Lou Burkel begins his 25th year in the Air Force Academy gymnastics program. This is his ninth year as the gymnastics program director and his 21st season as the men's head coach. His career coaching records are 110-91.
He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in physical education from the University of Nebraska, and a Master of Arts degree in education from the University of Northern Colorado. While at the University of Nebraska, Burkel earned four letters as an all-arounder on their first undefeated and Big Eight Championship teams. He taught physical education and coached boy's gymnastics at Omaha South High School from 1964-1967 before beginning his Air Force career.
After being commissioned a second lieutenant in the Air Force, he attended navigator and bombardier training and served as a B-52 navigator, bombardier, instructor and evaluator in Strategic Air Command. Between March 1971 and February 1973, Burkel flew 197 B-52 combat missions in Southeast Asia, and holds a master navigator rating with 3,300 hours flying time. Burkel retired as a lieutenant colonel from the Air Force after over 25 years service in February 1993. His decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross with one oak leaf cluster, the Meritorious Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters and the Air medal with 12 oak leaf clusters.
Burkel has been very active in collegiate gymnastics for over 25 years and served four years as vice president and then president of the National Association of Collegiate Gymnastics Coaches. He was recently appointed to NCAA Men's Gymnastics Committee where he previously served for six years as a member and two years as the chairman. He was a member of the USA Gymnastics Board of Directors and now serves USAG as a member of the Grievance Committee. Burkel is in his 20th year as chairman of the men's All-America Awards Committee. He was honored as Western Athletic Conference Gymnastics Coach of the Year in 1988 and 1990 and as the NCAA Midwest Regional Coach of the Year in 1989 and 1992.