JULY 7, 1980
Steve Scott got his job as the men's and women's track and cross-country coach at NAIA member Cal State-San Marcos the way he has gotten most everything else: on the run. A no-show at the August 1998 groundbreaking ceremony for a new track at the school, Scott, the San Diego area's leading track luminary, tried to make amends by going on a jog with Bob Mangrum, a running patron who had donated money for the facility. Mangrum asked if he knew of anyone who might want to coach the Cougars' start-up program the next year. "He thought I was making all this money in the business world," says Scott, "when in reality I was scratching to get by."
Scott was not unlike San Marcos, a state university founded in 1989, which has an enrollment of 5300 undergraduates. The school had no full athletic scholarships when Scott started and still has no on-campus housing or field house. (The lads change in the school bathrooms or in their cars.) During a variegated six-year business career in San Diego, Scott abhorred having to talk up bad products. He changed his tack when he became a coach. "I'm very up-front with kids," he says. "I tell them, 'This is what we don't have, but this is what we do have.' "
What they have is a coach who, from 1977 to '93, broke the four-minute barrier in the mile a record 136 times, and whose 3:47.69 in '82 remains the U.S. mark. Scott was living well off appearance fees and sponsorships into the early '90s, but as he slowed, so did the flow of loot. "You walk into a business with a r�sum� of being a miler and they may be impressed," he says, "but they're not going to hire you."
As financial woes, a failing marriage and an uncertain future weighed on his mind and aging body, in April 1994 Scott, then 38, learned he had testicular cancer. He recovered after surgery, and though he says he now has a more relaxed attitude, stresses remain. He lives in Carlsbad, 10 minutes from campus, with his new wife, JoAnn, but lingering family friction prevents his seeing two of his three children, who live with his first wife in nearby Encinitas. He missed that groundbreaking because his youngest child, Shawn, now eight, wasn't ready when Scott arrived to pick him up.
If he hadn't missed the ceremony, though, he might not be coaching. In Cal State-San Marcos's first year, the men's track team finished third at the NAIA Nationals. Within two years the Cougars will have a field house and limited campus housing. "I've learned to look at all areas of my life differently," Scott says of his postoperative years. "The stresses never go away. It's how you react to them."