My testimony to the life of Coach Bell, one of IU's longest-serving Track Coaches.
It’s with great sadness to learn of the passing of one of the most important people who contributed to my career as a 100 and 200m sprinter. Thanks to Coach Bell, I was able to get my first Track scholarship to Indiana University in Bloomington. In fact, he came to my rescue after a scholarship to a Louisiana University fell through after the admissions office came up with an excuse to deny me.
It may very well have been a blessing in disguise because from what I later learned, IU was a much superior school. An uncle of mine even told me that I was much “safer” in Indiana. I’ll never forget the day that I arrived—three weeks early—everything was closed. However, Coach Bell was the first to welcome me when I visited the track office and immediately gave me a tour of the campus. I was concerned about accommodations, but Coach Bell went out of his way to make sure that I had a roof over my head and a place to eat before the dorms were available. I guess that’s what you call “Good Old Bloomington Hospitality.”
Coach Bell wasn’t only instrumental in developing the team, he was also someone you could talk to. Whenever I had a concern, his office door was always open for me. He always made me feel welcome and would greet me with a smile. Simply put, he was always there for his athletes.
The funniest memory I have of him was when the team was in Tempe, Arizona. The Sun Devil Stadium gates were supposed to be open to allow us to practice Sunday morning. Unfortunately, everything was still locked. What did Coach Bell do? He (I assume) scaled the ten-foot fence. Note that I specified the words ‘I assumed’ simply because one moment we were all outside the fence, I looked away for a bit, and the next thing I knew, Coach Bell was already on the other side while my teammates and I stood with our jaws dropped. Now that I think of it, I’m sure what he did could’ve gotten him arrested for trespassing. However, I’m sure the rest of team was too much in disbelief to think about being thrown in prison that we eventually jumped the fence ourselves.
When an athlete performed well, he was right behind them. When they didn’t perform well, Coach Bell was still right behind them—telling them what they needed to do to improve. And, of course, it did not make any sense not giving it your all, because Coach Bell would’ve figured you out and would give you sh*t for it. By the same token, if you’re on his team and your grades weren’t up to par, you can guarantee that you’d find yourself in his office behind closed doors. I’m happy to mention that I was never one of those athletes.
One of Coach Bell’s greatest achievements was when he convinced the NCAA to let IU host the NCAA Championships. It was a great opportunity to get the university to invest in the indoor and outdoor track facilities which desperately needed to be upgraded. It was my understanding that the construction crew fell behind schedule while working on the outdoor track stadium and that Coach Bell was on their case to speed things up.
One cannot argue that Coach Bell left his mark on IU Track and Field. His contributions to to IU, the city of Bloomington, IN, and especially to Track and Field will not go unnoticed.
Godspeed to a True Legend and Hoosier.
Rest In Power, Coach Bell
Russell Brooks is a former IU Track Athlete and is the author of four suspense thrillers.