Clemson XC 1973: A team to remember 40 years later

“You four guys were all on the same Clemson Cross Country Team in 1973?  Really?  Wow, you must have had a great team!”  That statement, that reaction, has been exclaimed to me many times over the decades when other runners would first learn that Dean Matthews, Dave Geer, Roy Kulikowski and I were all members of the Clemson University Cross Country team in the fall of 1973. 

Photo: from left to right - Ian Davidson, Roy Kulikowski, Dean Matthews, Dave Geer

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By Ian Davidson
Edited by Cedric Jaggers


Previous coverage on Davidson (2010) -- 1970s Rock Hill runner battles cancer, aims to compete again

Ian, Roy, Dean, Dave 

September 1973 at Myrtle Beach

“You four guys were all on the same Clemson Cross Country Team in 1973?  Really?  Wow, you must have had a great team!”  That statement, that reaction, has been exclaimed to me many times over the decades when other runners would first learn that Dean Matthews, Dave Geer, Roy Kulikowski and I were all members of the Clemson University Cross Country team in the fall of 1973.

Well, no actually we weren't that good. Dean had the most success of any of us in college, as he won an ACC Cross Country Title his senior year in 1976 when Dave was fifth. Roy and I had some smaller successes, but for the most part all of us continued to develop as distance runners, and we all did our best running on the roads after college.  That is where we had our best success.

The 1973 Clemson Cross Country Team was not very good. We had three wins and five losses in dual meet competition, and finished next to last in the ACC Cross Country Championships. Though, from a less than mediocre team it is rather interesting and somewhat amazing that four runners would emerge and produce results in marathon running that very few other teams can match. Our four marathon PR's are 2:11:48, 2:17:26, 2:19:54, and 2:21:30 for Dean, Roy, myself, and Dave respectively. The average of these four marathon times is 2:17:39 and cannot be matched by any other team in Clemson history, probably not in ACC history, and would even rank fairly high in NCAA history.

Our fledgling start running Division I College Cross Country sure gave no indication of the success yet to come.  However it is a testament to those distance runners who continue to grow.

It was a diverse and disorderly in appearance group of rag tag cross country runners who inhabited Clemson that fall of 1973. There were only two returning scholarship lettermen from the 1972 team; Rick Zanes from New Jersey and me, from Rock Hill.  We two were a weak foundation to build upon and set the tone in those days when  the geographic origins of Clemson runners seemed to be either from South Carolina or New Jersey, and not too much in between.

Rick was hardly a cross country runner; he was more of a half miler. He had a rickety lanky body, and bookworm looks. Though he had boyish looks, he also somehow had an overall appearance of someone 50 years old, so it was not too long before everyone started calling him Pops. I eventually became known as The Little Muscle and was once described by the Clemson strength coach as, Nothing But A Pair Of Lungs Strapped To A Pair Of Legs. My long sun streaked blond hair was already thinning and mostly hung off my head like a damp dirty mop. I had shown a few glimpses of performance as a freshman.  However, my overall lack of dedication to training, by running only when I  had to; taking weekends, holidays and summers off from running and relying on natural ability was starting to catch up to me as I competed on the collegiate level. I had not run a step since the last track meet the past April. The outlook for Clemson Cross Country 1973 looked quite bleak.

Matriculation had begun during those hot days of August, and the campus was coming alive with the infusion of new and returning students. Rick bumped into me one of the first days back on campus and he was all excited to say that there was great hope for the Cross Country Team. The big news was that Coach Pee Wee Greenfield had signed just about a full team of some down right fast distance runners.  They had already arrived and had been seen out running on the campus and community roads.

I took this news with mixed emotion, wondering if I could run with the new guys, but knowing it sounded good for the prospects of the team. I immediately went to my dorm room, put on running gear, and went over to the old cinder track behind the Fraternity Quad and knocked out 4x440 yards in 58 seconds each with a quarter jog, just to make sure I was still in shape in spite of my summer off from running.

