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New cross-country course to be named after Hall of Fame coach Sam Bell


Former track and field head coach Sam Bell is pictured. Bell coached at IU for 29 years and led the track and field and cross-country teams to a total of 26 conference titles. IDS file photo

IU’s new cross-country course will be named after the late Hall of Fame coach Sam Bell, IU athletic director Fred Glass announced Tuesday morning.

During his 29-year stint with the Hoosiers starting in 1970, Bell led the track and field and cross-country teams to a total of 26 conference titles, the most of any coach in IU Athletics history.  He was also named as Big Ten Coach of the Year six times while coaching 20 individual NCAA champions.

“Sam was a legend in his profession and an extraordinary teacher and mentor to hundreds of students and colleagues during his 29 years at Indiana University,” Glass said in a release. “His impact on his students extended well beyond their time in Bloomington, and his impact on Indiana University extended well beyond his coaching tenure. He is very deserving of this recognition and honor.”

Before his time with the Hoosiers, Bell led the 1961 Oregon State University men’s cross-country team to a NCAA championship. He also coached the U.S. Olympic men’s distance running team in 1976. 

Bell was inducted into the U.S. Track Coaches Hall of Fame and the National Track and Field Hall of Fame before his death in 2016.

“The Indiana University cross country program has been synonymous with success on the Big Ten and NCAA levels,” IU Deputy Director of Athletics Scott Dolson said in a release. “I am excited not only to see Sam honored in this way, but also for what the completion of the Sam Bell Cross Country Course means for our current students. They now have an exceptional course to compete and train on, one that also now honors the rich tradition of our program.”

The new $540,000 trail covers 40 acres east of the 45/46 bypass. The layout was designed by Bloomington resident Bledsoe Riggert Cooper James. It can be used as a 3K, 2K and 1K course. 

Glass noted that a formal announcement of the honor will be planned for a later date depending on the future complications of coronavirus.

The IU men’s cross-country team finished 13th in the NCAA championships last year, while the women’s cross-country team took 19th.

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