Hornets land former Bruin as coach

Victor Nieto

In a semester when Sacramento State fall sports programs have welcomed many fresh, new faces to the coaching ranks, the position of head cross country coach got lost in the mix.


It’s not that Scott Abbott isn’t capable of rounding up a furor among the sporting world, but it may be due to his late hiring on Sept. 6 – two days after the start of the fall 2007 season.


After the sudden departure of former Sac State cross country coach Rodney Rothoff earlier in the year, both the men’s and women’s cross country teams were left without a full-time coach, not knowing what to make of the upcoming season.


“I originally came to Sac State because of the coach,” said freshman cross country runner Renisha Robinson, who, like many others, has found a magnetic pleasantry with her new coach.


“I believe he knows what he’s doing, and I have trust in him,” she said.


Although the 29-year native of Sacramento has only been a part of Sac State’s athletics for less than a month, the fundamental philosophy that Abbott is the right coach for the job and knows what he’s doing has been pervasively making its track in the ground – and for good reason.


Abbott received his undergraduate degree from the University of California, Los Angeles in communications with a minor in sports education. After graduating in 1999, he served on the United States Olympic Committee Coaching Division, helping prepare athletes for training in the high altitude of Colorado Springs, Colo.


It wasn’t long before Abbott decided to go into the high school coaching ranks, landing a job as a distance coach at Bend High School in Bend, Ore. where he helped the team win the state championship in 2001.


The following year, his team won another state championship in 2002. This time, the team wore scarlet red and gold, and went by the name “the Marauders.”


Abbott said it was always a goal to return to his hometown of Sacramento to coach and was fortunate enough to find a job with his old alma mater, Jesuit High School, where he was once a blue-chip recruit himself, running long distance races for the school back in the mid-’90s.


He coached at Jesuit from 2002 to 2005, helping the cross country team to win the state championships in 2002 and 2005.


It was in 2005 that Abbott was invited to work as a graduate assistant on the UCLA cross country and track and field teams. During this initial year, he worked during the days and managed to earn his masters degree in sports administration from the University of San Francisco, which has its sports outlet in Orange County.


The former three-time Pac-Ten All-Academic and UCLA track student-athlete of the year helped the Bruins recruit two top-rank recruiting classes while helping UCLA with their its NCAA championship appearance in 21 years during the 2005-06 seasons.


Despite his success at UCLA, home beckoned as he and his wife decided to move back near their families and as they prepared to start one of their own. Although he had already let Kathleen Raske, Sac State’s track and field and cross country director, know he was interested in a coaching job at Sac State, there were no positions available at the time.


“I was applying for jobs with the River Cats and the Kings,” Abbott said. “But ultimately I still wanted to coach.”


For Raske, when the position suddenly became open, there was little doubt as to whom she would be offering the job.


“He (Abbott) brings great recruiting experience as well as coaching experience at the highest level,” said Raske. She was also quick to mention his credentials as a coach and his tutelage under the UCLA Track and Field coach Eric Peterson.


As for Abbott, things couldn’t be better.


“I’m able to work with the highest level Division I athletics…look, we’re out here in this nice weather (track field), I don’t have to work behind a desk wearing a suit and tie. It’s the best job you can have,” he said.


Although Abbott may come to work in a T-shirt and shorts, that in no way implies he’s taking the job lightly. He describes an average weekday as working early in the morning until the afternoon, and then working the house calls and trips to the local high school distance races toward the night.


He is very confident in his abilities in all the facets of coaching but believes that in his coming years as the Sac State coach, his best asset will be his recruiting ability.


“I’m from this area and have been coaching from this area a long time,” Abbott said. “I have a lot of connections locally and will try to recruit the local talent foremost.”


When asked about the secret to his past success as a coach, Abbott leered back with a playful grin.


“There’s no secret. I just think that I’ve been lucky to be in good situations and fortunate to choose those good situations,” he said. “During those times I feel like I’m bringing in the missing piece that helps that program get over the hump.”


If Abbott is another piece to the cross country and track puzzle, then in his eyes, most of the pieces are already calling Sac State their home.


“I’m excited about the pieces that are in place. I’m real pleased,” Abbott said.


The next meet will be the Bronco Invitational in Santa Clara on Oct.13, on route to the Big Sky Championships in late October. Abbott will then transition to track and field in the spring where he will be coaching the 800 meter, 1,000 meter and 3,000 meter steeple race.


Victor Nieto can be reached at [email protected].