new car. Six years later at the retirement, Botts was present with an all-expenses-paid trip to the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. At the same time, the annual Tom Botts Award was established.

"He put your schooling and your life ahead of athletics," said Jean Madden, who ran under Botts. "Athletics were only a means to an end - a way of developing discipline, spirit, and self-sacrifice."

Botts certainly led by example. Bob Arnold, another runner under Botts, described him this way in a Missouri Alumnus article: "There's an ascetic aura in the way he will stand for hours in the cold or in drizzling rain, timing workouts. He is encouraging the men who accept his challenge to do things for themselves they didn't know they could. He is helping them learn more about themselves in four years than they might otherwise learn in a lifetime."

Botts' belief in a life of service is encapsulated by his statement upon announcing his retirement: "I have no definite long-range plans, but I hope to keep reasonably active, doing someone worthwhile and useful."

Born March 28, 1904, on a farm near Mexico, Mo., Botts attended Westminster College in Fulton. He graduated in 1927 after competing as an outstanding hurdler. Botts trained under Coach Brutus Hamilton, and M.U. decathlete and Olympian who later coached the 1952 Olympic team. Westminster College presented Botts with an Alumni Achievement Award in 1957, and its track is named in his honor.

Botts earned a master's degree in history from the University of Kansas in 1931. He did further graduate work at the University of Iowa, where he was elected to Phi Epsilon Kappa, the honorary physical education fraternity.

Botts began his coaching career at Ruskin High School in Hickman Mills, Mo., where he spent three years. He then coached at Ft. Scott (Kan.) Junior College from 1932 to 1941. He joined the Missouri track staff as an assistant coach under Head Coach Chauncey Simpson. Botts assumed head coaching duties in 1946.

Other Botts activities of note: past president of the NCAA Cross Country Coaches Association; served on the NCAA track rules committee; volunteer at the Harry S. Truman Veterans Hospital; served as president of the Boone County Historical Society; Rotary Club member; First Presbyterian Church elder.


Coach Botts died on March 1, 1999, at the age of 94. His wife, Virginia proceed him in death in 1994.

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