If you’ve spent any time on SUNY Broome’s campus in the last forty years, you’ve probably noticed Tom Carter. Usually donned in black and yellow activewear, Carter has been a campus fixture for decades, educating thousands of students in the classroom about physical health and wellness, encouraging the campus community to engage in intramural activity, and coaching hundreds of SUNY Broome’s student athletes. Carter has had many titles and roles on campus, but as he enters his fortieth year of service, he is about to embark on his biggest professional project to date. With the encouragement and support of Interim Director of Athletics, Colleen Cashman, Tom Carter is developing the College’s first track and field team.
Being tasked with establishing a new athletic program for SUNY Broome is not Tom Carter’s only honor of this academic year. On July 30, 2021, The Greater Binghamton Sports Hall of Fame Committee announced his induction into the Class of 2020. Carter was recognized as a record-breaking athlete whose running career has spanned over 50 years. In addition to being a stellar athlete, Carter was highlighted as a championship winning collegiate coach and as “Stickman,” a nationally acclaimed performer of the “Long Stick Basketball Show.”
Tom Carter never shies away from acknowledging that he is a man of faith. Carter ardently believes that all of his personal and professional opportunities and accomplishments are the result of God’s guidance over his life and the blessings that He has bestowed upon him.
A native of Vestal, NY, Tom Carter had an early passion for athletics. Unfortunately, passion doesn’t always equate with success. Carter doesn’t hesitate to describe himself as a failed athlete. “I desperately wanted to play baseball, but I was lousy. I tried to play football, but I was equally lousy. Same with basketball. I was crushed.”
One day in ninth grade, Carter was required to participate in the national 600 yard dash physical test during gym class. Unbeknownst to Carter, his speedy laps around the gym set a new school record for Seton Catholic High School.
“I never realized that I was fast. I had a paper route and developed a system where I would run and deliver all of my papers within forty-five minutes. I was doing this twice a day, seven days a week. So without realizing it, I was training myself to be a runner,” said Carter.
On the first day of tenth grade, Dick Brehm, a fellow student who had witnessed Carter’s record-breaking 600 yard dash, insisted that Tom join the school’s cross country team. Carter immediately declined. Brehm tried again, this time sharing the date and time of the cross country team’s first meeting of the season. Carter continued to decline. Finally, Brehm had enough. He frankly reminded Carter that he was a terrible athlete in just about every other sport. He knew, however, that Carter had a real talent for running and that if he didn’t join the cross country team, he would be a “big waste.” Conflicted, Carter got on the bus to go home.
“Here I was, sitting on the bus, going back and forth in my head about what I should do. Should I stay on the bus and go home or should I go to this meeting? Finally, without really realizing it, I was up, walking down the aisle, and headed back into the school to sign up for the cross country team,” said Carter.
Carter attributes this life changing moment to Dick Brehm’s enthusiastic encouragement and to listening to God’s voice giving him direction.
“I waited years to personally and genuinely thank Dick Brehm for changing the whole trajectory of my life. When we were finally able to connect and I was able to thank him, he admitted that he didn’t remember asking me to join the team. It’s remarkable how one moment, one conversation, can be so meaningful in one person’s life, and yet not even be noticed as anything special by the other person. I’ve tried to think about this throughout my coaching and teaching career. I may not know it, but I might be making a tremendous impact on a student’s life based on something that I say or do.”
Carter ran both cross country and track and field throughout his high school career. His performance as a runner at Seton Catholic High School caught the attention of Niagara University’s Division I coaches for both sports. He attended Niagara University as a business major and ran for them until his junior year.
“At the time, I was running #1 in the state and was looking to transfer to a school with a larger, more competitive D I program. I transferred to the University of Tennessee because I knew that in their program, I would be able to run against some of the best athletes in the nation. I also used this transfer opportunity to change my major to physical education and health. My dream was to be an athlete and studying physical education and health perfectly aligned with that passion,” said Carter.
After graduating from the University of Tennessee, Carter returned to Vestal and continued his training. He collected sponsorships and competed in road racing circuits throughout Pennsylvania and New York, where he continued to retain his title of the #1 runner in the state.
“My main focus was to maintain my talent. I’ll admit that I got addicted to winning, and that drove me to keep my training as my main priority. I intentionally didn’t seek out a professional career during this time of my life, because I knew that I couldn’t be both a professional athlete and have a demanding career. Instead, I took any hourly job that I could. I worked in hamburger places, pumped gas, and even drove a laundry truck. I was making some money from my sponsorships, but these other jobs really allowed me to financially stay afloat while I focused my energy on training,” explained Carter.
