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Field house to be named for Olympic champion Morris

April 21, 2011
By Tony Phifer

The South College Field House, built in 1924 and home to CSU's indoor track, will be renamed the Glenn Morris Field House in honor of the CSU alum who won the 1936 Olympic decathlon gold medal.

Glenn MorrisCSU will honor one of its greatest heroes by renaming the South College Field House the Glenn Morris Field House.

A ceremony and reception will be held at 11:30 a.m. Friday, April 22, at the field house, located on South College Avenue between Laurel and Pitkin streets. The event is free and open to the public.

'World's greatest athlete'

Morris is widely considered the greatest athlete in CSU history after winning the gold medal in the decathlon at the 1936 Summer Olympic Games in Berlin. Morris is CSU’s only Olympic track-and-field gold medalist.

“We are proud to honor Glenn Morris, one of the greatest athletes in Olympic history and a proud graduate of our university, by attaching his name to CSU’s historic field house,” said Tony Frank, president. “He trained for his gold-medal performance in this very building, and his dedication to excellence and achievement will stand as an example for current and future Ram student athletes striving to excel at the highest levels.”

Humble beginnings

Glenn MorrisMorris, who grew up in poverty in Simla, a small eastern Colorado farm community, graduated from CSU in 1935 with degrees in sociology and economics. Immensely popular among his fellow students, Morris served as president of the student body, but he earned fame as a standout athlete in football, basketball and track and field.

Morris was a two-time all-conference end playing for legendary football coach Harry Hughes, and a standout hurdler in track and field. He became fascinated with the decathlon after watching the competition at the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, and decided to try his hand at the grueling 10-event competition that determines “the world’s greatest athlete.”

Morris, working with Hughes, did much of his training in the field house that will bear his name. He set an American record while winning his first decathlon competition at the Kansas Relays in the spring of 1936 to earn an invitation to the U.S. Olympic Trials. He won that competition, setting a world record in the process, to earn a trip to Berlin for the 1936 Summer Games.

Record-breaking performance

1936 Gold MedalOnce in Berlin, Morris became one of the stars of the Games, winning the title of “world’s greatest athlete” at a time when Adolf Hitler was promoting Germans as the “master race.” Morris won the gold medal with a world- and Olympic-record 7,900 points – a mark that stood for 14 years.

Morris won the Sullivan Award later that year, beating out Olympic sprint champion Jesse Owens for the honor given annually to the nation’s top amateur athlete. Morris, who was welcomed home from Berlin with ticker-tape parades in New York City and Denver, had a brief Hollywood career and played a season in the NFL before joining the Navy and serving as a captain in World War II.

Morris died in 1973 of congestive heart failure. He has been inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame (1969), the CSU Sport Hall of Fame (1988), the Colorado High School Activities Association Hall of Fame (1998) and the USA Track and Field Hall of Fame (2007).

Ceremony marks 75th anniversary of Morris' triumph

The Glenn Morris Field House was built in 1924 and is one of the largest buildings on campus at 61,877 square feet. The south side of the facility includes the indoor track, while the north includes a gym, where the CSU basketball team played its games until Moby Arena opened in 1968. The facility also houses CSU’s track and field offices, a swimming pool and the Adult Fitness program.