Willard Hirschi was never one for fanfare or public recognition. He preferred to coach and let his athletes receive the recognition they earned.
A Rockville, Utah, native, Hirschi was a hurdler at BYU. He also attended Arizona State and Stanford, where he completed coursework toward a doctoral degree. Following various teaching and coaching positions, he joined the BYU faculty in 1964 as a health science teacher and volunteer track coach. After years of helping Clarence Robison build the BYU track and field program and training numerous successful athletes as an assistant, Hirschi was appointed men’s head track coach in 1988.
Under Hirschi’s direction, BYU’s track teams dominated the West Athletic and Mountain West Conferences. In his 12 years as head coach, the Cougars won 11-straight indoor conference championships (1990-2000) and nine outdoor conference championships (1989-93, 1995, 1998-2000). Due to his teams’ success, Hirschi was named the indoor or outdoor WAC/MWC Coach of the Year 14 times in his 12 years as head coach.
Hirschi’s teams also achieved great success on a national stage. He coached three athletes who claimed a total of six titles at the NCAA championships and 29 of his athletes combined to earn 57 All-America honors. He led his teams to three top-15 finishes at the NCAA Indoor Championships and three top-15 finishes at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
In addition to his many years coaching at BYU, Hirschi was also a two-time USA Track and Field coach in the Barcelona (1992) and Atlanta (1996) Olympics. Several of the athletes Hirschi coached as an assistant and head coach at BYU athletes also went on to compete in the Olympics, including four-time silver medalist Frankie Fredericks, bronze medalist Ralph Mann, silver medalist Oluyemi Kayode and Leonard Myles-Mills.
Hirschi was a 1999 recipient of BYU’s Circle of Honor award. He has served in numerous church callings, including bishop and stake presidency counselor. Hirschi also served an LDS service mission at the Welfare Services Department and was an ordinance worker at the Mount Timpanogos Temple.
In addition to his church service, Hirschi’s hobby has been local history. He conducted historical research on the Southern Utah and Arizona Strip areas, including collecting oral histories from elderly residents of those areas. Hirschi also wrote biographies on all of the World War II and Korean War veterans from Rockville, Utah. Hirschi and his wife Barbara are the parents of four children and have 14 grandchildren.