USTFCCCA Mourns The Passing of Hall of Famer Sam Bell

USTFCCCA Mourns The Passing of Hall of Famer Sam Bell

Statement from Sam Seemes, USTFCCCA CEO

"It is with great sadness that we learned of the passing of Sam Bell. It was obvious from his achievements in the sports of track & field and cross country that Sam was a great coach. To our sports, Sam was much more than just a coach; he was a leader. Sam was a person who didn’t accept mediocrity, and he unselfishly put himself out on a limb on issues that would make sure our sports remained in the mainstream. On behalf of all of our USTFCCCA members, our thoughts and condolences go out to his family and friends during this difficult time."

BLOOMINGTON, Indiana – Sam Bell, the long-time head track and field coach at Indiana University, passed away Monday morning in Bloomington at the age of 88.

Bell is one of most decorated coaches in the history of Indiana track and field. During his tenure at Indiana (1970-98) he led the Hoosiers to 22 Big Ten titles. Indiana placed inside the top 10 in the NCAA Championships 23 times under Bell’s reign, and the cross country team won two NCAA individual titles.

“It is with great sadness that our staff acknowledges the passing of Coach Bell,” said Indiana track and field head coach Ron Helmer. “But it is with great pride that we recognize all he has done for IU, for our track and field program and for the many athletes who had the good fortune to call Sam Bell “Coach”. Lots of people coach but few embrace the profession and winning as vigorously and passionately as Coach Bell. 

“His time here is marked by success after success after success, all while he served as a leader in the profession and sport for the entire country.  Certainly our thoughts and prayers go out to Coach’s family at this difficult time.  I hope their spirits are buoyed by the knowledge that so many former athletes and friends share, not only in their grief, but in their celebration of a life well lived.”

He served his fellow coaches as president of the United States Track Coaches Association from 1997-2002. He previously served as president of the Division I Track Coaches Association from 1979-80. He was also one of the driving forces behind the creation of the Athletics Congress, which replaced the AAU as the governing body of track and field in the United States.

Bell was the five-time Big Ten Coach of the Year and was later inducted into the USA Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1992, the USTFCCCA Hall of Fame in 2000 before being enshrined in the IU Athletics Hall of Fame in 2003.

Sam was awarded the Bill Orwig Award in 1997. This award recognizes outstanding contributions made by a non-alumnus to the Indiana University athletic program. It is named for Bill Orwig, IU’s athletic director from 1961–1975.

During his prolific coaching career, Bell coached 141 Big Ten outdoor individual champions, 92 Big Ten indoor champions, 69 outdoor All-Americans, 63 indoor All-Americans, 15 cross country All-Americans, 11 Olympians and two cross country national champions.  His Olympians include Bob Kennedy, Jim Spivey, Mark Deady, Sunder Nix, Rotimi Peters, Terry Brahm, Robert Cannon, Dave Volz, Albert Robinson and DeDee Nathan.

He was also an accomplished meet director, and earned his reputation by directing some of the top meets in the world. Bell also has a wealth of international coaching experience – he was the United States’ men’s distance coach at the 1976 Olympics and also directed the 1979 U.S. World Cup team and 1987 U.S. Junior Pan-American team.

Sam Bell graduated from Doane College in 1950 and later earned his master’s degree in physical education from the University of Oregon in 1956.  His first coaching job was as an assistant at Oregon State University in 1961.  In 1965 he became the head coach at the University of California, before taking over at Indiana prior to the 1969-70 season.