Ralph “Slatz” Baggett
Ross Black attended Lovington High School where he was a four-sport letterman, all-state two times in basketball. In high school, he lettered in football for two years, basketball three years, track three years and baseball one year. He was captain of the basketball and track teams his senior year and earned both all-district and all-state honors. In 1949-50, he played for the South in the North-South All-Star game in 1950. He was President of the senior class, named best all-around boy and most outstanding in school activities in 1950. He was starting guard for the 1949 New Mexico State Championship basketball team, Lovington’s first state championship in that sport, under then head coach Ralph Tasker.
He attended Ft. Lewis Junior College in Durango, Colorado, where he was all-conference in basketball and was named Athlete of the Year in 1951. He was captain of the basketball team, lettering in basketball, track and tennis. After transferring to the University of New Mexico in 1952, he was a three-year letterman in track and basketball, also captain of the track and basketball teams in 1954. Black was named Track Man of the Year in 1953 and received the Lobo Award for best all-around student-athlete in 1954.
Upon graduation from UNM, Black returned to Lovington to begin his coaching career in 1954, serving as the head track coach and assistant football and basketball coach, assuming the head basketball and track coach duties two years later. He was named New Mexico Basketball Coach of the year in 1960 and coached the South to a victory in the 1958 New Mexico North-South All-Star game. He was honored as New Mexico Physical Education Association Merit Teacher of the Year award in 1961.
His basketball teams won District championships and were runners up one year when Lovington competed in the top class in the state, competing with the largest schools. His teams won four state championships in gymnastics during his tenure at Lovington and his track team finished third in the state meet in 1964, second in 1965 and first in 1966. He served New Mexico Activities Association as a member of the Boys Athletic Committee, Handbook Revision Committee, Budget Committee, Building Committee and Chairman for District 4-AAA. Black served three two year terms as a member of the National Federation Executive Committee and served as President of the National Federation Executive Committee in 1989. He also served on several committees and task forces for the National Federation, including Budget Committee for two years, Insurance Committee and the task force for catastrophic injuries.
In 1966, he became the first coach and athletic director at the newly completed New Mexico Junior College. His first basketball team earned an 18-10 record and won a position in the Region V playoff tournament. Black organized his first track team at NMJC in 1967. In its first year, the Thunderbird track team won the conference championship and Black was named Region V Track Coach of the Year. In 1969, the track team was undefeated in the regular season, winning its second conference championship and finishing 5th at the national track meet. In 1970, win a third consecutive West Junior College Athletic Conference championship, climaxing the season by winning the National Junior College Championship in Mesa, Arizona. Coach Black was honored as National Junior College Coach of the year in 1971 and was also honored by being named as coach of the American team in an international competition in Madrid, Spain. The 1972 track team went undefeated for a fourth consecutive time during its regular season setting a record of 51 consecutive wins, finishing high in the national meet.
Black served as President of the National Junior College Track and Field Coaches Association for three years. He retired from coaching at NMJC after the 1973 season to focus on his duties as Athletic Director and Dean of the Division of Education and Psychology. In August of that year, he went to Moscow to serve as a coach on the United States track team in the World University Games, thus ending his remarkable track coaching career. His two relay teams earned the only two gold medals won by the United States in track. He was nominated for the Olympic track and field coaching staff for the 1976 Olympic Games.
In 1977 he returned to Lovington to serve as high-school principal for four years before becoming superintendent of schools, a position he held until his retirement. He was honored as New Mexico School Administrator of the Year in 1987. His honors include being inducted into the New Mexico Athletic Activities Hall of Fame and being named New Mexico Superintendent of the Year in 1991. He was inducted into the Ft. Lewis College Athletic Hall of Fame in 1994, the Western Junior College Hall of Fame in 2006 and the Lea County Athletic Hall of Fame in 2008.