While college gymnastics may not get the same amount of press, it has its powerhouse programs and legendary coaches like any other NCAA sport. But as the Florida Gators wrap up their third straight National Championship, the sport is in flux.
We’re seeing unheard of coaching turnover, headlined by titans and household names. On April 20th, after 40 years building and sustaining a dominant program at Utah, Greg Marsden announced he would be retiring. Barely a week later, the aforementioned title winning Head Coach of Florida, Rhonda Faehn shocked the gymnastics world by announcing that she would be leaving the Gators to become the new Senior Vice President of USA Gymnastics. Vacancies like this tend to form a void in the sport, allowing talented coaches to move up, and creating an opportunity for other programs to finally step into the spotlight.
While you always hate to see the great ones leave, their effect on college gymnastics, raising the bar and setting new standards, will propel the sport to new heights.
With that in mind, College AD, after speaking with sources in the industry, including head NCAA Women’s gymnastics coaches, took a look ahead to the future of NCAA women’s gymnastics by compiling a top 10 list of the sport’s best head coaches from Power 5 conferences.
In just one decade, K.J. Kindler has molded the Oklahoma Sooners into a national gymnastics power. Kindler guided Oklahoma to its first ever gymnastics National Championship in 2014 and did it style, the Sooners set a championship record with a score of 198.175. She is also the first coach in NCAA history to lead multiple programs to the Super six. In 2006, she guided her alma mater, Iowa State, to the Super Six.
National Championships: 2014
National Coach of the Year: 2005, 2010 and 2015
Big XII Coach of the Year: 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015
A former professional ballet dancer, Kondos Field was named head coach at her alma mater in 1991. Prior to being named head coach, she spent the previous 10 seasons as a Bruin assistant. She has spent her entire coaching career at UCLA. Her accomplishments include, being named National Coach of the Year four times as well as guiding UCLA to six National Championships, most recently in 2010. She has also coached 11 Olympic contributors during her time at UCLA.
National Championships: 1997, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2010
Coach of the Year: 1996, 1997, 2000 and 2001
A Louisiana native, DD Breaux has led the LSU gymnastics program for nearly four decades. After graduating from LSU in 1976, Breaux was named head coach in 1978 and has since led the Tigers to four Super Six appearances. She has also coached 146 All-Americans and guided LSU to 25 top 10 rankings.
USA Gymnastics Region 8 Hall of Fame
National Coach of the Year: 2014
4 NCAA Super Six Appearances (2008, 2009, 2013, 2014)
SEC Coach of the Year: 1990, 1993, 1994, 1995, 2000 and 2005
Since being named head coach in 1993, Dan Kendig has amassed an impressive .719 winning percentage, with his teams going 486-175-4 over that time. Prior to landing at Nebraska, Kendig guided Indiana University of Pennsylvania to two Division II titles, in 1988 and 1989.
National Coach of the Year: 1999 and 2003
11 Super Six Finals appearances
Big Ten Coach of the Year: 2012
Big XII Coach of the Year: 1997, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2007, 2009, 2010, and 2011
15 Division I Conference Championships
The Cardinal program has reached unprecedented heights under Kristen Smyth. Prior to her arrival in 2002, the program had never reached the Super Six finals. Smyth has since guided Stanford to the Super Six times.
National Coach of the Year: 2004
Four time Pac 12 Coach of the Year
Three Pac 12 Championships
A lot can change in a quarter of a century and Bev Plocki has changed Michigan gymnastics for the better. In her 26 seasons, she has turned the Wolverines into a national program with Super Six expectations. She has guided her team to 10 Super Six appearances with two runner up showings.
National Coach of the Year: 1994
Big Ten Coach of the Year: 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1999, 2000, 2003, 2004, 2008, 2010 and 2015
Coached four NCAA individual champions
20 Big Ten Championships
In only her fourth season as a Division I head coach; Danna Durante has restored the Georgia program back to national prominence. She has led the Gym Dogs to three straight top-10 national finishes. During her coaching career, Durante has coached at some of the nation’s top programs including stints as an assistant at Washington and Nebraska. Prior to being named head coach at Georgia, she spent one year as the head coach at Cal.
National Assistant Coach of the Year: 2007
Regional Assistant Coach of the Year: 1999 and 2002
When Carey Fagan was named head coach in 2004, she inherited a good, solid program. But Fagan has taken that good program and made Ohio State into one of the nation’s elite. In 2012, she led the Buckeyes to the NCAA Championships in 23 seasons. Ohio State would finish 2012 ranked 10th in the country, Ohio State’s highest finish in over 25 years.
National Head Coach of the Year: 2012
Regional Coach of the Year: 2012 and 2009
Big Ten Coach of the Year: 2007 and 2011
In just four short years, Kim Landrus has led Illinois to heights the program had never seen. She led the Illini to back-to-back NCAA Championships appearances for the first time ever in 2013-2014. Under Landrus’ guidance, Illinois has climbed as high as 11th nationally in the final rankings.
National Assistant Coach of the Year: 2009
Regional Assistant Coach of the Year: 2007
In her first year as head coach at Alabama, Dana Duckworth immediately reinforced AD Bill Battle’s decision to name her head coach. She led the Crimson Tide to and SEC Championship and a 4th place finish in the NCAA Championships. No stranger to the program, Duckworth has been involved either as a gymnast or coach at Alabama for over two decades.
SEC Championships: 2015
In five short seasons, Jeff Graba has guided Auburn to its first showing at the Super Six and highest season ranking since 1993. A three time SEC Coach of the Year, Graba led the Tigers to a sixth place finish in the 2015 Super Six. Most recently, Graba’s assistant, Jenny Rowland, who shared National Collegiate Assistant Coach of the Year honors with fellow Tiger assistant Kurt Hettinger after helping the Tigers reach their first Super 6 in 22 years, was named University of Florida’s new head gymnastics coach.
SEC Coach of the Year: 2012, 2014 and 2015.