Too much too fast on a Thursday…Lawing, Tharp, Frye

They say things come in threes, and that was the case for the sports world in South Carolina Thursday morning and early afternoon. First was the sad news of the passing of former USC defensive line coach Brad Lawing announced by his brother-in-law on Twitter. Then came news from Darlington that track President Kerry Tharp will retire at the end of the 2023 season. And USC followed with the retirement of long-time track and field coach Curtis Frye.

Lawing came to South Carolina from Appalachian State in 1989 when Sparky Woods was hired in the wake of the death of Joe Morrison. The native of Hickory, NC and graduate of Lenoir-Rhyne quickly made himself a fixture in the state with his coach and recruiting prowess.

Lawing had a ten-year run with the Gamecocks transitioning from the Woods staff to Brad Scott’s. He left for Michigan State in 1999 after Lou Holtz arrived, then moved on to North Carolina and then back to USC when Steve Spurrier took over in 2006. Next came stops at Florida and Florida State. Tallahassee was the final stop of his coaching career.

Lawing was known as a relentless recruiter and coordinated the recruiting efforts at most of the schools where he worked. He also was known for his player development and is credited in large part with helping make Gamecock defensive end Jadeveon Clowney the first pick of the 2014 Draft.

Tharp will leave Darlington after serving as the track’s leader since 2016. Here’s the release from Darlington Raceway:

After nearly two decades of accomplished leadership in the sport, NASCAR and Darlington Raceway President Kerry Tharp announced today he’s retiring at the end of the year. The Cook Out Southern 500 will be his final race at the Track Too Tough to Tame, which he has guided with a steady hand since 2016.

“It’s been the honor of a lifetime to serve as president of this beloved South Carolina institution,” Tharp said. “I’ve poured my heart and soul into serving our fans, and they’ve in turn embraced my wife Debbie and our family as one of their own. I look forward to the remainder of this year and experiencing another exciting Labor Day Weekend with our fans during all of the Cook Out Southern 500 festivities.”

Tharp’s profound impact on Darlington Raceway and NASCAR cannot be understated. He was at the helm in 2020 when the track became the nation’s first venue to host a major sporting event following the COVID-19 shutdown. He also was instrumental in the return of a second NASCAR Cup Series race weekend to Darlington’s annual schedule, while also championing the wildly successful Official Throwback Weekend of NASCAR concept he inherited when he became track president in 2016.

His tenure as track president followed a remarkable 11-year run leading NASCAR’s communications efforts across all three national series. That came on the heels of a 26-year career in intercollegiate athletics, which included two decades of service as Associate Athletics Director for Media Relations at the University of South Carolina.

“Kerry Tharp’s passion for Darlington Raceway and the state of South Carolina is without question and permeates everything he does,” said Chip Wile, Tharp’s predecessor as track president and NASCAR’s current Chief Tracks Operating Officer. “We’re beyond grateful for Kerry’s service to Darlington Raceway and NASCAR, and we wish Kerry and Debbie continued happiness and success as they embark on this hard-earned next chapter of their lives.  I look forward to the fans and industry celebrating his incredible career during the Cook Out Southern 500.”

Frye spent 27 years with the Gamecocks and won the school’s first ever team national championship with his women in 2002. Here’s the release from USC:

After 27 years at the helm of the South Carolina Track & Field and Cross Country program, legendary head coach Curtis Frye has announced his retirement effective June 30, it was announced today.

“It’s the end of an era,” said Athletics Director Ray Tanner. “Curtis Frye has become synonymous with Gamecock Track & Field for nearly 30 years. Curtis led his squad to the first NCAA team championship in school history and consistently mentored highly successful student-athletes who excelled both on and off the track. We wish Curtis and his wife, Wilma, all the best as they transition to the next stage of their lives.”

During his long and storied career, Frye has coached or overseen 28 Olympians who have garnered 14 Olympic medals, 60 NCAA Champions, 126 SEC Champions, more than 500 NCAA All-Americans and 21 Academic All-Americans. He coached 14 SEC Athletes of the Year and five National Athletes of the Year. Frye’s athletes have earned four USTFCCCA National Scholar-Athlete of the Year honors in addition to five SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year awards. One of the most well-respected coaches in the country, Frye brought South Carolina its first team NCAA Championship in any sport when his women’s squad captured the 2002 NCAA Outdoor title.

Frye is a three-time United States Track Coaches Association (USTCA) National Coach of the Year, taking home the 1999 and 2002 women’s outdoor and the 1999 men’s indoor honors. He became the first person in the history of the USTCA to win the award both indoors and outdoors in the same year. In 2001, he earned the prestigious Nike Coach of the Year award and was named the 1997 USOC Track & Field Coach of the Year. In addition, he is a three-time SEC Coach of the Year, with the honor coinciding with his three women’s outdoor conference titles in 1999, 2002 and 2005.

In October 2008, Frye was bestowed the Order of Ikkos Medallion, presented by the United States Olympic Committee. Later that year, he received the Order of the Palmetto, the highest civilian honor awarded by the Governor of South Carolina to recognize lifetime achievement and service to the state.

Frye was enshrined in the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Hall of Fame in December 2013. Earlier that fall, Frye was inducted into the Sandhills Community College Hall of Fame in Pinehurst, N.C. He is also a former President of the USTFCCCA and is currently a non-voting member of the organization’s Board of Directors.

Hired at South Carolina on July 29, 1996, Frye came to Columbia after serving as assistant head coach at North Carolina for four years. During his tenure at UNC, he was part of 13 ACC championship teams.

Prior to his stint with the Tar Heels, Frye was an assistant coach at Florida from 1988 to 1992. While with the Gator program, he coached three NCAA individual champions and one relay team champion. In total, 29 All-America certificates were earned while Frye was in Gainesville.

From 1984 to 1988, Frye was an assistant coach for N.C. State, aiding the Wolfpack to four conference championships. He was instrumental in leading State to 27 All-America honors, four individual NCAA second-place finishes and 37 conference champions.

Frye began his coaching career as an assistant at his alma mater, East Carolina, in 1974. He also served as head coach for the men’s soccer team and was director of facilities. Frye took a break from the collegiate ranks from 1979 to 1984 when he was head track and field coach for Douglas Byrd High School in Fayetteville, N.C.

A national search for a replacement will begin immediately.

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