Richard Martin, the longest tenured employee in the history of UCA athletics, will retire from coaching at the close of the outdoor track and field season, according to Brad Teague, UCA’s director of athletics.

Martin will end a long and storied coaching career with UCA track and field and cross country, one that began as soon as he graduated from UCA in 1976.

A former UCA football player and track athlete, Martin never left UCA, coaching various teams for the past 44 years.

Martin plans to move into a new role in athletic administration.

Associate head coach Beau Theriot will serve as interim coach for the 2020-21 school year.

“Coach Martin has been a staple at UCA for almost 50 years,” Teague said. “His contributions to our university are numerous and immeasurable. We appreciate his service to this institution and are excited to have him moving into an administrative role in the athletic program.”

Martin, a member of the UCA Sports Hall of Fame, the Arkansas Track and Field Hall of Fame and the Dunbar High School Hall of Honor (Lufkin, Texas), has been a fixture on the UCA campus since he transitioned into a graduate assistant coaching position for both football and track and field following his graduation in 1976 with a B.S.E in health education.

Martin also earned his M.S.E in health education at UCA and moved into a full-time assistants role with both sports.

“Coach Raymond Bright and coach Bill Stephens recruited me from Lufkin, Texas,” Martin said. “Once I graduated from UCA I was asked to be a graduate assistant in football and track. I loved them both so I decided to do both. When I graduated in 1977 with a master’s, I was asked to stay and be an assistant for football and track. I had some job offers from some high schools, but I turned them down when I was asked to stay and be an assistant football and track coach here at the University of Central Arkansas.

While leading the UCA track program, Martin won five AIC Championships and was a five-time winner of the NAIA District 17 Coach of the Year award, as well as a five-time AIC Coach of the Year.

Martin was also an assistant coach in 1979 when the team won the AIC Championship.

His women’s cross country team won the school’s first Gulf South Conference championship for UCA in 1998.

In all, Martin coaches more than 40 indoor and outdoor All-Americans.

A four-year letterman in both football and track at UCA, Martin earned numerous accolades on the track.

He captured AIC Championships in the 200-yard dash (1974), 100-yard dash (1975), the mile relay (1975) and helped set an AIC and UCA record in the 400-yard relay (1975).

Martin earned All-American honors in the mile relay when UCA finished second in the NAIA National Championship meet.

“I was pretty good in both football and track but I loved track the best,” Martin said. “I did not have to watch and grade film in track. In football back then it was a lot of watching and grading film.”

Martin, who coached several receivers and numerous track and field athletes who were later inducted into the UCA Sports Hall of Fame, said he never seriously entertained the idea of leaving UCA.

“I had one job interview from the University of Tennessee back in the late 70s,” Martin said. “I told coach Stephens about it and asked him what I should do. He started laughing and told me I should go do the interview and just go see what they had to offer, that it would be a good experience for me. I asked him why he was laughing. He said just go.

“So I went. They had great facilities. The coach that was showing me around, I asked him what this job was going to be paying being the University of Tennessee. When he told me what it was paying I almost started laughing like coach Stephens. I saw what he was laughing about. I would have to take a big pay cut to go and work there. He already knew that so he sent me there to learn for myself. I still laugh about that from time to time.

“I just decided to stay put after that. Plus I don’t think that I would have looked good in orange like I do in purple and gray.”

Martin is in his 27th season as UCA’s cross country head coach.

He served at the helm of the men’s team from 1981 until it was put on hiatus in 1992.

Martin resumed coaching the men’s squad when it was reinstated in 2004.

He has also served as head women’s coach since 1993.

Martin is also in charge of the men’s and women’s track and field teams.

The women’s squad was brought back during the 2005-06 academic year and the men’s team returned in 2006-07.

“I knew it was time (to retire) when I prayed and prayed about it and God told me he had my back,” he said. “Plus, I have 12 grandkids I can spend more time with now.”

Martin said he is thankful for the support he received that enabled him to sustain such a long career at one university, his alma mater.

“I thank God for blessing me to be on this campus since 1971 as a student athlete and coach for 49 years so far,” Martin said. “I thank the coach Raymond Bright family and Bill Stephens family. These two guys are the reason I came to UCA. Also to Dr. Jeff Farris, president of the University at that time for calling me into his office and telling me there was going to be a lot of talk as to the reason I got the job but to not listen to it. He told me that I got the job not because of the color of my skin but because I was the best person for the job. So I guess I was 43 years later.”

Martin said he had several mentors in his nearly 50 years at UCA.

“I would not have made it at UCA if it had not been for Miss Ann Machen, my second mother,” he said of the long-time member of the UCA athletics and physical education departments. “She took me under her wing like I was her son and keep me on the right track. I thank her for that. Also I would like to thank Dr. Arvil Burks, who made a great impact in my life. And coach Ken Stephens and coach Harold Horton for the impact they had on me when I coached football under them. And also coach Rex Lovell and Dr. Fletcher Lowery for the influence they had on my career and my life.

“All my teachers I had at the university and teachers I had in my major field. I have made some lifelong friends while at the university and in the state of Arkansas and I thank you all. I thank the whole UCA Athletic Department over all these years and Dr. Brad Teague. I thank all of my assistant coaches that I have had over all these years. I have come in contact with and made a lot of friends while here so I thank you so very much.”

Martin said the memories, as well as the friends, from a long and storied career are many.

“I will remember that I coached a lot of great athletes, men and women, in both football, track and cross country,” he said. “And that I have touched their lives in a way that is helping them out in today’s world.”

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