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Utah gymnastics coach Greg Marsden's stock answer to retirement questions has been that he couldn't retire because he didn't know what he'd do.
He'd better find a new hobby or two. Marsden, 64, University of Utah coach for the past 40 years, is set to announce his retirement at a news conference at the Huntsman Center at 3 p.m. Tuesday.
Marsden's wife, Megan, who was appointed co-coach six years ago, will remain as the Utes' co-coach along with assistant Tom Farden, who has been with the program for the past five years.
Rumors have swirled in recent years that Marsden might soon step down. Leaving the program in the hands of his wife and Farden made him comfortable doing so.
"There is no one reason I chose to leave now," he said in a statement. "It just felt right. I still love coming to the gym every day and working with these elite student athletes, coaches and staff, but I feel the other elements of the job are best suited for someone younger. I have been incredibly fortunate to spend my entire career here at Utah and to receive support unprecedented anywhere in the country from our administration and our amazing fans."
Utah athletic director Chris Hill believes the legacy his coach is leaving behind is in good shape.
"The only way to place a positive spin on Greg Marsden's retirement is that he is leaving the program in the very capable hands of Megan [Marsden] and Tom Farden," Hill said. "Megan and Tom are as invested in and passionate about Utah gymnastics as Greg is and they are proven coaches in their own right."
Still, there was and will always be only one Greg Marsden, who was saddled with the task of starting a gymnastics program in 1976 when the school needed to do so to meet Title IX requirements.
Under him, the Utah program grew into a juggernaut, winning 10 national titles (1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1990, 1992, 1994, 1995) and placing in the top three 23 times including a second place finish on Saturday at the NCAA championships in Fort Worth, Texas.
Marsden is the winningest coach in college gymnastics history with a 1,048-208-8 record.
Utah is the only program to qualify for all 34 NCAA Championships.
His gymnasts have earned 367 All-America awards and won 25 national championships, including Georgia Dabritz who won the national uneven bars title on Sunday.
Missy Marlowe, who became the only gymnast to be named the top collegiate athlete when she won the Honda Broderick Cup in 1992, credited Marsden with much of her success.
"I trusted Greg with everything I had, that if I did my job as his athlete he would do anything in return for me," she said. "He was the stabilizing force of my career after the chaos of the Olympics and he paved the way for [every] success and joy I dreamed up. He is truly irreplaceable."
Marsden's announcement caused shockwaves throughout the collegiate gymnastics world.
UCLA coach Valorie Kondos Field let out a string of stunned expletives upon hearing that her rival was stepping down.
"I feel like all the air just left my body," she said. "The wind is knocked out of me. He is so important to our sport; he has been like the stalwart lion doing great things for our sport. Everybody will agree he has pissed off more people than he made friends with, but his passion and vision for collegiate gymnastics is unmatchable. He is without a peer in that."
Nebraska coach Dan Kendig was just as shocked.
"What the heck happened?" he said. "He is supposed to be like Paul Bear Bryant and be there forever. What he has done in starting that program then bringing it up in the ranks of success and in attendance is as great a success story as any there is. He has meant more to gymnastics than anyone will ever give him credit for. He'll be missed certainly by everyone in Salt Lake City, but also all over the country."
Marsden is a seven-time national coach of the year, but as successful as he was in his coaching, he might be more remembered for turning women's gymnastics into a growing spectator sport through smart marketing.
He made sure his gymnasts were accessible to fans and worked hard to run quick, efficient meets that were fan friendly with glitzy intros and creative promotions.
Fans responded, with the Utes averaging more than 11,000 fans per home meet since 1990 and more than 14,000 fans over the last six seasons.
Marsden didn't always make friends: he pushed judges and fellow coaches in his efforts to make the sport better, as he cared more about the sport's success than political correctness. But ultimately the sport grew because of his influence, his fellow coaches said.
Florida coach Rhonda Faehn recalled being coached by Marsden during the 1987 Pan Am Games and World Championships and credited Marsden with helping her career as a competitor and coach.
"I just kept watching and learning everything I could from him," she said. "He has meant so many things for collegiate gymnastics. I can't put into words what he has meant to the sport. His passion is unmatched and I really think he is the incredible brainchild behind promoting our sport. It's a sad day, a really sad day."