Two of the new signees; Dean Matthews and Dave Geer, were both from New Jersey. Dean, from Lakewood, had been highly recruited. He was flamboyant, loud, cocky, and exuberant, and was quick to state that everything was better in New Jersey.  Once signed, Coach Pee Wee Greenfield asked him if he knew of anyone else from his area that might be interested to come down and run at Clemson. Dean mentioned that Dave Geer from Howell had not signed with anyone.

Dave was flabbergasted that someone would offer him a full scholarship to college. He signed sight unseen. He arrived in Clemson with shoulder length white blonde hair parted in the middle, sporting a pair of green tinted wire rimmed glasses, a rawhide necklace, and as he said years later, a self described "I Didn't Have A Chip On My Shoulder, I Had The Whole Block Of Wood" attitude. Dave didn't care what hole in South Carolina you had crawled out from to get to Clemson, he just knew he was from Jersey and you weren't. His first morning in Clemson he took a reconnaissance walk to check out the town, to see which way the wind blows, and to see where all the fun and action would be taking place. He walked, and walked, looking for the Main Drag and walked some more. After walking about two miles and not seeing much of anything, he happened to glance back over his shoulder and saw a Welcome To Clemson Sign. That was when he realized that what he had just walked through was actually Clemson. He sat down on the side of the road and cried and promised himself that he would not be staying for very long in this town.

It was not long after arriving in Clemson when Dean earned the nickname Cue Tip, due to his scrawny stick like physique and blond curly afro hairstyle. But Eaglet was what he was most often called as he most resembled a just born baby eagle. Dave became The German. Dave did eventually whittle away the big chip on his shoulder, but it would take a few years.

The gem of the 1973 cross country recruiting class was Roy Kulikowski. He was Junior College 6 Mile National Champion, hailing from Pittsburgh, Pa. No one could pronounce his last name, so naturally everyone quickly started calling him Kool, short for Kulikowski. He seemed taller than he may actually have been due to his very broad shoulders and torso. A very imposing looking figure particularly when surrounded by a squadron of pint sized distance runners that made up the majority of the team. He was mature, and a no nonsense serious kind of a guy. Because of his positive character and also due to the lack of any viable alternatives, he quickly became the leader of the team. A team full of unleadable, and mischievous hellions. He surely wondered how this had become his fate. Decades later it could still be debated whether he had a calming positive influence on the team, or if he himself became corrupted.  Probably a little of both.

Rounding out the eventual top six for the team that year was Herman Jutzeler.  He was a signee out of Charleston who had recently broken my S.C. High School two mile record and he was pure southern. He was the only one who arrived in Tiger Town already with a nickname, Skeeter.

There were other freshmen who ran with us that fall. David Wright and Steve Burgess were from Columbia, South Carolina, and Steve Ellis came from Florida.  Tom Shields and Rich Clonan were from New Jersey. Overall the team had quite a distinct flavor and divide of runners from New Jersey and South Carolina. Team demographics: 5 from New Jersey, four from South Carolina, one from Pennsylvania, and one from Florida.  Quite a clash of culture, one that eventually melded.

We were quite a young team.  It consisted of one junior, two sophomores, and eight freshmen.

Initially the New Jersey boys seem to have a bit of mild disdain for the southern culture of their teammates.  Dave had already switched roommates, not wanting to room with some mild  mannered southern boy from Charleston named Skeeter, to whom he had been assigned. Despite that, Dave and Skeeter soon became great friends and the culture clash would soon seem quite trivial compared to the clash of culture with the remainder of the dorm.  

Decades before universities utilized any logic and sociological profiling for compatible dorm mates, they just stuck you where they had extra beds and rooms. So the boys from New Jersey and other northern parts found themselves living on the Track Team Hall, which just happened to be the third floor to the Kappa Alpha Fraternity, AKA The Southern Gentlemen. That arrangement never had a chance.

It was bad enough that what seemed like nightly frat parties that went late into the night when cross country runners are trying to get some sleep before the 6 a.m. run. What was even worse was the music, a lot of it Carolina Beach Music blasting from the Fraternity Jukebox. Be Young Be Foolish Be Happy/The Tams, With This Ring/The Platters, Under The Boardwalk/The Drifters, and Chain Gang/Sam Cooke played incessantly day and night.  

