George Kennedy, head coach of the Johns Hopkins men's and women's swimming teams since 1985, announced today that he will retire at the end of the season. Kennedy, 60, will step down in June after 31 years at the helm of the highly successful programs.
Kennedy—the program's third coach in the past 48 years—won 24 conference titles with the Blue Jays and was named NCAA Division III coach of the year seven times. He has coached 29 national champions and more than 1,400 All-Americans. Under his leadership, Hopkins has been one of the most dominant programs in the nation, earning 46 top 10 and 19 top five team finishes at the annual NCAA championship meet.
Kennedy was part of a run of 28 consecutive conference titles by JHU's men's team from 1971 through 1998, a streak that at the time tied for the third-longest in any sport in Division III history.
"This is an emotional and difficult decision," Kennedy said. "While there is never a good time for such an announcement, I know that this is the right time. This is the best job in the country, and the relationships I have developed with the athletes, fellow coaches, our staff, and all of the administrators were the best part of my time at Johns Hopkins."
Added Tom Calder, JHU's director of athletics: "George Kennedy is the best swimming coach in the nation. He will be sorely missed by everyone in the Johns Hopkins University Athletics Department and also by all those who have been fortunate to get to know him on a personal basis. I wish George and his wife, Helen, all the best as they finally get to do some things they have put aside for so many years, and I look forward to seeing him at future JHU events."
In 2012, Kennedy was awarded the Steadman Award, conferred annually to a swimming or diving coach at the high school, club, or university level who—in the opinion of the International Swimming Hall of Fame and the College Swimming Coaches Association of America—has done the most to spread happiness in longtime coach Richard E. Steadman's beloved sport of swimming and diving. Kennedy, who always wanted his swimmers to enjoy what they were doing, counts this as his favorite honor in his storied career
"Ultimately, the goal for every coach is to establish what is called 'the silver bullet'—100% buy-in, an all-in mentality, so that the athletes believe in themselves, their teammates, and the program," Kennedy said. "I am leaving a team that is all in, and they are ready for this change in direction."
A 1977 graduate of the University of North Carolina, Kennedy was a four-year letter winner for the Tar Heels and an NCAA Division I qualifier in the 100-yard backstroke. After graduation, he remained at UNC to earn his master's degree in physical education and served as an assistant on the Tar Heels' coaching staff. In 1980, he became head coach of the men's and women's swimming teams at Gettysburg College, and he took over JHU's programs in 1985.
In April 2013, Kennedy was inducted into the Johns Hopkins Athletic Hall of Fame, and in March 2014, he was named one of the "World's 50 Greatest Leaders" by Fortune magazine.
Kennedy currently resides in Towson, Maryland, with his wife, Helen. They have two daughters; Catherine, a graduate of Mary Washington College, and Sarah, a graduate of the University of North Carolina.