New track coach comes back to his Cougar roots

Rohith Nandagiri

Staff Writer

Leroy Burrell, one of the most decorated of all Cougar athletes both nationally and worldwide, will take over for his former coach Tom Tellez, who retired in May. Burrell is also retiring from competitive running as he begins his tenure as the UH track-and-field boss.

As was reported in The Daily Cougar in May, Burrell will take over a program with a rich history and a winning tradition. He was a volunteer assistant coach for five years under Tellez and will keep the current staff of coaches and administrators.

At one time, Burrell was the world's fastest human after competing in two Olympics and breaking the world record in the 100-meter twice. He was also ranked No. 1 sprinter in the world in 1990 and 1991. Burrell won a gold medal in the 4-by-100 meter relay in the Barcelona Olympic games in 1992.

During his collegiate career, he won 9 All-American awards, and in 1991 graduated with a degree in RTV from the School of Communication.

Tellez retired after sweeping the Conference USA indoor and outdoor championships this year, while also winning Coach of the Year in C-USA Track and Field.

"On one hand, I see this challenge as incredibly exciting," Burrell said. "On the other hand, I'm following in the footsteps of one of the best track coaches in history ... and I am charged with the responsibility of filling his shoes."

Tellez will remain on the staff as a volunteer assistant coach and will assist during Burrell's transition. Tellez will also help with the university in its attempt to build an international track facility on campus to attract events such as the Pan-American games, and possibly the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Burrell believes he, along with the university, will need to take a more prominent place in the world of track and field in America.

"Our sport has suffered a bit as of late due to lack of proper promotion and lack of leadership," said Burrell. "I think with the history of Tellez and the legacy and outstanding performances of the tremendous athletes here at UH, we will take our place as leaders of the sport and get it out of the doldrums."

Tellez seems confident in his pupil. "I really feel that he will do a heck of a job. He has a good staff, and he is very smart. He will bring things to the program (that) I could not bring. He will add a lot to this program."

Cougar captain Dennis Darling, himself an Olympian, is excited to working with

Burrell. "I think he will teach us a lot, but not just the sprinters. He may not know a lot about the throwing events, but he will learn. He knows how to get us mentally prepared, and I have no doubts...that the program will be good."

Athletic Director Chet Gladchuk thinks this hire improves the coaching staff and the commitment to winning in UH athletics.

"The appointment of Leroy Burrell sends a clear message that Houston remains committed to a track program of national stature," said Gladchuk. "Leroy will be an extraordinary role model for every athlete in the department - and he is 100 percent Cougar!"

Burrell's wife, the former Michelle Finn, was also an Olympian, and competed as a member of the 1992 U.S. Olympic Team in the 200 and the 4-by-100 relay. Michelle will be utilized as a voluntary assistant coach for the Cougar women's team.

Carl Lewis, considered the greatest Olympian in the history of the games and another former Cougar, believes Burrell is ready for this monumental challenge.

"Sure, following Coach Tellez is a challenge, but I have no doubt in my mind that Leroy is the man for the job," Lewis said following the press conference to introduce Burrell. "If anyone can go into this job and make it work, he is certainly the one to do it."

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