Former Michigan women’s track and field coach Red Simmons passed away at the age of 102 on April 13.
Simmons was a leader and undoubtedly one of Michigan’s best, but what Red will be remembered for was the foundation he built for women’s track and field.
Born Jan. 5, 1910, Kenneth Simmons has been called “Red” since the days of his youth. He was the first ever women’s track and field coach, coaching the team for the four seasons from 1978-1981.
Red grew up in Redford, Mich. where he would hitchhike to the Ann Arbor campus for classes, he would eventually start the Michigammes, the first varsity women’s track and field squad.
Red ran the mile for Michigan and other schools he attended, but he also doubled as a detective for the Detroit Police Department for a number of years.
Upon retiring, Red returned to Michigan to teach physical education. The athletic director at the time, Fritz Crisler, hoped Red could teach Michigan athletes his athletic training approach. While teaching Michigan students, Red finished his degree in physical education.
Red gave women the chance to compete and pushed them to success in a way that only he knew how. He sent members of his team to the Olympics throughought the ‘60s and ‘70s, but as Title IX legislation passed, the hope for the Michigammes slowly deteriorated.
Red went on to win four Senior Olympics gold medals at the age of 85, and he used to climb the stairs at the Crisler Center most days.
“Red Simmons was a fixture at many sporting events and was always supportive of the department and our coaches,” said Dave Brandon, the current Michigan athletic director, said in a statement on April 13. “He lived a long, productive life and made a positive impact on the lives of thousands of others. Red will be missed by our athletic department, but his legacy will endure as an accomplished coach, a wonderful person and a great Michigan Man.”
Red passed away at the age of 102 on April 13.
“He built a legacy of integrity, hard work and honesty,” said the current women’s track and field head coach, James Henry, in a statement. “He has made my job easy because I live by his example as an individual and as a coach.”
The Red Simmons Invitational has been held at Michigan annually to commemorate his contributions to the University since 1981.