Ernest Moss’ long coaching career now lands him at Tiffin University

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 9, 2020

By Mark Wineka

SALISBURY — Ernest Moss was home during the recent Christmas vacation, taking a break from his duties at Tiffin University where this veteran track coach is in his first year as horizontal jumps coach.

“How long have you been coaching?” his mom, Shirley, asked him, and without waiting for an answer she continued, “You might want to go ahead and tell your story.”

The last thing Moss, now 42, wanted to be doing was stopping by the newspaper for an interview, but a proud mother can be persistent.

The answer to Shirley Moss’ question, by the way, is that Ernest Moss has now been coaching 20 years at 10 different colleges and universities.

He has coached NCAA Division I, Division II and NAIA athletes along the way, helping some to become conference and national champions and guiding teams to conference titles.

“I’ve always been mentoring, I’ve always been teaching,” says Moss, a 1995 graduate of North Rowan High and 2000 alumnus of Western Carolina University.

Take a deep breath before you hear all of Moss’ coaching stops. They include Sacred Heart University, Lehigh University, Lafayette College, Davidson College, Virginia State University, Radford University, WCU, the University of Toledo and Marian University.

He joined the staff at Tiffin University this past fall.

“Every school I was at, I found a way to be successful and leave a mark,” Moss says.

With Tiffin, Moss has joined a men’s track program which is ranked first in NCAA Division II and a women’s program that’s 21st in the country. But it wasn’t long ago Moss thought he might be done with the long hours, low pay and politics of being a track and field coach.

After two years as an assistant track and field coach at Marian (Ind.) University, Moss left his job and came home to help his family take care of his uncle Ernest McCray, who was in his final days.

McCray earned the nickname “Mr. Touchdown” for his football prowess at J.C. Price High, and he later became the first black officer at the Salisbury Fire Department. The retired captain died in March at age 85.

Meanwhile back home, Moss took jobs as an Uber driver, an Amazon deliverer and even security officer at music festivals. He kept looking for marketing jobs — his bachelor’s degree was in communications and public relations with a minor in marketing and sales.

“Nobody was calling,” Moss says. “Mom said, ‘Why don’t you try and get back into coaching?'”

Eric Johnson with Trifecta Athletes gymnasium in Charlotte asked Moss to help him train a high schooler rated as one of the top linebackers in the state, and Moss knew the taste for coaching had not left him.

“Somehow or another, God kept me engaged in the world of athletics,” he says.

Moss eventually sent applications for a coaching job in track and field to four different universities, which led him to driving north to Tiffin University, interviewing with head coach Jeremy Croy and being offered the job as horizontal jumps coach in less than 24 hours.

“It reminded me of the environments where I had flourished the most,” Moss says of Tiffin, and Croy saw the fact that he had been at 10 different schools in 20 years as a plus, not a negative.

Moss says Croy thought he was bringing a wealth of experience to the program.

“I just put my head down and I work,” Moss says. “You really do it for the love of the sport. Every good coach understands the word sacrifice.”

Moss works closely at present with 11 athletes. Some 185 men and women are on the Tiffin track and field roster, he says.

Moss’s own track career began as a kid with the Durham Striders program, then he was one of the charter members of Hall of Fame Coach Robert Steele’s Rowan Express.

Steele also coached the state championship track and field teams at North Rowan High in 1994 and 1995. Moss was a standout hurdler, long jumper and triple jumper, and he considers the North Rowan High team of 1995 as maybe the best ever.

“We were a juggernaut,” he says.

Moss considers Steele a mentor who showed him how to manage young athletes and find out about their households and backgrounds. He also learned that you coach your stud athletes the way you coach everyone else.

In high school, Moss was only 5 feet, 6 inches tall. The University of Kansas recruited him as a senior, Moss says, but “they did not sign me because of my height, and I took that personally.”

Moss carried that chip on his shoulder to WCU, where he was a triple jumper and long jumper. He also grew an additional two inches in college.

Moss began his coaching career as a graduate assistant coach at Sacred Heart University, where in 2002 he earned a master’s degree in art and teaching, with a concentration in psychology, gifted and talented and multiple intelligences.

He took intern coaching positions at Lehigh and Lafayette, before starting a four-year stint at Davidson College from 2004-2008.

Moss says at Davidson he helped in the coaching of three Southern Conference champions and three NCAA regional qualifiers.

From 2008-2010 Moss served as head coach of the cross country and track and field programs at Virginia State in the Central Collegiate Athletic Association.

He was CIAA Coach of the Year in men’s cross country, and in women’s cross country in 2008, Jenna Arnold won the individual CIAA championship. In 2010, Hoova Taylor won the NCAA Division II national championship in the outdoor high jump while Moss was her coach at Virginia State.

Moss moved on to an assistant coaching position at Radford University from 2010-2012, then was a volunteer assistant at WCU, where he focused on sprints, jumps and hurdles. The women’s team at WCU won indoor and outdoor Southern Conference championships and the men won the outdoor conference title.

Moss coached at Toledo University from August 2013 to August 2016, again concentrating on sprints, jumps, hurdles and relays. He also served as meet director for the 2016 MAC Outdoor Championships and says he negotiated the purchase of more than $85,000 worth of equipment for the event.

He was an assistant track and field coach and recruiting coordinator at Marian University from November 2016 until early last year. In 2017, the men’s and women’s teams won the track and field championships together for the first time in school history.

Moss coached the men’s 4X100-meter relay team to a third-place finish at the 2017 Outdoor NAIA Championships. The men’s team at Marian won its sixth consecutive Outdoor Crossroads League Championship in 2018.

Moss loves the challenge of his new job at Tiffin and being back in the world of coaching. When his athletes compete, he wants them to hear one voice in their heads — his.

“In year 20, I feel like I’m in year one,” Moss says.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.