- Follow Coach Burrell on Twitter
Leroy Burrell enters his 19th season as head coach at the University of Houston. A former world record holder in the 100 meter dash and a former student-athlete, Burrell is one of the nation’s premier coaches. In nearly two decades of Burrell’s leadership, Houston has added 69 NCAA All-Americans and a combined 32 team conference championships to the record books. He was named C-USA Coach of the Year 23 times and earned American Athletic Conference Indoor Coaching Staff of the Year honors in 2015. In recognition of his outstanding career as a world-class sprinter and collegiate coach, Burrell was inducted into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame in 2008.
During the 2016-17 season, Burrell led the Cougar men to a sweep of the indoor and outdoor American Athletic Conference Championships, marking the seventh time he has accomplished that feat. The Men would go on to finish 10th at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, the highest finish since 1985.
Burrell claimed Houston’s first American Athletic Conference Indoor Championship in 2015 with a dramatic victory in the final event, the men’s 4x400m relay. In the outdoor season, Burrell coached 15 student-athletes to the NCAA West Regional and saw three of thoes student-athletes make the NCAA Outdoor Championships as well as two relay squads. Burrell led Issac Williams to a third-place finish in the 110M Hurdles at nationals.
Burrell led the 2014 Houston Cougar men’s track and field team to the inaugural American Athletic Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championship. Burrell’s own son Cameron was named an All American after his performance at the NCAA Nationals in Eugene, Ore. in the 60m dash. The 2014 Cougars finished with 15 conference champions in indvidual events.
Burrell tutored Errol Nolan to a 2013 NCAA Indoor Championship in the 400-meter dash. Nolan was the C-USA Track Athlete of the Year for the indoor season. Burrell also had 13 individuals win conference championships while the men’s team took home the 2013 C-USA Indoor Conference Championship and placed second at the last C-USA outdoor meet for Houston.
In his first season, he coached the C-USA Indoor and Outdoor Athletes of the Year, Anthony Authorlee and Dennis Darling. Authorlee was named the 1999 C-USA Outdoor Athlete of the Year after winning the 100m and 200m dashes. His victory marked the first 100m conference championship since 1993. Darling was named the 1999 C-USA Indoor Athlete of the Year after winning the 200m and 400m. He also ran the anchor leg on Houston’s victorious 4x400m relay. Houston also enjoyed success on the national frontier that season, when the women’s team ended the 1999 campaign with a 20th place finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championship. In 2000, Burrell guided Houston to the C-USA Men’s Indoor and Outdoor Championships for a second straight year. He coached the C-USA Freshman of the Year, Robert Foster, who won the 200m dash at the C-USA Indoor and Outdoor Championships. Burrell led the women’s team to its first conference championship and was named the C-USA Women’s Outdoor Coach of the Year in 2000. Houston won the C-USA women’s outdoor title after finishing as the runner-up team at the C-USA Indoor meet.
Later that year, the women’s team finished in eighth place at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. Jenny Adams won the NCAA long jump title and finished as the runner-up in the 100m. Ifoma Jones had a fourth-place finish in the heptathlon and finished seventh in the high jump. Rhian Clarke also had a seventh-place finish in the pole vault.
In 2001, the women’s team finished in seventh place at the NCAA Indoor Championships. Adams was named the long jump champion as she became Houston’s first two-time NCAA champion since 1989. She also finished in third place in the 60m hurdles to close out her collegiate career. The seventh place finish was Houston’s best placing since the 1993 indoor championships and the eighth-place finish at the 2000 outdoor meet equaled Houston’s best NCAA outdoor showing in school history. Later that year, Foster became the first UH sprinter to qualify for the 100m at the NCAA Outdoor Championships since Sam Jefferson, the 1993 NCAA 100m champion.
Burrell first gained track and field’s national spotlight when he earned All-America honors as a senior at Penn Wood High School in Lansdowne, Pa. in 1985. He was named the Eastern Track Athlete of the Year after single-handedly winning the 1985 Class 3A State Championship. Burrell scored all of Penn Wood’s 40 points when he won the 100m, 200m, long jump and triple jump at the state meet.
