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Cathy George Retires as the Winningest Coach in Spartan Volleyball History

George posted a 302-233 mark in 17 years at Michigan State
Published: Jan. 14, 2022 at 11:52 PM EST
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EAST LANSING, Mich. (MSU Athletics) - The all-time winningest coach in Michigan State volleyball history, Cathy George has announced her retirement, putting a cap on an outstanding career which spanned 35 seasons, the last 17 at Michigan State, and included a ground-breaking moment. A national search will be conducted to find the program’s next coach.

The first woman to lead a team to the NCAA Division I Final Four (1989) as head coach, George posted a 667-457 mark in 35 seasons, including a 302-233 mark in 17 years at Michigan State. In a career which included stops at four different schools, she compiled a remarkable list of accomplishments. She guided her squad to the NCAA Tournament 15 times, including 10 trips on the Spartan bench. The 10 tournaments included three trips to the Sweet 16 and an Elite Eight appearance.

“My time at Michigan State has been a wonderful experience,” said George. “This is our home – the place where we’ve raised our family – both at home and our volleyball family. Our success through the years was always the byproduct of incredible contributions of so many different people. Coaches, support staff, administrators and the local community all pulled together for the best interests of Spartan volleyball. And above all, our amazing student-athletes gave us everything they had, while accomplishing so much on the court, in the classroom and in the community. They represented Michigan State with class, and it was an honor to be their coach.

“The decision to retire after 35 seasons as head coach including the last 17 at Michigan State is an incredibly emotional one. Coaching is an extremely rewarding profession, watching student-athletes develop and excel beyond their own expectations is amazing. But coaching is a demanding profession which requires an incredible amount of energy and focus. As I went through some self-evaluation this offseason, I realized I had to do what was best for my family and for the program.

“Although my time is done as head coach, I will forever be a Spartan,” continued George. “And I can leave smiling because I know the future is bright for Michigan State volleyball. I believe in the team coming back, and I believe in the recruits. As I look to the future, Alan Haller is an athletic director who understands what it will take for Spartan volleyball to be successful at the national level. I wish I had the energy to continue on because I know great things are on the horizon under his watch. The next coach will have all the support they need for Spartan volleyball to be a national power. "

Individually, George’s student-athletes have excelled on the court and in the classroom. In her career, she’s coached 26 AVCA (American Volleyball Coaches Association) All-Americans. At MSU, she guided 23 AVCA All-Region and 25 All-Big Ten selections. Academically, her student-athletes have earned Academic All-Big Ten honors on 109 occasions, 37 Big Ten Distinguished Scholars honors and seven Academic All-America accolades.

“Today is a day to celebrate Cathy George and all that she’s accomplished in her storied career,” said Michigan State Vice President and Director of Athletics Alan Haller. “We are so appreciative of all she’s given not only to Michigan State Athletics, but to the game of volleyball and women’s sports overall. She was a trailblazer as the first woman to coach in the Final Four, and continued to be an example for head coaches in the Big Ten and nationally throughout her career. She, along with her husband Jerry, and sons T.J. and Conner, have been great members of our Spartan Family, and we all wish her great happiness in retirement.”

George’s first season on the Spartan bench came in 2005, winning six of her first seven contests. It was a sign of things to come, as Michigan State advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 2006. A year later, the Spartans advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16. Another tournament appearance would follow in 2009.

The 2011 season started a stretch of seven consecutive NCAA Tournaments, marking the second longest streak in school history. The Spartans won at least one game in a school-best seven straight NCAA Tournaments. MSU was one of just three Big Ten schools to finish .500 or better in conference play each year in that seven-year stretch, while also winning at least 19 games every year.

Michigan State advanced to the Sweet 16 in both 2012 and 2013. The 2012 Spartans won 25 games, the most for the program since 1996. In 2016, the Spartans once again won 25 contests and earned the right to host the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. Its deepest tournament run under George came in 2017, when an MSU squad featuring four AVCA All-Americans made the Elite Eight.

On November 11, 2017, she notched her 251st win at Michigan State, becoming the winningest coach in school history. In her final season, the Spartans won at No. 7 Purdue as George recorded her 300th MSU victory.

The Spartan volleyball program experienced tremendous community support during George’s tenure. In each of her 17 seasons (outside of the COVID restrictions of Spring 2021) Michigan State ranked in the Top 25 in Division I attendance.

Prior to her arrival at Michigan State, George spent 11 years guiding the Western Michigan University program, where she compiled a 185-139 record. Taking over the reins at WMU prior to the 1994 season, George’s Broncos made back-to-back MAC Tournament title match appearances in 1999 and 2000, capturing the title in 2000. George was named the MAC Coach of the Year in 2000 after guiding the Broncos to the MAC title and NCAA Tournament.

From 1989-93, George was the head coach at Texas-Arlington and led UTA to the 1989 and 1990 NCAA Tournaments, with a school-record third-place national finish in 1989. With the Mavs, she became the first woman to coach in the NCAA Division I Final Four (1989) and earned Southland Conference Coach of the Year honors three times (1989, 1990, `92) as she posted a record of 93-74 in her five seasons. George’s teams won Southland Conference titles in 1989, 1990 and 1992.

George got her start as a collegiate coach at North Dakota State in 1987-88, leading the Bison to an 87-11 (.888) record in her two seasons. In 1987, NDSU posted a 44-8 mark en route to a fifth-place finish at the NCAA Division II Championships, and went 43-3 in 1988, finishing third. She was named North Central Conference and regional Coach of the Year in both 1987 and 1988, as well as garnering NCAA Division II National Coach of the Year honors in 1988.

A 1985 graduate of Illinois State and four-year letterwinner in the volleyball program, George helped the Redbirds win three consecutive Missouri Valley Conference titles and make three straight NCAA Tournament appearances. A team captain and crafty outside attacker, she was a three-time All-MVC selection who earned all-region honors.  She was inducted in the Illinois State Athletics Hall of Fame on October 26, 2019.

George, who earned her master’s degree in education from Central Michigan in 1987, resides in Okemos, with her husband Jerry. The couple has two sons: T.J. and Conner, who are both MSU graduates.

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