COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Karen Dennis, the director of track & field and cross country at Ohio State University, announced her retirement from coaching Monday after 20 seasons at OSU and 45 years in the college coaching ranks.
Dennis announced the news just three weeks after her men’s and women’s teams each captured Big Ten Conference outdoor championships.
“I hope this isn’t too much of a surprise,” Dennis said. “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.”
Dennis just completed her eighth season as director of both the men’s and women’s programs at Ohio State. She arrived in Columbus in 2002 as an assistant coach for the women’s team and in 2006, she was named women’s head coach. In 2014, she was promoted to director of the men’s and women’s track & field and cross country programs.
“I want to thank Gene Smith, who believed in me and hired me into the dual men’s and women’s position at a time when very few women in all of track and field had a dual role,” Dennis said. “And, I want to thank my longtime sport AD at Ohio State, T.J. Shelton, who was very instrumental in the success of this program.”
Dennis’ coaching and leadership positioned Ohio State as one of the top programs in the Big Ten Conference and nationally. Her Buckeyes captured 12 Big Ten Conference championships, including women’s indoor (2011, 2015, 2019, 2020) and outdoor (2011, 2012, 2019, 2021, 2022) crowns as well as men’s indoor and outdoor championships in 2018, their first in 25 years, and an outdoor crown in 2022.
Her 12 Big Ten championships are No. 1 all-time for an Ohio State female coach and rank in a tie for third with the great Mike Peppe (men’s swimming) among all Ohio State coaches. Only Jim Brown (17 men’s golf titles) and Ty Tucker (16 men’s tennis crowns) have led Ohio State teams to more Big Ten championships than Dennis. Therese Hession, recently retired women’s golf coach, rounds out the Top 5 with 11 Big Ten team titles.
This final season under Dennis’ direction has cemented her legacy. This is the first time Ohio State has won both a men’s and women’s outdoor Big Ten team championship in the same season, and this is the first time in 25 years for a Big Ten team to accomplish the feat. Her women’s team set a new championship record for points scored at the Big Ten outdoor championships with 185.5, and on Saturday wrapped up a 12th-place finish at the NCAA Championships.