Shocking news has been spreading among the Utah State gymnastics community since the weekend.
The man who took the Aggies from a club team in the late 1970s to being respected on the national scene in gymnastics has passed away. Ray Corn died on Aug. 13, in Mesquite, Nevada, of a heart attack. He was 71.
Former Aggie gymnasts and members of his USU coaching staffs have reacted with disbelief. Corn and his wife Shelly lived active lifestyles and kept in touch with many former athletes and coaches.
Corn retired in 2008 from coaching at USU after 31 seasons. He continued to live in Smithfield for a number of years, teaching classes at USU as well as advising many gymnastic coaches and athletes across the country. Ray and Shelly had recently moved to Mesquite.
In 2015, Corn was inducted into the Utah State Athletics Hall of Fame as part of the 13th class. He was also inducted into the National Association of College Professors of Phi Kappa Phi.
“There should be about 500 people standing there with me,” Corn said in an interview with The Herald Journal before being inducted in 2015. “As a 27-year-old kid coming in and starting a program, I certainly had to have a lot of help. Support from the administration, people around the valley and the nearly 400 athletes that came to Utah State, they are the ones that did it. I just kind of directed it and came up with a game plan each year. There are a lot of people that are going to share this with me.”
Corn was surprised when he got the call about being inducted. Despite doing all he did for USU gymnastics, he was humbled to join a list of Aggie legends.
“Everyone that is being inducted or has been inducted should be extremely honored,” Corn said at the time. “For me, to be in the same ranks as Merlin Olsen, Wayne Estes, coach (Dick) Romney, the list is simply never ending of the great athletes and coaches we’ve had at USU. ... It’s just amazing.”
What Corn did was pretty amazing as well.
Like he said, he was young when hired to transition the Aggies from the club level to NCAA status. Corn would end up with an overall record of 448-448-2 in his 31 seasons, including a 342-260-2 mark during the regular season. He led the Aggies to the postseason 26 times, five of which culminated at the national championships. In 1991, USU finished 12th as a team at the NCAA Championships.
In 1978, Corn quickly turned USU into an Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) power, finishing 30-4 in his first season. The next year, the Aggies made the first of four consecutive trips to the AIAW National Championships, finishing as high as ninth in 1982. During his USU coaching career, Corn led the Aggies to four Big West Conference championships (1992, 1996, 1998, 2001) and the 2005 Western Gymnastics Conference championship.
Overall, Corn coached three All-Americans, three Olympians, three World University Game Trials competitors and nine NCAA national qualifiers, and was a six-time conference coach of the year (1986, 1987, 1988, 1994, 1998, 2001), along with being named the 1991 Midwest Regional Coach of the Year.
While Corn was competitive, he also stressed education to his athletes. Between 1991 and his retirement in 2008, 32 gymnasts earned academic All-America honors a total of 50 times under Corn, while 92 gymnasts received academic all-conference accolades. Corn’s 1990 team won the NCAA Academic Championship for the highest team grade point average in the nation.
Two of his Aggie gymnasts, Kris Stano Lilly and Christy Denson-Pettiette, are also in the USU Athletics Hall of Fame.
Corn was born on New Year’s Eve 1949 in Cebu City, Philippines. He moved with his family to Kansas City, Missouri, in 1954, and then to Broomfield, Colorado, in 1960. He graduated from the University of Northern Colorado in 1971 with a bachelor’s degree in social sciences with an emphasis in history and political science.
Having been ranked second in the state of Colorado for wrestling in 1967, Corn was originally recruited and signed to wrestle for Northern Colorado, but ended up successfully competing on the gymnastics team instead.
After graduating, Corn took a job as a teacher and coach at Oakley (Kansas) High School, but returned to Colorado to teach history and coach the gymnastics team at Bear Creek High School from 1972-77. Then he headed west to USU where his name became synonymous with Aggie gymnastics.
Corn and his wife Shelly have two daughters, Amanda and Christina, and six grandchildren.
A viewing and memorial service for Corn will be held at the Virgin Valley Mortuary in Mesquite, on Monday, Aug. 23, at 11 a.m. (MT).