Beloved former Cyclone coach Bill Bergan died at age 80.

Iowa State Sports Information Director Matt Shoultz provided the story and photos.

AMES, Iowa – Former Iowa State head men’s track & field and cross country coach Bill Bergan, the architect of the Cyclone track & field/cross country dynasty in the 1980s and early 1990s, passed away today. He was 80 years old.

“Although Bill Bergan will be remembered as one of the most successful coaches in Iowa State history, he will also be remembered as one of the kindest, competitive, and humble people I have ever met,” said ISU Director of Athletics Jamie Pollard. “Bill was a legend in our industry and his impact on our program is still felt today.”

Bergan’s student-athletes achieved All-America honors 110 times and captured 163 Big Eight Conference individual titles in his incredible Iowa State career (1971-1995). He won 25 Big Eight Conference team championships (cross country, indoor, outdoor) and reached the pinnacle of his sport on two occasions, leading Iowa State to the 1989 and 1994 NCAA Cross Country team titles. 

Bergan became the head men’s cross country coach at Iowa State in 1971 and took over the men’s track & field program in 1976, bringing instant credibility to both programs. When he gained control of the ISU cross country program, ISU had finished in the Big Eight meet’s lower division in the previous 11 seasons. The Cyclones finished last or next to last in 21-straight Big Eight Conference outdoor meets before his arrival.

Bergan’s quest to build a winning tradition at Iowa State produced astounding results. The cross country team won its first Big Eight title in 43 years in 1974 and then won five straight crowns from 1987-91. He directed the Cyclone cross country team to 10 Big Eight championships from 1981-94.

On the national level, Iowa State finished in the top-three at the NCAA Cross Country Championship a total of five times (1989- 1st; 1990- 2nd, 1991- 2nd, 1993- 3rd, 1994- 1st). 

The Cyclones under Bergan were also one of the Midwest’s best track & field programs, winning 15 Big Eight indoor and outdoor titles during his tenure, including a stretch of six Big Eight outdoor crowns from 1981-88.

National-caliber teams produced elite athletes under Bergan’s leadership. He coached 16 Olympians, including Danny Harris and Sunday Uti, who both medaled at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. Harris also earned the Silver Medal at the 1987 World Championship in the 400-meter hurdles and was the first man to defeat Edwin Moses since 1977 at a track meet in Madrid in 1987.

Harris, who won three NCAA 400-meter hurdle outdoor titles, was one of eight Bergan athletes to win an individual NCAA Championship at Iowa State: Gareth Brown (800m), Jon Brown (5,000m), Scott Crowell (discus), Jonah Koech (5000m, cross country), John Nuttall (cross country), Brian Tietjens (high jump) and Bob Verbeeck (1,500m) 

Bergan was named to the Iowa Association of Track Coaches Hall of Fame in 1984 and was selected as the 1983 National Cross Country Coach of the Year. He earned the same honor for track and field in 1986. The Drake Relays hall-of-famer was honored as the Big Eight Cross Country Coach of the Year five times in an eight-year span.

An Iowa State Athletics Hall of Fame (2001) and United States Track & Field/Cross Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame inductee (2006), Bergan was instrumental in the development of the ISU Cross Country Course, one of the nation’s first on-campus cross country venues. The state-of-the-art layout played host to two NCAA Cross Country Championships (1995, 2000).

A native of Cedar Falls, Iowa, Bergan graduated from the University of Northern Iowa in 1965. He was the head track & field coach at Waterloo Columbus High School from 1965-71 before his tenure with the Cyclones.

Iowa State honored Bergan in 2012 by dedicating its new track & field facility as the Bill and Karen Bergan Track at the Cyclone Sports Complex. A statue of Bergan raising one of his many Big Eight championship trophies welcomes visitors at the entrance.

Bergan is survived by his wife, Karen, and children, Jody, Dan, Mike and Amy.

Photos provided by Iowa State Athletics.