The New Jersey boys were playing the music of The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Doors, and such, and had never even heard of Carolina Beach Music or some of the other songs. However, it did not take them long to realize they did not like that music and found it nauseating when the loud music echoed up the open stairwell and into the third floor Track Team Hall.

In the ongoing battle, the fraternity boys partied late into the night affecting the sleep of the cross country boys.  In retaliation the cross country boys on their way to 6 a.m. practice would yell, talk loud, kick trashcans down the stairs, slam doors, and otherwise do their best to wake up and disturb the now sleeping late night partiers. That clash of culture never did meld.

Early into the fall 1973 semester, the Streaking Craze that was sweeping the nation was about to hit Clemson. Athletic administration and coaches had told their athletes that they were not to participate in such a debaucherous event. (Editor’s Note:  young runners may not know that lots of people at Colleges across the country would gather and run naked across and around their respective campuses.  Imagine if it happened now.  CJ)

Some of us on the cross country team, being a bit rebellious of authority, felt that we just could not miss out on such an opportunity to run naked through the Clemson Campus. Of course, due to our superior running ability compared to the average student, we often found ourselves at the front of the pack of 500 stampeding naked students running across the library bridge and various other staged charges through campus that September night. Still to this day when I bump into a hometown friend who attended Clemson at the time who chose not to streak, he will say, "I've Still Got That Photo Of You Standing Naked On The Amphitheater Stage From The Night Ya'll Did That Streaking!"

It did not take too long for some clashes to develop between Coach Pee Wee Greenfield and the cross country runners. There had already been some minor issues over hair length, dress codes, thought we told you not to streak, and the need for haircuts in order to comply with athletic department policy.

Coach Greenfield was a lovable character who had been coaching for decades. He was always smoking a cigar, and always sipping from a can of coke that had more than just coke in it. Sometimes he had the habit of being late to where he was supposed to be.  

One hot late September afternoon it appeared he was not going to show up at the track to time us for an interval workout. As time ticked by the cross country runners became more restless, irritated and discontented.

Finally after about an hour of waiting, the team decided to go out for a 10-mile run instead of waiting around any longer for coach. Even though the graduate assistant coach told us not to go, we went anyway. We had only gotten about 300 yards away from the track, and we were climbing a trail that led to the top of the Lake Hartwell Dike, when we heard shouting for us to come back because Coach Greenfield had arrived.

We looked back, saw coach arriving in his car, but we waved goodbye and continued out on our way to the 10-mile run. I don't know what we were thinking about what might be the consequences of disrespecting authority, but we soon found out as Coach Greenfield was waiting for us outside Jervey Athletic Center when we completed our run. He was not very happy with us. He gave us a fierce lecture and told us to be at the track the next morning at 6 a.m. to do the interval workout we had just missed.

He also made it very clear that anyone who did not show up for the workout would have their scholarships revoked and be sent home. There was a lot of big talk of not showing up. However, in the end Roy was the voice of reason when he said, “I Don't Like This Anymore Than You Guys, But I Can't Risk Losing My Scholarship, So I Plan To Be There In The Morning, You Guys Do What You Got To Do.”

After all considerations the rest of us decided to show up as well.

The next morning, being mischievous malcontents, we schemed to give coach a scare to make him think that we had not shown up, so we hid in the drained and dry steeplechase pit when we saw him driving toward the track. It was very dark, and a bit of a fog hung in the air, but we could see his headlights and the glow of his cigar as he drove toward the track. He sat in his car with the headlights lighting the track infield area. We stayed hidden until it appeared he was beginning to drive away, then we all burst from the steeplechase pit and ran toward his car, calling out that we were there.

If he was amused by our antics, he did not show it and quickly got down to business of herding us to the track for the 8X440 yard interval workout with a 440 jog in between. We weren't finished with our mischievous antics though. We might have shown up for the workout, but we still had no intentions of actually doing the workout, well not all of it anyway.

Coach had turned off his car headlights, so the track area was still quite dark at that morning hour. As each 440 yard interval would begin, we would sprint the first turn, jog down the backstretch, cut through at steeplechase pit, and then sprint the homestretch. We of course thought this was quite clever and hilarious. Later in the workout as we clicked off our "440 yard intervals," our only concern as the light of dawn began to show, was whether he could now see us jogging the backstretch and cutting through at the steeplechase pit. Finally, on the eighth and final interval it was determined that it was getting too light and we better run the last one properly, or our ruse might be exposed.

