Skip to main content

Bergan, William H. "Bill"

Published onJul 30, 2021
Bergan, William H. "Bill"

(April 1, 1942- )

Quick Facts

Bergan took the Cyclone programs from a lowly status to the heights of national recognition, winning a pair of NCAA Division I cross country titles during his tenure coaching teams to 25 conference titles. He coached 16 Olympians from six different nations.


Bergan next to the sculpture in his honor at the Intercollegiate Athletics Field, Iowa State University. Source: University Museums, Iowa State University

William H. “Bill” Bergan, a graduate of University of Northern Iowa (‘65) where he he ran cross country and track for the Panthers from 1960 to 1965 and was the captain of the cross country squad in 1964 and the track team in 1965. UNI's cross country team placed third at the 1964 national championships. Bergan lettered in track and cross country, then went on to coach six seasons at Waterloo Columbus High School before taking a head cross country and assistant track & field position at Iowa State.

Bill Bergan became Iowa State’s head cross country coach in 1971 and head track and field coach in 1976. He took the Cyclone programs from a lowly status to the heights of national recognition, winning a pair of NCAA Division I cross country titles during his tenure (1971-1995 at Iowa State University).

When Bergan took control of the ISU cross country program, the Cyclones had finished in the Big Eight Conference meet’s lower division for 11-straight seasons. Iowa State had finished last or next-to-last in 21 straight Big Eight Conference outdoor track meets. He would go on to coach his teams to 25 conference titles. Iowa State had won only eight conference cross country and track titles in the 66 years prior to Bergan’s arrival.

Bergan’s quest to building a winning running tradition at Iowa State produced astounding results. The cross country team won its first Big Eight title in 43 years in 1974. The ISU harriers won five straight team league crowns from 1987-1991. Bergan’s teams won 10 Big Eight cross country titles in 14 years.

The Iowa State cross country program under Bergan twice reached the NCAA mountaintop. His 1989 team was ranked first nationally all season. Then, on Nov. 19 at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., Cyclone John Nuttall placed first individually and Jonah Koech second as Iowa State won its first national cross country crown going away.

The Cyclones placed second at the 1990 and 1991 NCAA cross country meets and placed third in 1993. The 1991 squad set a Big Eight scoring record, placing five runners among the conference’s top six finishers.

Bergan’s 1994 cross country team used a balanced team effort to win their coach a second NCAA national team title. From 1974 on, Bergan’s Cyclones earned 15 NCAA cross country berths, including top-eight finishes in eight of his last 11 years as head coach.

His success in track and field paralleled Iowa State’s cross country prowess. In 1981, Iowa State ended a 36-year drought by claiming the Big Eight outdoor track crown. The title was the first of 14 Big Eight cross country and track titles during the 1980s. In track, Bergan’s teams won 10 league titles in his final 14 years as head coach. He tutored athletes to performances that earned All-America honors 104 times and captured 156 Big Eight Conference individual titles.

Several Bergan-coached athletes earned numerous award and honors in international competition, including the Olympic Games. Former Cyclone Yobes Ondieki broke the world record in the 10,000-meter run and became the first man to run 10,000 meters under 27 minutes on the track. Ondieki also represented Kenya at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain. The six-time cross country and track All-American placed second at the 1984 and 1985 NCAA Cross Country Championships and keyed the Cyclones to a sixth-place national cross country finish in 1985. Ondieki captured the world title in the 5,000-meter run at the 1991 IAAF World Track and Field Championships in Tokyo.

Ondieki was among four former ISU competitors that represented their countries in the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games. Alums Joseph Kipsang (marathon), Sunday Uti (4 x 400-meter relay), and Henrick Jorgenson (marathon) also competed in the 1988 Games. In all, Bergan coached 16 Olympians from six different nations.

Former Cyclone Danny Harris won a silver medal in the 400-meter intermediate hurdles at the 1984 Los Angeles Games and in 1987 captured a silver medal at the 1987 World Track and Field Championships in Rome. Moses Kiyai competed in the long jump and triple jump for Kenya at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games and placed seventh in that event at the 1985 NCAA Championships. Uti won a bronze medal as part of the Nigerian 4 x 400-meter relay squad that placed at the L.A. Games. Uti placed second at the NCAA meet at 400 meters.

Bergan, the 1992 Big Eight Indoor/Outdoor Coach of the Year, was named to the Iowa Association of Track Coaches Hall of Fame in 1984 and was selected as the National Cross Country Coach for the Year in 1983. He earned the same honor for track and field in 1986. The NCAA District Five Coach of the Year Award went to Bergan 18 times. Bergan was honored with membership in Iowa State University’s Cardinal Key honorary, recognizing outstanding leadership, character, scholarship and service to Iowa State University. The Drake Relays Hall of Famer was named the Big Eight’s cross country coach of the year in five of his last eight seasons as cross country coach. He was inducted into the Iowa State Athletics Hall of Fame in 2001.

He is also the founder/CEO of Ames, Iowa-based Championship Productions.

Selected Sources

Iowa State University Athletics

Championship Productions:

No comments here
Why not start the discussion?