MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota, October 15. LAST night, longtime University of Minnesota head women's swimming coach Jean Freeman passed away after a battle with cancer.
Until her retirement at the end of the 2003-04 season, Freeman had been the head women's swimming coach at Minnesota – a period spanning 31 years.
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 earned the Big Ten Medal of Honor. Freeman earned her 200th career victory on Jan. 27, 2001 against Purdue and Illinois. Minnesota earned top-20 national finishes at the NCAA Championships during seven seasons, highlighted by a 10th-place showing in 1992.
Freeman coached 58 swimmers to All-America status 203 times. More than 100 swimmers garnered All-Big Ten honors during Freeman's reign, during which time the Gophers posted winning records in 20 consecutive seasons. With Minnesota's first Big Ten championship in 1999, Freeman earned her fourth Big Ten Coach of the Year Award. In May 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.
Freeman, who has coached nationally and internationally, was the assistant coach to the women's USA Swimming 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 also served as an assistant coach at the 2003 World University Games, held in South Korea.