One other problem with our ruse was timing and coordinating the run pace of sprinting, jogging, cutting through and sprinting again to match standards for the workout, which was supposed to be 65 second quarters. We kept coming through in 59-61 seconds. As the workout ended and we began our jog back to the dorms, Coach Greenfield said to us, "I Might Have To Run You Boys Through Interval Workouts More Often At 6 a.m. As You All Seem A Little Faster At This Time Of The Morning." We all nearly froze in our tracks with fear that he had known all along what we had been doing. What would happen to us now we worried as we jogged along in a group back to the dorms? If Coach Greenfield knew we had cheated the workout, he never said anything more about it.

Maybe we fooled him, maybe we didn't. If we didn't fool him, then maybe he cut us some slack for at least showing up at 6 a.m. under the pressure of his ultimatum.  And maybe, just maybe he admired our clever juvenile mischievousness.

The first road trip cross country meet the fall of 1973 was to Chapel Hill, N.C. for a dual meet against University of North Carolina. They supposedly had a fairly good team. Yep, they had a fairly good team, or were we just that awful?  They swept the first five places and thumped us badly 15-45. As we were preparing for the long drive back to Clemson, Dean said to coach that some of the boys wanted to stop in downtown Chapel Hill on the way out of town to buy some UNC t-shirts and such. Coach Greenfield snapped his reply, "You Boys Just Got Swept By North Carolina, We Sure Ain't Stopping To Buy Souvenirs!" And that was the end to that conversation.

The cross country season was mired in the muck of mediocre performance, and the capstone was finishing way out of contention in next to last place at the ACC Cross Country Championships later that November. In regards to running performance, there appeared to be not much worth remembering about this team, or the runners who comprised it.

A few years later the running boom was in full swing in the United States.  Roy, Dean, Dave and I graduated at various times and began to turn our attention to the lure of road racing. We all had continued to develop and blossom as long distance runners. Our ability to perform at a high level would soon be noticed in road races, and we no longer bore any resemblance to the low caliber runners who had been swept at North Carolina four years earlier.

In spring of 1977 I returned to Clemson from a weekend 10K road race which I had won and had beaten highly regarded marathoner Lee Fidler. When I drove into the driveway of where some of the runners were living off campus, Dave, Dean and fellow Clemson runner David Buechler greeted me by getting down on their knees, bowing and extolling me for the great victory.

From that time on as we began to matriculate into the road racing scene, there was no holding the four of us Clemson runners back from chasing our dreams as runners. We trained with dedication and the desire to compete with anyone and to become the best distance runners we could be.  From 1977 through well into the 1980's all four of us made our marks in road racing though out the Southeast, in Atlanta, Charlotte, Raleigh, Huntsville, Columbia, Greenville, Charleston, Savannah, Anderson, Maggie Valley and many other cities and towns spread across the southeast. Some of us traveled outside the southeast and had successes in Boston, New York, Pittsburgh, Honolulu, Hiroshima and many parts in between.

We had all come a long way since our days of mischievous juvenile malcontents when we were the foundation of a mediocre Clemson cross country team in the fall of 1973. We eventually crossed the finish line first in many races. Below are some of the highlights.