In 1985-86, he broke Houston’s freshman long jump record, previously held by Carl Lewis, when he leaped 26’-9” at a dual meet against UCLA in 1986. Later that season, he faced one of the most challenging moments of his track career.
After jumping 26’-7.25” in the preliminaries of the 1986 Southwest Conference Outdoor Championships, Burrell jumped almost 27 feet before landing awkwardly on his third jump. He tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee. He finished second at the meet, but many people feared the injury was career ending.
In 1988, he returned to the SWC Championships, where he finished second in the 100m and in third place in the long jump. At the NCAA Championships, Burrell earned All-America honors with a fifth-place finish in the 100m and a seventh-place showing in the long jump.
The next year, he won the NCAA Indoor Championship in the long jump with a leap of 26’-5.50”. At the 1989 NCAA Outdoor meet, he set the meet record with a personal best jump of 27’-5.50”. But, Ohio State’s Joe Greene recorded a wind-aided mark of 27’ 7.25” to win the event, and left Burrell with a record-setting second-place finish.
Two weeks later, Burrell rebounded at the USA Outdoor Championships at Houston’s Robertson Stadium. He won the 100m in 9.94 seconds, which was the fastest time ever recorded by a collegian. He also teamed with Carl Lewis, Danny Everett and current UH assistant coach Floyd Heard to set a world record in the 4x200m relay with a time of 1:19.38.
As a senior in 1990, Burrell won the NCAA Indoor long jump title for the second straight year with a leap of 27 feet. At the SWC Outdoor Championships, Burrell ran one of the best sprint doubles ever recorded. He ran the fastest 200m ever run under any conditions with a windaided time of 19.61 and ran a wind-aided 9.94 time in the 100m to easily win both races.
He also won the 100m at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Durham, N.C., when he posted a wind-aided time of 9.94 seconds and set a meet record in the semifinals with a time of 10.03 seconds. His outstanding season resulted in Burrell receiving the “Jumbo Elliott Award” as the nation’s top collegiate track and field athlete.
After completing his collegiate eligibility, Burrell beat Carl Lewis for the first time on July 23, 1990, when he won the 100m in 10.05 seconds at the Goodwill Games in Seattle. He was ranked as the world’s top sprinter in 1990 and 1991 after winning 19 of his 22 races in the 100m.
Burrell set his first individual 100m world record on June 14, 1991, at the USA Championships in New York City. With a time of 9.90 seconds in the 100m, he edged Lewis, who finished second with a time of 9.92. Later that year at the World Championships in Tokyo, Burrell bettered his time to 9.88; however, he was forced to settle for the silver medal as Lewis won the race in a record time of 9.86.
Burrell and Lewis joined forces in the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain, where they combined with Mike Marsh and Dennis Mitchell to win the gold medal and set a new world record with a time of 37.40 seconds. Burrell also had a fifth-place finish in the 100m at the Olympic Games.
In 1993, Burrell ran the anchor leg for the USA 4x100m relay team at the World Championships.
The team won another gold medal and tied the world record.
Burrell was a member of the 1994 Santa Monica track team that set the world record in the 4x200m relay in 1:18.68. On July 6, 1994, Burrell reclaimed the title as the “World’s Fastest Human” when he reset his world record time in the 100m with a time of 9.85 seconds.
In 1996, he earned a spot on the USA Olympic Team, but was forced to withdraw because of an Achilles Tendon injury.
Two years later, he announced his retirement as the American record holder in the 100m and was selected to succeed his collegiate coach and USTCA Hall of Fame coach Tom Tellez.
A 1991 UH graduate with a degree in radio and television communications, Burrell was inducted into UH’s Hall of Honor in 2000.
He is married to the former Michelle Finn, an Olympic sprinter. The couple’s eldest son, Cameron, is currently on the Houston Track & Field team, while Josh Burrell is a member of the Houston football team. The family lives in Houston.