Fred Samara being carried by student athletes

Track and field coach Fred Samara retiring after 46 years at Princeton

The Princeton men's track and field team celebrates with Coach Fred Samara after winning the 2022 Outdoor Heptagonal Championships.

After 46 seasons leading multiple Princeton teams to championships, Fred Samara is retiring as the William M. Weaver Jr. '34 Head Coach of Men’s Track and Field, the Department of Athletics announced Tuesday.

Samara, 73, has led the Tigers in multiple ways since arriving at the University in 1977. He became head coach of varsity track program in 1979 and served as head cross country coach from 1992 to 1998 and from 2004 to 2007.

Samara coached more athletes and won more championships than any other coach in Princeton history. His legacy will be the combination of excelling both as a winning coach and an educator of the highest order.

“Words can’t adequately describe the level of excellence that Coach Samara has displayed during his 46 years at Princeton,” said Ford Family Director of Athletics John Mack, a member of the Class of 2000. “His championship success as a competitor is unrivaled in the history of the Ivy League, and his competitive fire is matched only by his passion for the student-athletes that he has coached.”

Samara has coached his team to 51 Heptagonal team and 502 individual championships. He also coached 10 Princeton Tigers to nine NCAA championships and guided six of his athletes to the Olympics. A 13-time Ivy League Coach of the Year — eight from his work during the indoor season and five during outdoors — Samara coached 101 NCAA All-Americans. 

In 2017, Samara was inducted into the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame, a candidacy bolstered by 18 career USTFCCCA Regional Coach of the Year honors.

“Coach has a unique gift for making track and field a team sport in a way that does not happen at other schools, as evidenced by the nearly five decades of dominance his teams have established in the sport," Mack said. "Coach has been a mentor to countless other coaches in the department, and his impact on the Princeton University community will be felt for generations to come."

“As Bob Hope once sang, ‘thanks for the memories’, and that rings true today,” Samara said. “As I reflect upon my 46-year career at Princeton my mind recalls the so many wonderful student-athletes I have coached and the many talented colleagues I have had the pleasure to work with.”

Samara, a U.S. Olympic decathlete in 1976, represented the United States as a coach at multiple international events during his career, including stints as an assistant at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona as well as the 1987 World Championships, and serving as head coach at the 1995 Pan-American Games. 

His coaching career began at Princeton under another legendary coach, Larry Ellis. His first day at Princeton was also the first day for Peter Farrell, who would coach alongside Samara for 39 years as the head coach of the women’s program. 

“As an Ivy League lifer, first as an undergraduate at Penn, followed by my tenure at Princeton, I firmly believe in the Ivy League ideal and what it stands for," Samara said. "I am very proud of Princeton Track and Field’s record of accomplishment, and I am equally as proud of what our student-athletes go on to accomplish after they leave ‘Old Nassau.’” 

A national search for Samara’s successor is underway.