Carter’s consistent wins in road races were noticed by Syracuse University’s newly developed track club. He was invited to run for Syracuse University and was offered a graduate assistantship with their intramural athletics program to help fund his master’s degree in physical education and recreation.
“Once again, I was hit with this “should I or shouldn’t I” moment, but I felt like God kept opening the doors for me to pursue this opportunity to run competitively and to further my education,” shared Carter.
Around this time in the early 1980’s, Carter noticed an advertisement in the local newspaper for adjunct professors in what is now SUNY Broome’s Physical Education and Sport Studies department.
“The schedule of an adjunct instructor was perfect for me. I applied, but knew that my chances of getting a position were slim. I later found out that there were over seventy applications for two positions, and I was selected as one of the two,” beamed Carter.
Over the years, more opportunities were presented to Carter to help round out his professional life in athletics. He added to his teaching load, picked up the coordination of SUNY Broome’s intramural recreation program, and began coaching men’s tennis and men’s and women’s cross country. One of the perks of Carter’s many gigs in athletics was that he was given access to the gym facilities. It was in SUNY Broome’s gymnasium where he began to practice basketball tricks that would eventually turn into his “Long Stick Basketball Show.”
“I’ve always loved basketball, but was never good enough to play it competitively. I watched a video of Pistol Pete Maravich doing basketball tricks and was inspired. I found a broken golf club and practiced spinning a basketball on top of it. Once I mastered that, I ran into the woods and found a five foot stick and started practicing my spinning on that. I just kept trying to go faster and higher, and soon I was up to 20 feet. Eventually, I developed this into a show,” said Carter.
Carter performed his first “Long Stick Basketball Show” in 1986 to a crowd of 5,000 people. It was an instant hit! Soon, friends from the campus community were making calls to help give the show a wider audience. In April of 1990, Carter was asked to do a performance at an Orlando Magic halftime show as a tryout.
“This was the most nervous that I have ever been in my life. Here I was, standing in front of a crowd of 15,000 people, praying to make a 3 point shot. Thankfully, I made it and was signed to join the NBA tour. The College was incredibly supportive and allowed me to take time off during the January intersession to spend the month touring 10,000 miles across the country to perform at eleven National Basketball Association games per season. In total, I have performed over 250 shows,” said Carter.
Carter has consistently made an effort to be an ambassador for SUNY Broome and even incorporated the College into his show.
“I made sure to always include Broome CC and Binghamton, NY in all of my performance uniforms. I saw it as my small way to help market the College and the region while I was out traveling and performing. Though I am not touring anymore, I still wear my SUNY Broome apparel out in the community like it’s my uniform. You can see me in yellow a mile away. My hope is that if someone in the community sees me in Broome clothing and has a question about the College, that they will feel comfortable coming to me for help,” shared Carter.
Running, teaching, and performing comprise large portions of Tom Carter’s professional life, but his most rewarding experiences at SUNY Broome come from his role as coach. His passion for training and supporting student athletes is evident regardless of the outcome of the season. Recently, his seasons have been especially successful, particularly with the Men’s cross country team who won NJCAA Region III Championship in 2019 and 2021. In 2021, the team finished 4th in the nation. Currently, Carter is the longest tenured coach in the SUNY system.
“Watching our students work so hard to win the NJCAA Region III Championship was by far my #1, best experience at the College… well that, and when I met my wife here,” laughed Carter.
With SUNY Broome’s first track and field season fast approaching, Tom Carter is in recruitment mode. “Our season begins on March 1st, so it’s coming up quickly. We are looking for women and men who want to have fun, work hard, and be part of something very special in SUNY Broome’s history,” said Carter.
If you happen to see a man running on the Vestal Parkway (occasionally with a walker) in brightly colored reflective gear, don’t stop to offer him a ride. It’s Tom Carter, revisiting his first training route from when he was a boy. “Donna Drive and what now has become the Vestal Parkway is my point of connection to my childhood. I run there as a way to thankfully reflect on my past and pray about what is to come.”
Interested in joining SUNY Broome’s first track and field team and being a part of school history? Complete the student athletics recruiting form and contact Coach Tom Carter directly via email: email@example.com