CORVALLIS, Ore. – Berny Wagner, head coach of Oregon State’s track and field and cross country teams from 1965-75, passed away peacefully at the age of 88 in Corvallis on Monday with his family at his side.
Wagner developed 25 All-Americans in 12 different events at Oregon State. His Beaver teams included 10 NCAA national champions or open national champions and his OSU men's track teams finished in the top 10 at the NCAA Championships four times, including a tie for third in 1969.
Taking over the reins of Oregon State’s cross country and track & field programs in 1965, Wagner’s tenure included standouts such as 1968 Olympic gold medal winner Dick Fosbury and All-Americans Jim Barkley, Steve DeAutremont, Willie Turner, Tom Woods, Jim Judd, Hailu Ebba and Ed Lipscomb.
In 1969, behind the talented high jump trio of Dick Fosbury, Steve Kelly and John Radetich, Wagner’s squad went undefeated in dual meets, beating powerhouses UCLA and Oregon. The team finished third at the NCAA championship, behind individual champions Fosbury (high jump), Barkley (steeplechase), and DeAutremont (hammer throw).
“To say that Berny had an everlasting effect on thousands upon thousands would be an understatement,” current Oregon State head coach Kelly Sullivan said. “From a personal standpoint, the existence of OSU track and field and the Whyte Track and Field Center would not be a reality without Berny and the legacy that he, his athletes and staff left during their time here at Oregon State. He truly was an exceptional individual and one that only comes around once in a lifetime.”
During his time at Oregon State, Wagner designed Patrick Wayne Valley Field, which served as the Beavers' home track from 1974-88.
Wagner's coaching career also included stops at a number of California high schools and the College of San Mateo prior to arriving at Oregon State. Other positions that Wagner held during his career include working with Whitaker Corporation’s International Sports program in Saudi Arabia from 1976-78; serving as Executive Director of the Track & Field Association of the USA from 1978-81; and serving as National Coach/Coordinator of The Athletics Congress (forerunner to USATF) from 1981-89.
Among the other posts Wagner held are men's jumps coach for the 1976 U.S. Olympic Team; the U.S. Men's Track and Field Olympic Committee; the NCAA Track and Field Rules Committee; Special Olympics International's National Athletics staff for the U.S. Northwestern Region; technical advisor to the San Diego Olympic Training Center Foundation; consultant for Atlanta's Olympic bid preparation; advisory board for the Oregon Track Club; board of directors of the Oregon Indoor track meet, technical director for the 1990 Goodwill Games; chairman of the men's track and field committee for the Oregon Association of the Athletics Congress; and men's head coach of the U.S. squad that faced Great Britain in a 1992 indoor meet.
Wagner was born in Fresno, Calif., and earned his bachelor's degree in 1948 and master's degree in 1949 from Stanford in Education. He did graduate work at Stanford, San Jose State, Pacific (Calif.) and San Francisco State. Wagner served in the U.S. Navy and was stationed in the United States, the Pacific Theater and Japan prior to starting his coaching career.
After his retirement, Wagner continued to work as a volunteer coach working with high jumpers at Western Oregon, where he had three national champions and 15 All-Americans. Wagner was inducted into the OSU Athletic Hall of Fame in 1993 and the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2002.
More information on services and family requests for ways to share condolences will be updated here as they become available.