Track coach says it’s time for Auburn to ‘put your money where your mouth is’
AUBURN, Alabama — If Auburn is to compete for championship track and field again in both the Southeastern Conference and nationally, a greater commitment from the university is needed, according to new coach Leroy Burrell- leader of the AU men’s and women’s teams.
“If you want to be the best, you have to invest,” said Burrell, who is moving to Auburn from the University of Houston.
Auburn athletic director Allen Greene announced Thursday that Burrell has accepted UA’s job offer to replace Ralph Spry, who retired earlier this month after his 25th season in charge. women’s and men’s teams.
“I expect to invest, which has happened many times here as well as with our competitors,” said Burrell, who said Auburn’s athletic facilities were substandard for a program. DRY.
“If we want to be the best, we have to make it happen,” he said.
“Allen Greene and his team have assured me that we will work towards that,” said Burrell, who noted that he had just arrived at Auburn and was assessing exactly what the most important needs were for the program.
“I can’t wait to get the ball rolling,” said the Olympic gold medalist, who was the world record holder in the 100 meters before retiring from competition and becoming a coach.
“You have to put your money where your mouth is,” Burrell said of the facilities and type of salary to hire top assistant coaches.
“Where we are right now is a long way from where we need to be,” the coach said, saying the Tigers have been “turned away” by other SEC programs when it comes to facilities and support for the men’s and women’s track and field squads.
Since Auburn won its only national championship in the sport, when Spry’s women’s team won the outdoor title in 2006, the facilities around the SEC have been significantly improved. Under Spry, the Tigers finished as high as No. 2 at the Outdoor Nationals in 2003 and 2008. Under the late Mel Rosen, the men’s team earned a second-place finish at the 1978 Indoor Nationals in 2003 and finished second under Spry in 2003.
The Tigers’ most recent Top 10 national rankings came in 2017 when the women’s and men’s teams finished fifth in the outdoor meet.
With many team members not on campus in June, the coach hosted a video conference meeting with the group on Thursday after being announced as Spry’s replacement. “I told them what my goals and objectives were,” he said.
“Obviously a lot of them were a bit worried about the coaching staff and what was going to happen there. Obviously, I’m not free to discuss it. I hadn’t met the staff at the time, but told them we were professionals. When you sign up to coach, you know change is coming. We’ve all heard that song, I think it’s a Sam Cooke song.
“Quite honestly, if you don’t change and grow, you die,” said Burrell, who added he needed help to make the Tigers stronger at the conference and national levels. “I can’t do it alone. I need the right staff. I need the right support. I need the right infrastructure.
“It will be my job to champion and provide a vision for the program, and it will be the job of the university and the athletic administration to help build it.”
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