Victor Lopez led the women’s cross country and track & field programs at Rice University from their inception in the 1970s until his retirement in 2005.
Lopez, a native of Puerto Rico, began his intercollegiate career as a star sprinter and hurdler for the University of Houston from 1963-67. After being drafted into the U.S. Army, he served three years before completing his bachelor’s degree in physical education. Lopez then worked as a physical education teacher at Douglas Elementary School in Houston while working on his master’s degree at Texas Southern University.
In 1973, he returned to Puerto Rico to serve as athletic director at the University of Turabo in Caguas, serving in that position until 1978. From 1978-79, he worked as a professor of physical education and head track & field coach in the Puerto Rico system. Returning to Houston in 1979 to continue his studies at UH, Lopez was hired to start Rice University’s women’s cross country and track & field program, a part-time position that became full-time in 1982.
Lopez spent the next 26 years as Rice’s head women’s coach before retiring in 2005. During that stint, he led the program to three indoor conference titles, four outdoor conference titles and three cross country titles, including the school’s first Southwest Conference title in any sport in almost 25 years when the women’s cross country team won the title in 1994. He is also a ten-time Western Athletic Conference Coach of the Year.
Under Lopez’s guidance, 58 athletes won 176 NCAA Division I and AIAW All-America honors and collected 14 individual national championships and one relay title. His athletes at Rice included Regina Cavanaugh, six-time NCAA champion in the indoor and outdoor shot put; Valerie Tulloch, three-time NCAA champion in the javelin; and Allison Beckford, three-time NCAA champion in the indoor and outdoor 400m. He has also served as a strength and conditioning consultant for the Chicago Bulls and worked with professional baseball players, including Jose Cruz and Jose Cruz Jr.
In 1990, he received the IAAF’s 75th Anniversary Commemorative medal for his efforts in developing track & field coaching and coaching education in Central America and the Caribbean, becoming the first North or Central American to be presented with the honor. Lopez also played a key role in the formation of the IAAF’s Coaches Commission as well as the North America, Central America and Caribbean Track & Field Coaches Association (NACACTFCA).
In 2007, Lopez was awarded the USTFCCCA George Dales Award, in honor of his achievements in enhancing the coaching profession of the sports of cross country and track & field, and he is a member of the Rice University Athletics Hall of Fame. Presently, he serves as Chairman of the IAAF Coaches Commission and as President of the NACACTFCA.