Legendary Grove City Coach Jim Longnecker Passes Away at 84


GROVE CITY, Pa. – Legendary Grove City College coach and faculty member Jim Longnecker passed away Saturday after an extended illness at the age of 84. A Memorial Service is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Sunday, September 24, in Harbison Chapel on campus. A reception will follow in Rathburn Hall.

A “player’s coach” long before the term became part of the sports vernacular, Longnecker’s knowledge, enthusiasm and positive attitude energized the programs under his guidance.

Longnecker spent 40 seasons as Grove City’s head men’s swimming and diving coach from 1957 to 1997. He guided Grove City to 40 consecutive winning seasons, including six undefeated campaigns.

With a 366-93 (.797) record at retirement, he stood as the winningest active swim coach in NCAA Division III and among the top five in all NCAA classifications.

Longnecker coached 44 NCAA All-Americans and three NCAA Division III champions in diving. Grove City won seven Penn-Ohio championships and eight Presidents’ Athletic Conference titles under Longnecker.

The American College Coaches Association honored him as “Master Coach” in 1977. Ten years later, that organization presented him with its “Distinguished Coach” award in recognition of his outstanding contributions in the field of swimming and diving.

Longnecker proposed, organized and hosted the inaugural NCAA College Division Swimming and Diving Championships in 1964 at Grove City College. Nine Wolverines earned All-America status at this inaugural meet, placing Grove City ninth in the team standings.

Longnecker directed the men’s track and field program for 40 years, accumulating a career record of 224-53-1 (.808). Grove City posted 13 undefeated seasons during his career. His teams captured seven Presidents’ Athletic Conference track titles after Grove City joined the league in 1984. Three field men achieved NCAA All-America status.

In 12 seasons as cross country coach (1960-1971), his runners posted five Western Pennsylvania Intercollegiate Athletic Conference titles, won one Penn-Ohio Conference championship, produced the program’s first NCAA All-American, and qualified for the NCAA College Division Championships twice.

His teams amassed a 97-31 (.758) record, including one undefeated season. Overall, Longnecker compiled a 687-177-1 (.795) mark as a head coach at Grove City.

In 2009, the College renamed its competition pool in Longnecker’s honor. In 2007, Grove City inducted him into its Athletic Hall of Fame as part of the inaugural class of honorees.

Born September 18, 1932, Longnecker grew up in Dayton, Ohio. A 1954 graduate of Bowling Green State University, he served in the U.S. Air Force from 1954 to 1956 and received his Master of Education from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

Longnecker’s coaching career began as the freshman swimming coach and varsity assistant at Miami in 1955.

Press release courtesy of Grove City College Athletics. 


  1. avatar
    Coach Grevers

    I didn’t know Jim personally but he is leaving behind a very impressive legacy.

  2. avatar
    Frank Comfort

    A great coach & fine person….kind to all he met.

  3. avatar
    Aaron Bell🍀

    Coach Longnecker “a.k.a. the silver fox” was an incredible friend of our family. Growing up I would see Jim at our house, master swim meets and the two swim camps he, Coach Wally Morton and my dad (Greg Bell) ran. A Players Coach indeed, Jim taught his athletes how to take their swimming, academics and life to another level. He had a “let’s do this together” attitude which is one of the many traits I have learned from him over the years. Coach Longnecker lit up any room he entered with his sleek crafty jokes and witty humor. I was fortunate for my dads friendship with Jim as it entered him into my life. Thank you Coach for all you have taught me and brought to the swimming world. Gone but not forgotten. 🍀Rest In Peace Silver Fox🍀

  4. avatar
    Greg R. Bell

    The passing of Jim Longnecker brings back
    fond memories of the times I spent coaching
    with Jim, Pat Madden, and Wally Morton
    at his swim camps and traveling and swim-
    ming with Jim at masters swim meets around
    the country. His favorite saying was “practice
    does NOT make perfect! Perfect practice
    makes perfect!” Who could argue with that!
    Throughout ones life how true that statement
    becomes in everything that one does!
    As far as his humor goes! I heard his jokes
    and his sayings a thousand times but
    they always would make me laugh again!
    “You’re doing a great job and it will be
    reflected in your paycheck!” He would
    tell anyone and everyone that and they
    couldn’t help but smile as Jim would
    He is a model for all coaches and “would
    be” coaches to follow!
    Rest in Peace my dear good friend! We will
    get together again one day and swim our
    laps together and make each other laugh once