Legendary Auburn track and field coach Mel Rosen passes away Sunday at 90


Mel Rosen, Auburn’s legendary track and field coach and noted coach at the Olympic and World Championship level, passed away Sunday at the age of 90. Rosen came to Auburn in 1955 as an assistant professor in the physical education department before becoming an assistant track coach and ultimately Auburn’s head coach from 1963-1991. Rosen stepped down at the end of the 1991 season to become the head coach of the 1992 United States Men’s Olympic team.

In Rosen’s tenure at Auburn, he coached seven Olympians, 143 All-Americans, including 63 SEC indoor and outdoor champions and eight NCAA champions, including Harvey Glance, Willie Smith and James Walker. Rosen was named NCAA Coach of the Year three times, SEC Coach of the Year four times while leading the Tigers to 11 NCAA Top 10 finishes and five SEC Championships.

At the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain, Rosen coached the men’s team to its best showing since 1956. The U.S. men won eight gold medals and broke five Olympic records including three world records. All told, the 1992 Olympic Track and Field team, under the guidance of Rosen, brought home 20 medals. Rosen said, “This event is the height of any coach’s career.” His selection as head coach of the Olympic team made him the only active Auburn coach ever to head an Olympic team in any sport.

In 1993, Rosen was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame and two years later was named to the National Track and Field Hall of Fame. Rosen was inducted the first year he was eligible for the award. Inducted into the U.S. Track Coaches Hall of Fame in 2001, Rose served as USA Track & Field men’s committee chairman and receiving in 1994 received the Robert Giegengack Award for outstanding service to the organization.

“I love Coach Rosen. He was very special to me and we had a very special relationship,” Auburn head coach Ralph Spry said. “I don’t know if there’s anyone that was more liked and well respected in the profession of track and field than Coach Rosen. He’s a Hall of Famer and is one of the United States most successful Olympic track and field coaches. I’m very fortunate to have had the chance to know Mel and share some great experiences with him. He was very special to me and will be dearly, dearly missed. Auburn and the entire track and field community lost a great ambassador and friend. My condolences are with his family and loved ones.”

Rosen came to Auburn in 1955 as an assistant professor in the physical education department. That year he became involved in the Auburn track program as an assistant to head coach Wilbur Hutsell. He was placed in charge of Auburn’s distance and relay teams and held that position until Hutsell retired following the 1963 season. Rosen then stepped up to become only the second head coach in Auburn history, beginning his legacy.

Under Rosen’s guidance, Auburn won four consecutive SEC indoor championships from 1977-1980. The Tigers won their only outdoor conference title in 1979. That year was probably the greatest year in the history of Auburn track. Not only did the Tigers win the SEC indoor and outdoor titles in 1979, but also placed fourth at the NCAA outdoor meet.

In 1978, Rosen was honored as the SEC and NCAA Coach of the Year in both indoor and outdoor competition. His 1978 team placed second at the SEC outdoor, fifth at the NCAA outdoor, first at the SEC indoor and second at the NCAA indoor. Rosen’s teams finished in the top 10 at both the NCAA indoor and outdoor championships for four consecutive years dating from 1976 to 1979. Rosen repeated as NCAA Indoor Coach of the Year in 1980 and was named SEC Indoor Coach of the Year in 1985.

Auburn officially named its track and field complex Hutsell-Rosen Track in 2006 adding Rosen’s name to the facility previously named after Hutsell.

Born on March 24, 1928, Rosen was a 1950 graduate of the University of Iowa. He coached at his alma mater as an assistant for three years while earning his master’s degree and starting work on a doctorate. He served two years in the Army at Fort Benning, Ga., where he was the post track coach.

The Brooklyn, N.Y., native was proceeded in death by his wife of 57 years, the former Joan Kinstler of New York. They have two daughters, Laurie and Karen; two grandchildren, Chelsea and Nathaniel, and two great grandchildren, Avery and Oakes.

Categories: Alabama Sports, Olympics, Sports