One key to building a productive athletic team at a Division I university is the continuity of coaching over the years. Such is the one of the primary reasons for the success of the University of Arizona men’s and women’s track and field teams.
Dave Murray is in his 35th year as a head coach at Arizona. Murray’s tenure at Arizona is the longest running of any current Arizona coach, is topped only by one legendary Wildcat figure, Fred Enke (36 years). His 35 years now ties another Wildcat coaching legend, J.F. “Pop” McKale (35 years).
During his time at Arizona, Murray has built on one of the top cross country and track and field programs in the nation. Since he has been at the helm of the Arizona programs, Wildcat athletes have been named All-Americans 161 times in cross country and track and field. His coaching has also produced numerous NCAA and Pacific-10 Conference champions, Olympians, World Championship competitors and NCAA and Pac-10 Athletes of the Year.
Murray has been honored as Pac-10 Cross Country Coach of the Year seven times and and District VIII/West Region Cross Country Coach of the Year six times. He was also named the NCAA Men’s Cross Country Coach of the Year in 1984. His commitment to the university was reflected in 1998 when he received the University of Arizona Alumni Association Centennial Award.
One of only two cross country coaches in Arizona history, Murray was named head coach in 1968, succeeding Carl Cooper, who was the coach from 1954-67. Murray's list of duties was increased when he took over the women's cross country program from 1978-81 and when he was later named the men's track and field coach in 1982. The 1990 campaign saw Murray take the reins for both the men's and women's cross country and track and field programs, pushing them both into the national spotlight.
In his first year at the helm of the men's track and field squad in 1982, Murray guided the Cats to a 20th-place finish at the NCAA Championships. That was just the beginning. The 1984 team had, at the time, the finest season in school history, finishing sixth at the NCAA Championships and earning a No. 2 dual meet ranking by Track and Field News. Furthermore, his programs have been ranked among the Top 20 dual meet teams almost every year since he has been in Tucson.
During his 33 years as cross country coach, Murray has led his teams to 17 top-20 national finishes, which includes a sixth-place women's finish at the 1996 NCAA championships -- a feat that was highlighted by the UA's first-ever women's individual national cross country champion, Amy Skieresz. Under Murray's tutelage, Skieresz became the nation's dominant cross country and long distance runner, evident by her cross country title in 1996, plus three NCAA track championships (indoor 5,000m and the outdoor 5,000m & 10,000m) in both 1997 and 1998.
Other notable cross country seasons for Murray include a fourth-place finish on the team's home course at the 1991 NCAA Championships, a second-place men's mark in 1984, and a number-two women's NCAA finish in 1990. Murray led the men's track and field team to its best finish in school history, a tie for fourth place at the 1998 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. His 2001 women’s track and field team ran off a third-place, best-ever finish at last year’s NCAA Outdoor championships.
His distance runners have amassed 76 All-America awards. Among Murray's roll call of star pupils are NCAA track and cross country champions, Pac-10 cross country and track champions, Olympians, World Junior Cross Country champs and several other successful and well-known runners.
Murray is also recognized as one of the most distinguished coaches at the UA. He is a member of the Drake Relays Hall of Fame, a 1997 inductee to the Pima County Sports Hall of Fame and a 1998 inductee into the University of Arizona Kappa Sigma Fraternity Hall of Fame. He received the Bear Down Award from the University of Arizona Alumni Association in 1995 and the University of Arizona C.A.T.S. Silver Anniversary Award in 1995.
Murray continues to be actively involved in the NCAA community. He is the men's Western Regional representative to the NCAA Division I Track Coaches Executive Committee and the distance events coordinator on the NCAA Division I Track Coaches Executive Committee. He is also the Pacific-10 Conference Track and Field Rules Committee chairman.
After earning All-America honors at San Bernardino Community College in California, Murray distinguished himself on the Arizona track team. In 1964, he set the school record in the 440-yard dash at 47.2 seconds.
Success for Murray and his program is not only seen on the track, but in the classroom as well. His programs annually competes for the top GPA honors among all 19 of Arizona Division I programs, while producing All-Academic award winners on conference, regional and national levels.
Murray taught and coached at Bella Vista High School in Sacramento, Calif., before returning to the University of Arizona as a graduate assistant with the track program in 1967. He received a master's degree in physical education from the UA in 1968.
He is past-president (1988-90) of the U.S. Cross Country Coaches Association, the women's association (1981-82) and a member of the men's NCAA Executive Committee and a District VIII representative.
Murray and his wife Nancy have two grown children, James and Terri. He was born July 21, 1942, in Oaks, North Dakota.