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Billy Mills

Haskell University Battles Cutbacks With Billy Mills as Best Weapon

Rodney Harwood
4/23/14

Billy Mills knows every dream begins with a first step. The American distance running legend has a vision for how he’d like to help Haskell Indian Nations University. But for now, it will have to come one step at a time.

The Haskell Indian School graduate and only American to win an Olympic gold medal in the 10,000 meters is taking an active fundraising role to help Haskell athletics reach its full potential. Mills, who helped found Running Strong for American Indian Youth, and Haskell athletic director Judith Gipp have some ideas to improve the university in Lawrence, Kansas. “We pretty much run on federal allocations,” Gipp said. 

“Just like any other federal institution, we’ve had cutbacks. Our budget has been cut back significantly and forced us to become more self reliant.”

Gipp said the operating budget in October of 2012, not including coaches’ salaries, was $485,000. In October of 2013, it was reduced to $202,000. “My personal intention is to make a major, major effort to raise enough money for a new track, a new stadium and hopefully at some point in time find matching funds,” Mills told ICTMN. “I personally would like Running Strong to raise $4.5 million and that any other funding that would be needed could come in from government backing. That’s my objective.”

The 130-year history of Haskell is rich in athletic tradition and the stadium and track seemed like a natural place to start. Great things have happened on that track. Mills, for example, was groomed on it and there were major results. His gold medal run at the Tokyo Games in 1964 is considered one of the 10 greatest moments in Olympic distance running history. And fellow American Indian Athletic Hall of Famer Phillip Osif (Pima) was a member of the Haskell two-mile relay team that was undefeated at the Texas Relays, Kansas Relays, Knights of Columbus Games, Penn Relay Games, and Rice Relays in 1927, just to name a few.

Haskell University's track (Courtesy Haskell University)

It’s not just the site of past glory. Haskell will host the 2014 Midlands Collegiate Athletic Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championships on April 25-26. “Our football stadium is a historical marker. It’s in the national registry. Each bleacher has it’s own registered number and the arch itself has its registered number,” Gipp said.

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