Ohio State track/cross country coach Karen Dennis retires after 20 years with the Buckeyes

Rob Oller
The Columbus Dispatch
Karen Dennis won 12 Big Ten championships, the most all-time by an OSU female coach.

Ohio State men's and women's track and field coach Karen Dennis, whose 12 Big Ten championships are the most all-time by an OSU female coach, is retiring after 20 years with the Buckeyes.

Dennis, who also coached cross country, told her team Monday she was leaving, just days after 22 Buckeyes competed in the NCAA Championships and three weeks after OSU won both the men's and women's Big Ten outdoor titles. Her dozen conference championships tie Mike Peppe (men's swimming) for third most by OSU coaches. Only Jim Brown (17 men's golf) and Ty Tucker (16 men's tennis) have led their teams to more.

Karen Dennis won 12 Big Ten championships, the most all-time by an OSU female coach.

“I hope this isn’t too much of a surprise,” Dennis said in a statement. “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."

A 1977 graduate of Michigan State, Dennis saw eight of her athletes become Olympians: five at Ohio State, two at UNLV and one at Michigan State, where she began her coaching career. She completes her career having worked with 140 Big Ten individual champions and 22 relay winners.

"I want to congratulate Karen Dennis on a truly legendary career in coaching," Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said. "We have been incredibly fortunate to have her leading our programs.”

Karen Dennis, shown here in 2018, won 12 Big Ten championships, the most all-time by an OSU female coach.

Dennis arrived at Ohio State in 2003 as an assistant before taking over the women's program in 2006. She became director of men's and women's track and field and cross country in 2014.

roller@dispatch.com