Bill Dellinger

Born: March 23, 1934

Coaching Years: 1973-1998 (track and field); 1969-1998 (cross country)

Oregon’s Own

Dellinger, Bill: Track Coach [5] (recto)
Dellinger, Bill: Track Coach [5] (recto)

Bill Dellinger began his legacy at Oregon as an athlete and transitioned into a prominent distance coach during the 1970s and 1980s.

As a student-athlete, Dellinger was a notable star under Bill Bowerman. He was a two-time NCAA winner, three-time All-American and three-time Pacific Coast Conference Champion. After college, Dellinger joined the Air Force but continued his athletic training. He captured two world indoor records, six American records, and competed in three Olympics–-the 1956 Games in Melbourne, Australia, the 1960 Games in Rome, Italy, and the 1964 Games in Tokyo, Japan. Dellinger won a bronze medal in the 5,000 meters during his final Olympics in Japan.

Going the Distance

1973 cross country team
1973 cross country team

Dellinger coached at Thurston High School in Springfield, Oregon, and then at Lane Community College before becoming an assistant coach on the Oregon staff in the summer of 1967. He quickly transitioned into the head coaching role, taking over cross country for the 1969 season. Coincidently, that was the first term of Steve Prefontaine’s career as a Duck. Four years later, Dellinger took on track and field head coaching duties after Bowerman stepped down from the post in 1973.

During Dellinger’s 29 years as the head cross country coach, Oregon captured four NCAA Cross Country Championships, five runner-up finishes and four third-place honors. On the track and field side, Oregon brought home one NCAA Championship (1984) under Dellinger.

Steve Prefontaine, Alberto Salazar, Rudy Chapa, Matt Centrowitz, and Bill McChesney, Jr. were among the distance sensations Dellinger mentored.

International Success

Dellinger gained national recognition for his stellar UO cross country teams and was labeled “America’s finest distance coach.” Appropriately, he served as the U.S. Olympic Track and Field team distance coach for the 1984 Olympics. Dellinger also coached several other post-collegiate Olympians, such as Danny Lopez, Nick Rogers and Mary Slaney.

A native of Grants Pass, Oregon, Dellinger spent most of his life in Springfield, Oregon. Arguably one of the most talented distance runners of his time, Dellinger leaves his mark on Oregon as both an athlete and a coach.

Dellinger retired in 1998 and continues to reside in the area with his wife Marol.

Bill Dellinger
Bill Dellinger

Fun Facts

* Dellinger was Bowerman’s first full-time assistant coach.

  • Dellinger planned to major in fish and wildlife management until his mentor, Bill Bowerman, inspired him to get a degree in education. Dellinger taught at Thurston High School for six years before joining the Oregon staff.

  • During the summer of 1956, Dellinger set a new American record in the 5,000 meters, married his wife Marol, trained for the Air Force, and prepared for his first Olympic Games. Dellinger was originally supposed to begin his Air Force duties during the summer of 1957 but had to report earlier. Fortunately, the Air Force allowed him to continue training for the Olympics and compete in Melbourne, Australia.

  • Springfield, Oregon held a “Bill Dellinger Day” after Dellinger won the 5,000 meters in the 1956 Olympic Trials.

  • As a coach at Oregon, Dellinger dealt with many trying issues. Reduced scholarships for track and field athletes and much-needed renovations to Hayward Field were high priorities. Dellinger worked diligently to change NCAA regulations and Olympic funding matters to better support track and field.

  • Dellinger yearned to finish out his coaching career with the turn of the century, in order to complete the “Bill” era. However, after being diagnosed with prostate cancer, Dellinger decided to retire following the 1998 season.