Former Air Force Head Coach Lou Burkel Honored by the CGA
NORMAN, Okla. -- Former Air Force gymnastics head coach Lou Burkel was awarded the Collegiate Gymnastics Association's Honor Coach Award at the group's annual banquet on April 5. Burkel retired in August 2005 after spending nearly 30 years in service to the Air Force Academy and collegiate gymnastics. The annual banquet was held in Norman, Okla., and ran in conjunction with the NCAA Men's National Collegiate Gymnastics Championships.

As voted on by current and former gymnastics coaches, the Honor Coach Award is annually handed out to selected individuals who have met the following criteria -- the coach must have been active a minimum of twenty-five years in teaching and coaching gymnastics; he must have demonstrated a high level of competence as a coach; he must have been involved in the promotional aspect of the sport; and he should have demonstrated leadership in the development of the sport of gymnastics.

In the history of this award, the CGA has honored eighty-eight coaches, including many members of the National Hall of Fame.

Burkel has been active in collegiate gymnastics for over 30 years. He served two terms as vice president and president of the National Association of Collegiate Gymnastics Coaches (Collegiate Gymnastics Association). His retirement concluded his 22nd year as chairman of the CGA All-America Awards Committee. He was also chairman of the NCAA Gymnastics Committee, where he previously served for eight years as a member and three years as chairman. Burkel was a member of the USA Gymnastics Board of Directors and the USAG Grievance Committee. He continues to support Air Force gymnasts, serving as the official scorekeeper for both the men's and women's meets this season.

After being commissioned a second lieutenant in the Air Force, Burkel attended undergraduate navigator training and navigator-bombardier training at Mather AFB, Calif. He then served as a B-52 navigator, radar navigator, instructor and evaluator in Strategic Air Command at March AFB, Calif., and Carswell AFB, Texas. Between March 1971 and October 1973, he flew 197 B-52 combat missions in Southeast Asia from Anderson AFB, Guam, and U Tapao Field, Thailand. He holds a master navigator rating with over 3300 hours flying time. Burkel's numerous decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross, with one oak leaf cluster, the Meritorious Serves Medal, with two oak leaf clusters and the Air Medal, with twelve oak leaf clusters.

Burkel holds a bachelor of science degree in physical education from Nebraska, and a master of arts degree in education from Northern Colorado. At Nebraska, Burkel earned four letters as an all-around competitor and was a member of the Huskers' 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 career in the United States Air Force.


Jennifer Hiddink
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