Lew Hartzog was the head coach at University of Louisiana-Monroe (then Northeast Louisiana) from 1958-60 before moving to Southern Illinois University. From 1961 until his retirement following the 1984 season, Hartzog’s Southern Illinois men’s track teams won every Missouri Valley Conference championship meet in which they competed. In fact, after his first season at Northeast Louisiana in 1958, Hartzog never lost a conference meet in his career. He was named the NCAA Division I Coach of the Year in 1982 and 1984.
Hartzog went to Texas A&M on a football scholarship in the fall of 1941 but enlisted in the Marine Corps the day after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. In serving four years as a communications specialist in the South Pacific, Hartzog contracted elephantiasis and was unable to play football again.
He later graduated from Southwest Missouri and set out to be a football coach. His first high school coaching job was in Independence, Mo., where he had to coach track to get the assistant football job. Hartzog went on to become one of the greatest track & field coaches in the country
Hartzog’s college coaching career began at Northeast Louisiana, from 1958-60. There, Hartzog coached talented athletes such as the sprinting Styron twins, Don and Dave, and pole vaulter John Pennel.
In 1961, Hartzog moved to Southern Illinois, where he coached until his retirement in 1984. His standouts at Southern Illinois included Ivory Crockett, David Lee and Bob Roggy. Crockett set a world record of 9.0 seconds in the 100-yard dash in 1974. Lee won the 400-meter hurdles at the 1980 NCAA Championships, and Roggy won an NCAA javelin title in 1978 and later set several U.S. records.
Hartzog displayed his recruiting tenacity immediately after taking over at SIU, when he brought fellow USTFCCCA Hall of Famer Bill Cornell over from England in 1961.
Although Lew Hartzog coached 10 SIU track athletes to the Olympics, he may be most remembered for his actions off the track. Former Saluki and Olympian Oscar Moore remembers Hartzog as a determined man who stood up to racism amidst a turbulent atmosphere.
Hartzog’s impact on the movement was palpable, Moore said. Moore especially remembers an instance where the team was traveling through Alabama during spring break. Upon arriving at a restaurant, the owners refused to serve Moore or any of the other black athletes on the squad, but encouraged the white players to take a seat. Without a second thought, Hartzog led his players out of the establishment.
In honor of his many accomplishments, the SIU track now bears Hartzog’s name.