Dedication Day A Special One For AU's Rosen

Auburn, Ala.--Former Auburn University athletes and coaches joined the friends and family of Mel Rosen to honor AU's track coach emeritus on Saturday.

In a ceremony at the new Hutsell-Rosen Track and Field, Auburn's head track coach from 1963 through 1992 had his name officially put on AU's track and field facility along with Wilbur Hutsell, who was Rosen's boss and head coach of the Tigers from 1922-1963.

Mel Rosen is shown with the Hutsell-Rosen Track and Field in the background.

"All the kids loved Mel," says Jerry Smith, a former AU assistant track coach who was one of hundreds of former coaches and athletes there to honor the highly respected Rosen, who was three times NCAA Coach of the Year.

"He just did a great job as coach at Auburn," added Smith.

Joan Rosen, the coach's wife, shares a laugh with her husband during the speeches on Saturday.

Rosen, who is known to several generations of Auburn University students after coaching thousands in track and field as well as physical education, was in his usual form on Saturday, showing his sense of humor. After giving his serious "thank yous" to a variety of people for what he says is a major honor, he had a typical Rosen finish to his dedication day speech.

"In closing, I would like to thank my high school baseball coach, my high school basketball coach and my high school basketball coach," Rosen said. "All three cut me from the squad and I proceeded to go out for track and that is what helped make this day happen."

A view of the new track and field is shown on Saturday prior to the start of running competition at the Auburn Invitational.

Rosen went on to success in the sport as runner, earning a spot on the University of Iowa team.

He began his coaching career at Iowa before coming to Auburn in 1955 to coach physical education. He soon joined Hutsell's staff as an assistant and started an impressive AU coaching career in which he had the ultimate honor for an American track coach by being named head coach of the 1992 United States Olympic men's team, which is still the most successful group in the country's track and field history.

"It was beyond everything I expected," Rosen said of the ceremony. I'm really excited about this, especially to be linked always with Coach Hutsell, who was my mentor, my teacher and most of all my friend for 25 years."

Part of the crowd who came to honor Rosen is shown.

One of Rosen's 143 All-Americans 1970s star 400-meter runner Willie Smith, said he was glad he made the trip to the ceremony.

"Coach Rosen is one of my mentors," said Smith, who won an Olympic gold medal in 1984 and would have likely won another one in 1980 if the U.S. had not boycotted the Moscow Games.

Another view is shown of the new track, which is state of the art, Auburn officials say.

"I came here from New York a young man and Coach was like a surrogate dad for me, and a big brother, as well as a coach," Smith said. "He cheered me up when I was down, when I was up he celebrated with me, and he taught me the ins and outs of the sport I love."

Current Auburn men's track and field coach Ralph Spry said that he was thrilled to see Rosen honored. He was also one of the featured speakers.

Spry said that the long-time coach has an "unconditional love for Auburn University and the Auburn family" and is truly respected around the university, region, nation and internationally in the track and field world.

Current athletic director Jay Jacobs also spoke and had praise for Rosen.

"I don't know anyone who has a truer love and passion of their profession than Mel Rosen," Spry added. "I think you would be hard-pressed to find anybody in the sport of track and field who knows more about the sport than Coach Rosen."

Auburn interim president Dr. Ed Richardson, athletic director Ed Richardson and former track athlete Byron Franklin, a member of the board of trustees, were among the speakers honoring Rosen on Saturday.

Rosen was presented this artwork during the dedication ceremony.

An AU logo ice sculpture was part of the post ceremony reception.

The competition Hutsell-Rosen long jump pit is raked on Saturday during the invitational.

In Saturday's Auburn Invitational, Auburn won 13 events with nine qualifying marks for the NCAA regional competition.

"I'm really pleased with our performance," Spry said. "We had a lot of good performances on both sides.

"On the women's side, the highlight would probably be Markita James in the 400-meter running one of the top times in the country. Josanne Lucas and our throwers, Katalin Mate and Ronda Gullatte, both put up good regional qualifying marks, and that's the name of the game right now."

Byron Franklin (left), a former track athlete for Rosen, talks with the coach after the ceremony.

The 52.0 by James is the second fastest in AU history. Lucas ran a time of 56.19 in the 400 hurdles, the fourth fastest in the nation this season. Mate won the javelin with a throw of 148-5, which is fifth in school history. She won the discus with a throw of 173-1, which is third in school history.

Gullatte won the hammer throw with a toss of 191 feet, six inches. Kerron James ran an 11.27 100-meters, the fourth fastest time for an AU woman sprinter.

A plaque featuring photos of Hutsell (left) and Rosen was created for the ceremony.

"For the men, the highlight was Reuben McCoy running one of the top times in the country in the 400-meter hurdles," Spry said. His time was 50.16.

Auburn will return to action April 27-30 in Philadelphia at the Penn Relays.

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