1977 Ian 1st Charlotte Observer 10K
1978 Ian 3rd Great Raleigh Road Race 10K 
1978 Ian 1st Governor's Cup 15 Mile  1:13:35 record  time
1978 Dean 2nd  Governor's Cup 15 Mile  1:15:52
1978 Dave 1st Governor's Cup 5 Mile     23:17 record  time
1978 Ian 2nd Charlotte Marathon 2:19:54 PR only marathon
1979 Dave 2nd Maggie Valley Moonlight 5 Mile
1979 Ian 3rd Maggie Valley Moonlight 5 Mile
1979 Dean 12th Boston Marathon  2:14:48
1979 Ian 1st Governor's Cup 15 Mile  1:15:01
1979 Roy 8th Huntsville Marathon  2:20:53  
1979 Dean 1st Honolulu Marathon 2:16:13 record time
1980 Roy 27th U.S. Olympic Trials 2:17:26 PR  
1980 Ian 1st  Shut In Ridge Trail Run (19miles)
1980 Roy 19th New York City Marathon 2:17:50
1980 Roy 5th Huntsville Marathon  2:19:07  
1981 Dean 1st Marine Corp Marathon 2:16:31
1982 Roy 1st  Governor's Cup 5 Mile 23:47
1984 Dave  2nd Rocket City Marathon  2:21:30 PR
1984 Dean 5th U.S. Marathon Olympic Trials 2:12:26
1984 Dave 1st  Midnight Flight 5K 14:04
1984 Dave 4th Capital Trail 10 Mile 48:39
1984 Dave  14th Peachtree Road Race  29:08
1984 Roy 18th Peachtree Road Race 29:28  
1985 Dean 11th World Cup Marathon 2:11:48 PR
1985 Dave 1st  Savannah Half marathon  1:04:31
1985 Roy 1st Governor's Cup 15 Mile 1:17:50
1986 Dean 1st Pittsburgh Marathon 2:18:17 won $25,000

Although we got off to a rough start and had some tough times in the fall of 1973, we all managed to survive. We had a grand time during our running days at Clemson. The camaraderie and many of the friendships have lasted a lifetime from that 1973 Clemson Cross Country Team. Many stories of adventures and events have been told and retold hundreds of times.

Although a lot of us got tired of hearing Dave and Dean tell everyone how great New Jersey was, they were right about one thing for sure. They kept telling us about this singer who sang at The Stone Poney; a Jersey Shore bar. They would tell us how they used to go and see him play and sing, and how great he was, blah, blah, blah. By the mid 70's this singer did finally break out and make the big time. His name was Bruce Springsteen.

Admittedly, it was rather cool for us from South Carolina to know about Bruce long before most everyone else did. Unlike Bruce Springsteen, the 1973 Clemson Cross Country Team won't be remembered for any great performances, but when it was all said and done, Dean, Roy, Dave and me, TRAMPS Likes Us, Baby We Were Born To RUN!

Marathon times information requested:

It is now known that this 1973 Clemson Cross Country team produced the best group of marathoners in Clemson cross country history. We suspect we may be the best in ACC history, and wonder how we may rank nationally. Dean and I have begun the process gathering marathon times from various cross country teams and we would like to hear from you regarding marathon times you and your cross country teammates have run.  Please contact me:  Ian Davidson at davidsonian@att.net or see Facebook page: College Cross Country Marathon Times Rankings.


Where are they now?
Dave Geer still lives in Clemson. Dave never did leave Clemson as he once promised himself in August 1973, deciding that Clemson was quite a special place after all. Dave continues to run and race and periodically sets South Carolina age group records and has been inducted into the South Carolina Road Runners Club of America Hall of Fame. He currently holds seven South Carolina age group records. He works for City of Clemson Recreation Department and has a baseball field named in his honor.

Ian Davidson lives in Clemson and continues swim, bike and run and competes in XTERRA Off Road Triathlons. Since 1999 he has won five national age group titles and two world age group titles in cross country mountain biking, XTERRA triathlon, and aquathlon.  Ian was inducted into the York County Sports Hall of Fame in 2001. He worked 13 years in athletic advising at Clemson University, semi retiring in 1993 and now operates a lawn care business.

Roy Kulikowski lives nearby in Greenville, working in cardiac rehabilitation for St. Francis Hospital. He maintains fitness with some jogging, biking and other activities. Roy still holds the state 35-39 age group record for 25K 1:23:47, set at the 1988 Governor's Cup

Dean Matthews lives in Atlanta and stays fit and active. He was inducted into The Lakewood High School Athletic Hall of Fame in 2011 and was named to the all-time top 100 N.J. Shore Athletes of the 20th Century. Dean is Director of Training and Leadership Development at InComm.  He volunteers at the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Alliance Theater and Piedmont Park Conservancy, as well as occasionally assisting young runners with performance development. 

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