Legendary Ohio State track and field coach Karen Dennis is calling it a career.
Dennis announced her retirement on Monday after 45 years in college coaching, including the last 20 at Ohio State, where she has been the head coach of the women’s team since 2006 and also the head coach of the men’s team since 2014.
“I hope this isn’t too much of a surprise,” Dennis told her team on Monday morning. “I have coached for a long time and there are still things in life I’d like to do. I am truly thankful for this profession, and I want to express my gratitude to the many assistant coaches and support staff that have shared and sweated alongside me on this incredible journey. They share a primary role in the success of our programs.”
“I also want to thank the hundreds of student-athletes who have shared their lives and careers as Buckeyes, and also their parents. I want to thank the great coaches here at Ohio State, and in the Big Ten Conference and nationally, who have served as examples of excellence and who have challenged and motivated me to be better. And, I want to thank my family for the sacrifices they made while I pursued coaching, and specifically my daughter Ebony, who shared with me and introduced me to 100s of kids through her work.”
Dennis, who joined the Buckeyes as an assistant coach in 2002, has won 12 Big Ten championships as Ohio State’s head coach. Those 12 conference titles – five outdoor and four indoor titles with the women’s team as well as two outdoor titles and an indoor title with the men’s team – are the most ever for a female coach at Ohio State. Former men’s golf coach Jim Brown (17) and current men’s tennis coach Ty Tucker (16) are the only Ohio State coaches who have won more Big Ten titles; former men’s swimming coach Mike Peppe also won 12 Big Ten championships.
In Dennis’ final season as head coach, Ohio State became the first team since 1997 to sweep the men’s and women’s Big Ten outdoor titles.
Over the course of her years coaching at Ohio State and Michigan State, Dennis’ athletes combined to win 140 individual Big Ten championships. Five of her athletes at Ohio State combined to win eight individual national championships – most recently, Adelaide Aquilla, who won her third NCAA title in the shot put by breaking the NCAA record at last week’s NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
Before joining Ohio State’s staff in 2002, Dennis was the head coach at UNLV from 1992-2002 and a coach at Michigan State (her alma mater) from 1977-92. A six-time USTFCCCA regional coach of the year, Dennis was inducted into the USTFCCCA Hall of Fame in 2018, the Michigan State Sports Hall of Fame in 2019 and the Ohio State Athletics Hall of Fame in 2020.
“I can’t thank Karen Dennis enough for her friendship, her mentorship and the love she has for her student-athletes and Ohio State athletics,” athletic director Gene Smith said in a news release. “I want to congratulate her on a truly legendary career in coaching. We have been incredibly fortunate to have her leading our programs.”
Congrats to one of the best I have been blessed to work with. Outstanding commitment to student athletes!— Gene Smith (@OSU_AD) June 13, 2022
Thanks Coach Dennis for your service and friendship!!! https://t.co/NPJnett3Oa