Pitt athletics honors track and field coach with posthumous Hall of Fame induction

Pitt athletics’ 2024 Hall of Fame class is arguably the most impressive class inducted thus far. Pitt will celebrate the 10-person class during homecoming weekend on September 13 — the night before the Backyard Brawl against West Virginia. 

Legendary Pitt track and field coach Steve Lewis will be honored with a posthumous induction into this class. Lewis coached track and field for over five decades, finding success everywhere he went, including during an 18-year tenure with the Panthers.

Born in Harlem and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Lewis developed an appreciation for a strong sense of family and belonging when he became close with another family living in the Marcy Housing Projects, the same place where Jay-Z grew up.

Lewis attended Wingate High School in Brooklyn, where he originally played baseball but quickly found out he was much better at track and field. After graduating from Wingate. 

 Lewis earned a track and field scholarship from Virginia State College, which is now known as Norfolk State University. 

After earning his bachelor’s degree in physical education, Lewis coached basketball and track at Thomas Hunter, an all-black high school in Mathews County, Virginia. Lewis became the first black head coach at an integrated high school in Virginia for high school basketball after Thomas Hunter integrated with the all-white Mathews High School. 

Lewis moved to coach at Menchville High School in Newport News, Virginia, where he built a decorated track and field program with 34 track All-Americans, four national record holders and 12 state championship teams. It didn’t take long for Lewis to be inducted into the Newport News Track Hall of Fame in 1981. Lewis finished his high school coaching career with a meet record of 132-18.

Lewis arrived at Pitt in 1982 and became the head women’s track and field coach in 1984. In 1994, Lewis became the head coach for both the men’s and women’s teams before he left the University in 2002. 

While coaching at Pitt, Lewis oversaw 67 All-American athletes. Forty men and 95 women also won Big East individual championships during Lewis’s tenure. 

As a team, the Panthers won five Big East conference titles, and the 1998 women’s track and field team finished third in the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships

After surviving a heart attack in 2000, Lewis moved on to Eastern Michigan University in 2002. While at Eastern Michigan University, Lewis coached four All-Americans, an NCAA regional champion and oversaw a 16th-place finish for the university in the 2005 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

After a brief stint at Delaware State University, Lewis returned to Virginia in 2008 to coach at Hampton University. While coaching at Hampton University, Lewis coached the 2010 and 2011 teams to second-place finishes in the MEAC Indoor Championships and the 2009 team in the MEAC Outdoor Championships 

After he retired from coaching in 2012, Lewis could not stay away from mentoring for long as he volunteered at I.C. Norcum in Portsmouth, Virginia not long after. In 2015, he helped the boy’s outdoor track team win a state championship

Lewis found success at every corner. His accomplishments as a Panther, as well as his status as a legend in the sport, have earned him his place in the Pitt Athletics Hall of Fame. 

Lewis’s induction allows him to be honored alongside four athletes he coached in the Pitt Athletics Hall of Fame. These athletes include Roger Kingdom, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and former world record holder in the 110-meter hurdles, Lee McRae, a four-time NCAA champion, Najuma Fletcher, a two-time NCAA champion and Trecia-Kaye Smith, a seven-time NCAA champion.

Lewis passed away on Jan. 23, 2016, at the age of 72, but the famed track and field coach will have his memory engraved in the history books forever.


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