Bill Cornell coached the Murray State University track & field and cross country programs for 15 years (1967-82) and the Southern Illinois University track & field and cross country programs for 18 years (1982-2000), coaching a total of 11 Olympians and 49 All-Americans during his tenures.
In addition to his successful coaching career, Cornell was a standout competitor. When he was 17, he set a world record in the mile for his age group. At Southern Illinois, Cornell was a three-time All American and earned the SIU Athlete of the Year award in 1962. Cornell received his bachelor’s degree in physical education from SIU in 1965 and earned his master’s degree the following year.
In the fall of 1967, Cornell became the head track and cross country coach at Murray State University. In 15 years he guided Murray State to three Ohio Valley Conference cross country titles and earned four OVC Coach of the Year awards.
After returning to SIUC in the fall of 1982, Cornell led the Salukis to five Missouri Valley Conference cross country championships. SIUC also won four MVC outdoor track & field crowns and four indoor crowns. In each of those championship seasons Cornell was honored as MVC Track & Field Coach of the Year, and in 1992 he was named District V Outdoor Coach of the Year. Among Cornell’s athletes was Tommy Turner, the first athlete from the Ohio Valley Conference to win an NCAA Championship. In all, seven of his athletes became Olympians, and 28 earned All American honors.
Cornell also served the sport as a member of the NCAA track & field and cross country rules committee.
He was inducted into SIUC’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1980, into the MSU Racer Hall of Fame in 1994, and into the Ohio Valley Conference Athletic Hall of Fame in 2005. Cornell was also honored in 1988 by the Saluki Booster Club as SIUC’s “coach of the year.”
Cornell passed away on March 28, 2016.