Olympian Carl Lewis promoted to head coach of University of Houston track and field team

The legendary sprinter will lead alongside Will Blackburn, who has been promoted to director of track and field.

Nine-time Olympic gold medalist and track and field legend, Carl Lewis, will lead the University of Houston track and field team alongside Will Blackburn, who has been promoted to director of track and field.

Lewis’ role will focus on head coaching and working with sprinters and jumping event, while Blackburn will be focused on day-to-day duties as well as throwing events and horizontal jumps, according to the Houston Chronicle.

“It’s a weird arrangement — I agree with that to a certain extent from the outside looking in, but it’s a perfect relationship from the inside looking out,” Blackburn said.

Lewis’ take on the roles is that Blackburn is “the nuts and bolts on what’s going on and I’m driving the car.”

And that is OK by Blackburn. “If I’m in the passenger seat, I’m fine with that. Carl drives a little fast. I think that’s in his blood.”

The UH track and field program has only had two other head coaches — Tom Tellez and Leroy Burrell — in the last 45 years.

“Will and Carl are both incredible representatives and products of the University of Houston, Houston athletics and our track and field programs,” Vice President for athletics Chris Pezman said in a statement. “I am personally grateful for their leadership during this transitionary time. We are fortunate to have individuals of their caliber leading our program … they are two of the very best in the country.”

The UH program has a combined 42 men’s and women’s conference championships in the past 22 years and three top-three men’s finishes at the national meet since 2018.

In 2013, Lewis returned to UH as a volunteer coach and was hired full time the next season, according to UH Track and Field.

One of the most decorated athletes of all time, Lewis holds various records, including 10 medals at the World Outdoor Championships — eight of them gold. Additionally, he is one of two athletes to win four gold medals at the same event (1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles) and one of two athletes to hold nine Olympic gold medals. The six-time All-American also won six national championships and nine individual conference championships during the 1979-80 seasons at UH.

According to the Chronicle, the 61-year-old Lewis signed a one-year deal that will pay $90,000 plus performance-based incentives. He has said he can commit to coaching at least through 2028 at which time his focus will shift to U.S. track and field at the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

“I live here in Houston. When I leave here, it’s over,” Lewis said. “I definitely want to see this through.”