Saluki Hall of Famer and former athlete, coach dies

By Brent Meske, @brentmeskeDE

Former Saluki track and field coach and athlete Bill Cornell, 75, died late Sunday night.

While causes are unknown, Saluki volunteer chaplain Roger Lipe said Cornell had suffered from parkinson’s disease, which he was diagnosed with in 1989.

Cornell — a native of Chelmsford, England — came to America in 1961 on a track scholarship to Southern Illinois. In his time as a Saluki, Cornell was a three-time All-American, a U.S. Track and Field Federation champion and SIU’s 1962 Athlete of the Year.


He received his bachelor’s degree in physical education in 1965 and completed a master’s degree a year later.

Kathleen Raske, SIU’s director of track and field/cross-country, said Cornell was a warm, caring, proud Saluki.

“He was very successful as an athlete, but his impact was the lives he touched as a coach,” she said.

Raske graduated from SIU in 1990 and was a student-athlete while Cornell was coach of the men’s track and field team.

Cornell began his coaching career at Murray State in 1967. He led the Racers for 15 years and won three Ohio Valley Conference championships in cross-country and was a four-time OVC Coach of the Year.

The SIU alumnus returned to his alma mater as cross-country and track and field coach in 1982. He led the Dawgs to five Missouri Valley Conference cross-country championships and eight MVC track championships — four indoor and four outdoor. Cornell earned MVC Coach of the Year each of the eight track seasons.

Cornell coached 11 Olympians and 49 All-Americans in his coaching career, including Tommy Turner at Murray State. Turner was the first ever OVC athlete to win an NCAA Championship.


He is survived by his wife Rose, brother Brian Cornell and sister Wendy Petchey.

Timeline of Cornell’s accomplishments:

1980 – Inducted into SIU Sports Hall of Fame

1988 – Saluki Booster Club names Cornell SIUC Coach of the Year

1992 – Named District V Outdoor Coach of the Year

1994 – Inducted into MSU Racer Hall of Fame

2005 – Inducted into OVC Athletic Hall of Fame

2005 – Inducted into U.S. Track and Field and Cross-Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame

Brent Meske can be reached at [email protected] or at 536-3333