Francis Allen was born in Cleveland, OH and Jim Howard in Sioux City, IO. When they joined as co-coaches at Nebraska University, from a purely statistical standpoint, they became, along with Gene Wettstone of Penn State possibly the most successful NCAA coaches of all time. Allen and Howard’s teams won NCAA team gold a record five consecutive times. The Allen/Howard coaching team also garnered NCAA team silver seven times and conference team gold 14 times. In reality, Jim Howard was a co-coach with Allen from 1976 to 2005. The word in the gym is that between Allen and Howard’s wittiness and sense of seriousness combined with humor, all their athletes trained hard and loved every minute. Jim Howard loved his motorcycles and took a bit of humorous flack about that. Todate, only two coaching teams have been inducted. Most people would be surprised to learn that kung fu, literally translated, means a skillful ability attained through hard work, thus the coaching team of Allen and Howard had good kung fu and every triumph that may be attributed to one may be attributed to the other. Hence, the designation of “Coaching Team” was the nature of their Gymnastics Hall of Fame Induction.
Competitor: Allen began his competition career at Lincoln High School in Nebraska coached by Phil Sprague. Later, he competed at Nebraska University during his sophomore through senior years, (1963-’65). He joined with Howard as co-captain of the Nebraska University gymnastic team helping them to win back-to-back Big Eight team titles. He competed in the NCAA finals three times, finishing 4th on the PB, (1964). Howard was an AA competitor in five USGF National Championships while at Nebraska U. Education/Allen: B.S., (1965), M.S. (1967) at Nebraska University. Education/Howard: B.S., (1965); M.S. (1966) at Nebraska University. BigEightChampionships: Allen won gold on PB and was one of the first gymnasts in the world to execute a double back PB dismount, (1964). Howard won bronze in FX and placed 5th in the AA, (1964). He also won bronze in the AA, (1965). Coach: Francis Allen became the assistant coach at Nebraska, (1965), and became Head Coach in 1970. He continues to serve as Head Coach as of this writing, (2007). Howard had a very successful gymnastic coaching career before coming to Nebraska. At the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse, Howard coached teams to eight consecutive conference titles, won two NAIA National Team Championships, produced 18 individual NAIA national champions, and 31 All Americans. His dual meet record was 123-19, a winning percentage of about 87%. CoachingChampions: During his 36-year continuing career at Nebraska U., Allen, joined by Howard, coached three Nissen-Emery Award Winners, an award considered college gymnastics’ highest honor. They also coached 167 all Americans, seven NCAA AA champions. Some of their gymnasts who became Olympians were Jim Hartung, (1980-’84) Phil Cahoy, (1980), Larry Gerard, (1980), Jim Mikus, (1984[A]), Tom Schlesinger, (1988[A], Scott Johnson, (1984 & 1988), Wes Suter, (1988), and Kevin Davis, (1988). All in all, there were three Allen/Howard coached Olympic team members in 1980, two members plus the alternate in 1984, and in 1988, they had three gymnasts and the alternate who made the U.S. Olympic Team. Although Olympic Gold Medal Team Olympian, Trent Dimas, was coached by Howard and Allen for one year at Nebraska U., helped the Huskers to win NCAA Team Gold, and contributed by winning NCAA Silver Medals in FX & HB, (1990), he was primarily coached by Ed Burch, GHOF Inductee, (2001). Dimas spent only a year at Nebraska U., but due to the long-term bonding between Dimas and Coach Ed Burch in New Mexico, Trent left Nebraska U. to continue his training for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics with Burch (See Dimas’ bio.). At times, their teams were almost unbeatable and drew 7,000 to 8,000 spectators for championship meets and even drew 5,000 gymnastic supporters for a dual meet against Oklahoma. NCAAChampionships: The Allen/Howard coaching team coached the Huskers to a record of five consecutive NCAA team titles (1979-1983) plus team titles in (1988, ’90, & ’94) for a total of eight NCAA titles. Penn State’s Coach Gene Wettstone holds the record of total team wins with nine NCAA team titles, but the five consecutive wins by the Allen and Howard coached Nebraska University teams are phenomenal. The Allen/Howard gymnasts amassed 41 individual NCAA titles. InternationalCompetition: Over 29 seasons, reportedly nine (Dimas included) of Allen/Howard coached gymnasts made Olympic teams; however, only five of the nine (counting Dimas) actually competed due to some unusual circumstances that prevailed at the time of the U.S. Olympic boycott of the Moscow Games followed by the USSR boycott of the Los Angeles Games. They coached two competitors and the alternate of the 1984 U.S Olympic Team where Abie Grossfeld served as Head Coach; Allen was selected for the Head Coach position on the 1980 Olympic Team; however, the U.S. boycotted these games due to Soviet aggression in Afghanistan, an ironic twist since 9/11. Allen was Head Coach of the U.S. World Championship Team, Indianapolis, IN, (1991), and selected Head Coach of the 1992 U.S. Olympic Gymnastic Team. In addition, Allen has coached numerous international teams and could be considered a top level U.S. gymnastics’ ambassador along with his co-coach, Jim Howard, who was Head Coach of the U.S. team at the Moscow World University Games, (1973). One of the team members at these games, John Crosby, who had been coached by Abie Grossfeld, suffered an attack of appendicitis in Moscow, USSR. He was rushed to a Russian hospital where he had surgery, but infection set in and his hospital stay was about 10 days. After a special flight home, John had a second operation, and the infection he suffered was overcome. It was an ordeal for the whole team. Honors: Howard was NAIA Coach of the Year, (1971, ’74, & ’75); named Head Coach of the U.S. World University Games Team, Edmonton, Alberta, (1983); selected to the position of Pan American Games Head Coach, Santiago, Cuba, (1991), and was also selected to be an assistant coach for a second U.S. Pan American Games Team, Indianapolis, IN, (1987). Allen has been named Coach of the Year eight times. The coach of the team that wins the NCAA Championships has been automatically named the NCAA Coach of the Year since 1975; Named College Coaches Association Honor Coach, (1998); Elected President of the CGA, (2000), and he has held this position longer than any previous president. Family: Allen: (m) Jill Dupont. Howard: (m) Jo Quay. Children: Jennifer & Jody. Grandchildren: Natalie & Sydnie by Jennifer and her husband and Baile by Jody and her husband.
Sources: Interviews with Mr. Howard with primary data courteously provided by Jerry Wright, author of Who’s Who in Gymnastics, 2005, USAG Gymnastics’ Media Guide 2003-2004, with reviews and contributions by A. Bruce Frederick, Abie Grossfeld, 1979 GHOF Honoree, and Bruce Davis, author of numerous gymnastics articles. Introduction, commentary (see Baldacci for kung fu defined), and formatting by Dr. Larry Banner, Web Manager.