Last year I inaugurated the Dual Meet Hall of Fame to recognize outstanding achievement in this little-recognized but important facet of college track and field. My spring 2012 choice for coach honoree was Washington State’s John Chaplin, and my winter 2013 choice was Nebraska’s Gary Pepin.
This time, it’s Jim Bush, the coach of tremendous teams at UCLA, USC and Occidental.
As a coach, all Jim Bush did was win.
Injuries held Bush back as collegiate competitor at Cal, and he was determined to be a better coach than athlete. After stints as head coach at Fullerton High School (eight seasons, eight league titles) and Fullerton Junior College, Bush moved to Occidental College. In three seasons (1962-64), his Tigers never lost to UCLA in a dual meet. So UCLA hired him.
When Bush came to UCLA, they had never beaten rival USC in any of their 31 dual meets. In his first year (1965), the Bruins fell again, but the streak was broken in 1966. For the remainder of Bush’s 18 years, they won all but four of the dual meets against USC.
Under Bush, the Bruins beat a heck of a lot more teams than just USC. All in all, Bush’s dual meet record at UCLA was 152-21-0, and under his watch the Bruins won seven dual meet national championships (and only once did they finish outside of the top three.)
Bush developed great athletes and lots of them, but the team came first. He once famously kicked Dwight Stones off his team after Stones told Bush he wanted to do only three meets for the Bruins (vs USC, Pac-8 and NCAA) and Bush refused to let the world record holder back on the team.
Bush left UCLA after the 1984 season due to health issues. Over the next few years he worked with professional athletes of various stripes: football (LA Raiders, Marcus Allen in particular), baseball (LA Dodgers), basketball (LA Lakers). He earned Super Bowl and World Series rings for his efforts.
Bush went back to active track coaching as a volunteer assistant at crosstown rival USC, and the Trojans hired him as head coach in the summer of 1990. USC’s competitive fortunes had declined precipitously, citing NCAA scholarship limitations as the reason. Bush didn’t accept this: “We’re going to bring USC back. I don’t care how many scholarships you have, it doesn’t make a difference to me,” he told the LA Times. “If we have 14 scholarships, that means everyone else has 14 scholarships. We’re going to win.”
Win they did. Going 0-5 and 1-5 in Bush’s first two years, the Trojans progressed to 5-2 and 9-1 in his last two years, topping out at #6 in the TFN dual meet rankings. Bush’s career at USC did not end well; he said he was forced out (after being diagnosed with prostate cancer), and he filed a lawsuit against USC (eventually settled out of court.)
Bush still coaches, volunteering his time in Southern California.