MINNEAPOLIS, Minn, March 2. AFTER 31 years of service, the only head women's swimming coach the University of Minnesota has ever had, Jean Freeman, will retire from coaching at the conclusion of the 2003-04 season.
A graduate of the University of Minnesota, Freeman was a member of the swimming and diving team from 1968-72. She served as a Golden Gopher assistant coach for one season before being named head coach in 1973. Freeman was Minnesota's head coach before the women's athletics program began in 1975-76. She coached Terry Ganley (Nieszner), Minnesota's first woman athlete to earn All-America honors. Nieszner earned All-America status in 1973-74 and has been Freeman's assistant coach for the past 27 years.
During her career, Freeman led Minnesota to back-to-back Big Ten Championships in 1999 and 2000 and was named Big Ten Coach of the Year four times. At the Big Ten level, Freeman coached 48 athletes to Big Ten titles in 53 individual events and 23 relay events. Under Freeman's tutelage, five Gophers have earned the Big Ten Medal of Honor. Freeman earned her 200th career victory on January 27, 2001 against Purdue and Illinois and has led the Gophers to an upper-division finish in the Big Ten Conference 19 of the past 24 seasons.
Minnesota teams have placed at the NCAA Championships in each of the last 17 years. Minnesota earned top-20 national finishes at the NCAA Championships during seven seasons, highlighted by a 10th-place showing in 1992.
Freeman is the only female recipient of the National Collegiate and Scholastic Swimming Trophy. She was inducted into the Minnesota Women's Athletics Hall of Fame on October 28, 2000.
Freeman has coached 58 swimmers to All-America status 203 times. More than 100 swimmers have garnered All-Big Ten honors during Freeman¹s reign, during which time the Gophers have posted winning records in 20 consecutive seasons. With Minnesota¹s first-ever Big Ten championship in 1999, Freeman earned her fourth Big Ten Coach of the Year Award. In May of 1999, Freeman was named the recipient of the National Collegiate and Scholastic Swimming Trophy, awarded by the College Swimming Coaches Association of America. The award is the highest of its kind in the United States. It is presented annually to an individual for having contributed in an outstanding way to swimming as a competitive sport and healthful recreational activity at schools and colleges. Freeman was the first female to win the award in its 41-year history.
In 1995, Freeman was named to Team Speedo, an advisory board for swimming and diving, and is one of only three women serving on the board. She also received an award from the College Swim Coaches Association of America (CSCAA), recognizing over 15 years of excellence in college coaching and service to the coaching association.
Freeman, who has coached nationally and internationally, was the assistant coach to the women¹s USS Junior National Team that won the Quebec Cup in 1992. In 1991, Freeman helped coach the West team to a gold medal at the U.S. Olympic Festival. Freeman was inducted into the Minnesota Swim Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1992. She recently was an assistant coach at the 2003 World University Games, held in South Korea.
Athletics director Joel Maturi has asked Freeman to stay on staff at the University of Minnesota as special assistant to the athletics director. A national search will be conducted following the 2003-04 campaign. Nieszner has been named the interim head coach, effective immediately.
"The University of Minnesota is indebted to Jean for the countless numbers of exceptional student-athletes she has produced," Maturi said. "Her program is a model of athletic and academic success."
"I have loved every minute of being the head coach at the University of Minnesota," Freeman said. "I would like to thank the athletics program for allowing me to do a job that I love for 31 years. Although I will no longer be the head coach of the women's swimming program, I look forward to this new opportunity. I will miss the everyday interaction with the swimmers, but I feel that it is now time to move on and explore other options."