Karl Schlademan

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Karl L. Schlademan
Coach Karl Schlademan.jpg
Karl Schlademan at Michigan State
Born Karl L. Schlademan
(1890-02-11)February 11, 1890
Seafield, Indiana
Died December 22, 1980(1980-12-22) (aged 90)
Fort Wayne, Indiana
Occupation Track & Field coach
Spouse(s) Nell Ramsay Schlademan (1893-1983)
Children Karl R. (son)
Sarah (daughter)

Karl L. Schlademan (Feb. 11, 1890 - Dec. 22, 1980) was a men’s track & field and cross country coach for nearly 40 years. He served as a coach at University of Kansas (1919–26), Washington State (1927–40) and Michigan State (1940–58). During his time at Kansas he instrumental in the founding of the Kansas Relays as well as the Jayhawks' fourth head basketball coach in an interim capacity for the first game of the 1919-20 season for Phog Allen.

He spent 18 years at Michigan State, initially as the track and field coach and then later adding cross country to his duties. Some consider him the Spartans' greatest coach.

He is an inductee into the Drake Relay Hall of Fame,[1] University of Michigan's Athletic Hall of Fame in 1995, U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Hall of Fame, and the Washington State University Hall of Fame.


Early life[edit]

Karl A. Schlademan was born in Seafield, Indiana on February 11, 1890. His ancestry can be traced back to the Plymouth Colony on his mother's side. His father ran a merchantile and grain business in Seafield, Indiana. He graduated from Monticello High School where he was a four-year letterman in both track and basketball. He was captain of the track team. Schlademan attended DePauw University in Greencastle where he was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon. While at DePauw, Karl played football, baseball and was again a "star trackman". Not having taken up football in high school, Schlademan did well to earn four letters in the sport. He was named on the "All-Western" football pick at the end position. Schlademan was also made captain of the track team, also earning four letters in this sport. In baseball, he earned two letters.[2] Following DePauw, he briefly attended Harvard University Law School between 1912 and 1913. In 1913 he wed Nell Ramsay, whom he met while at Missouri Wesleyan.

Early coaching career[edit]

After graduation, Coach Schlademan went to Missouri Wesleyan College at Cameron, and became head coach. He stayed there two years and coached a championship football team. He returned to DePauw University in 1914 to serve as track coach. He next coached track at Arizona in 1916. From 1916 - 1919 Schlademan was the Athletic Director at Baker University in Baldwin. He served as the head coach and produced a championship track and basketball team, winning the Kansas Conference.

University of Kansas and the Kansas Relays[edit]

In 1919, he took a position at University of Kansas at Lawrence and stayed for the next seven years. He first took the position as head track mentor and coach of the freshman football team. After the second year,however, he was made head line coach for the varsity football team, and after his third year at this position the university won the Old Missouri Valley circuit. As the head track coach, his team won two championships. The conference that the University of Kansas was in at that time is now known as the "Big Six" conference. While at the University of Kansas, Schlademan worked alongside John H. Outland and Phog Allen to start the Kansas Relays. At the direction of Allen, Schlademan worked with student managers to organize the first event in 1923. Since 1923 the Kansas relays have attracted runners, throwers, and jumpers from all over the United States of America; with athletes ranging from Olympians to high school runners. Olympians such as Marion Jones and Maurice Greene compete in the Gold Zone portion of the meet, which attracts thousands of spectators to the relays every year.[3] At the first relays, Schlademan's team, taken together, was sufficient to make the hosting team “the big feature of its own affair” and to secure the inaugural Kansas Relays’ title.[4]

Washington State University[edit]

In the fall of 1926, Coach Schlademan took a position at Washington State University in Pullman. Schlademan steadily built the Cougars into a national contender on the track. Washington State had four top-10 finishes at the NCAA Outdoor Track & field Championships, including a pair of fourth-place ties (1937 and 1939). The Cougars won seven consecutive Northern Division titles and had a 39-14 dual meet record under Schlademan. He coached the Cougar relay team that set a world record in June, 1937. Washington State sprinter Lee Orr, a 1936 Olympian, won a national collegiate title in the 440-yard dash in 1940, Schlademan’s final season in Pullman.[5] While in Pullman, Schlademan also served as the sixth President of the coaches association from 1939-40. He resigned his position in September 1940 when he took the position at Michigan State.

Michigan State[edit]

After 13 years in Washington, Schlademan took a position at Michigan State University in East Lansing. Some consider Schlademan the Spartan's greatest coach.[6] Schlademan's son, Karl, surmised his father accepted the job for a number of reasons including a close relationship with Athletic Director Ralph Young, the attractiveness of the newly completed Jenison Fieldhouse, a deep respect for the track programs of the Midwest, and an increase of salary from $4,000 to $7,500.[7]

He became track coach in 1941 and took over cross country in 1947. From then until his retirement in 1959, Schlademan led the Spartans to seven Big Ten championships and 11 national championships—six NCAA and five IC4A (1948–49, 1952, and 1955–56)--in cross country. The Spartans also finished as runners-up in 1950 and 1957. In track, he expanded the Michigan State relays and coached 25 individual Big Ten champions and 4 NCAA individual champions. He won three IC4A titles and produced a number of Olympian distance runners. Schlademan coached olympians such as David Lean, a silver medalist in the 1956 Olympics.

Retirement and later years[edit]

After retiring from Michigan State, Schlademan sold Adidas footwear in Lansing, Michigan. In his later years, he moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana where he resided until his death.

Personal life[edit]

Schlademan married Nell Ramsay in 1913. They met while he was at Missouri Wesleyan, where she was a student. They had two children, Karl Ramsay and Sarah. He and Nell were married for over 67 years.

Career achievements[edit]

Titles and championships[edit]

  • 11 National Championships
  • Coached 25 individual Big Ten Champions
  • 7 Big Ten Championships
  • 2 Big Six Championships


  • Drake Relay Hall of Fame - Inducted 1988
  • Michigan State University Athletics Hall of Fame - Class of 1995
  • U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Hall of Fame - Class of 2007
  • Washington State University Hall of Fame - Class of 2011


  1. ^ "Coaches Hall of Fame". Retrieved 2012. 
  2. ^ "The Alumnus, State University of Washington, Volume XXII" (PDF). Retrieved December 16, 2012. 
  3. ^ "Kansas Relays History". www.kuathletics.com. 2006. Retrieved 2012. 
  4. ^ "Great Race". www.kuathletics.com. 2006. Retrieved 2012. 
  5. ^ "Washington State". www.wscougars.com. 2009. Retrieved 2012. 
  6. ^ "Greatest Coach". www.philanthropy.msu.edu. 2009. Retrieved 2012. 
  7. ^ Michigan State. www.sportspublishing.com. 2003. Retrieved 2012.