Payton Jordan: 1917-2009

Feb. 6, 2009

STANFORD, Calif. - Longtime Stanford track and field coach Payton Jordan died Thursday at his home in Laguna Hills. He was 91.

Jordan was an icon in the sport on many fronts, as a coach, administrator and athlete, with involvement in several of the sport's seminal moments and movements.

Not only did he coach Stanford from 1957-79, producing seven Olympic athletes, six world-record holders and six national champions, but he was the mastermind behind the 1962 U.S. vs. USSR track meet that drew 150,000 over two days to Stanford Stadium during the height of the Cold War.

In 1968, Jordan was the head coach of the U.S. Olympic team in Mexico City. Considered one of the greatest in history, the team earned a record 24 medals - 12 gold - and was best known for the Tommie Smith-John Carlos civil rights protest and Bob Beamon's extraordinary long-jump world record.

Late in his coaching career and after retirement from coaching, Jordan gave rise to the masters track movement, setting six age-group world records in the sprints. In 1997 at age 80, Jordan set the last of his world marks, 14.65 in the 100 meters and 30.89 in the 200.

Though he moved to Southern California, Jordan continued to play an enthusiastic role in Stanford track and field, lending his name to the annual invitational that continues to bear his name.

When the meet formerly known as the U.S. Open was renamed in his honor in 2004, Jordan said, 'I am overwhelmed and deeply grateful to be honored by my old school. It is a wonderful feeling to know that you are still remembered.'

Even in his younger days, Jordan was a record-breaking sprinter. He was a member of USC's world-record 4x440 relay team (40.5) in 1938 and ran the fastest 100 yards ever on grass, in 1941. In addition to helping the Trojans to national track championships in 1938 and 1939, he helped USC beat Duke in the 1939 Rose Bowl.

Jordan never competed in the Olympics, with the 1940 and 1944 Games canceled during World War II. Jordan joined the Navy instead and, afterward, began his coaching career at Occidental College, which he led to two NAIA titles and 10 conference championships.

He is a member of these Halls of Fame: Stanford, USA Track & Field, Mt. SAC Relays, Occidental College, USC, and NAIA, among others. He was awarded the Dwight D. Eisenhower Fitness Award by the U.S. Sports Academy in 1999.

Now on Pac-12 Network
8:00 AM PT

Airing on:

  • Pac-12 Network
Get Pac-12 Networks
Unable to get Pac-12 Network?
Contact your provider ▶
Pac-12 Networks Channel Finder
Close