EAST LANSING, Mich. – The all-time winning coach in Michigan volleyball history, Cathy George announced her retirement, putting a limit on an outstanding career that spanned 35 seasons, the last 17 of which was at Michigan State, and included a groundbreaking moment. A nationwide search is underway for the next coach of the program.
The first woman to lead a team to the 1989 NCAA Division I Final Four as head coach, George racked up a score of 667-457 in 35 seasons, including a score of 302-233 in 17 years at Michigan State. In a career that included stops at four different schools, she compiled a remarkable list of achievements. She led her team to the NCAA tournament 15 times, including 10 times on the Spartan bench. The 10 tournaments include three trips to the Sweet 16 and an Elite Eight appearance.
“My time in Michigan State has been an amazing experience,” said George. “This is our home – the place where we raised our family – both home and our volleyball family. Our success over the years has always been the byproduct of incredible contributions from so many different people. Coaches, support staff, administrators and the local community all worked together for the best interests of Spartan volleyball. And most of all, our amazing student athletes gave us everything they had, while achieving so much on the field, in the classroom and in the community. They represented Michigan State with class, and the was an honor to be their coach.
“The decision to retire as head coach after 35 seasons, including the last 17 at Michigan State, is an incredibly emotional one. Coaching is an extremely rewarding profession, it’s amazing to see student athletes develop and excel above their peers. own expectations.But coaching is a demanding profession that requires an incredible amount of energy and focus.As I went through some self-evaluation this off-season, I realized I had to do what was best for my family and for the program.
“Although my time as head coach is over, I will forever be a Spartan,” continued George. “And I can leave smiling because I know the future is bright for volleyball in Michigan. I believe in the return of the team and I believe in the recruits. When I look to the future, Alan Haller is an athletic director who understands what it takes for Spartan volleyball to be successful nationally. I wish I had the energy to carry on because I know great things are on the horizon under his watch. The next coach gets all the support needed to make Spartan volleyball a national power.
“Individually, George’s student athletes have excelled on the field and in the classroom. In her career, she has coached 26 AVCA (American Volleyball Coaches Association) All-Americans. At MSU, she led 23 AVCA All-Region and 25 All-Big Ten selections. Academically, her student athletes have earned 109 Academic All-Big Ten awards, 37 Big Ten Distinguished Scholars awards, and seven Academic All-America awards.
“Today is a day to celebrate Cathy George and everything she’s accomplished in her storied career,” said Michigan State Vice President and Director of Athletics Alan Haller. “We are so grateful for all she gave not only to Michigan State Athletics, but to volleyball and women’s sports in general. She pioneered as the first woman to coach in the Final Four, and continued to lead by example. to head coaches in the Big Ten and nationally throughout her career. She, along with her husband Jerry, and sons TJ and Conner, have been wonderful members of our Spartan family, and we all wish her the best of luck in her retirement.”
George’s first season on the Spartan bench came in 2005, winning six of her first seven games. 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 kicked off a run of seven consecutive NCAA tournaments, marking the second longest run in school history. The Spartans won at least one game in a school-best seven consecutive NCAA tournaments. MSU was one of only three Big Ten schools to finish .500 or better each year in conference play during that seven-year span, while also winning at least 19 games each 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 again won 25 games and earned the right to the first two rounds of the NCAA -tournament. His deepest tournament run under George came in 2017, when an MSU squad that included four AVCA All-Americans made the Elite Eight.
On November 11, 2017, she earned her 251st Michigan State victory, becoming the most winning coach in school history. In her final season, the Spartans won at No. 7 Purdue while George recorded her 300th MSU win.
The Spartan volleyball program experienced tremendous community support during George’s tenure. In each of her 17 seasons (outside of the Spring 2021 COVID restrictions), Michigan State has been in the Top 25 in Division I attendance.
Prior to her arrival at Michigan State, George spent 11 years leading the Western Michigan University program, where she compiled a record of 185-139. Prior to the 1994 season, George’s Broncos took over the reins at WMU, making back-to-back MAC Tournament title match appearances in 1999 and 2000 and capturing the title in 2000. George was named MAC Coach of the Year in 2000 after lead the Broncos to the MAC title and NCAA Tournament.
From 1989-93, George was the head coach of Texas-Arlington and led UTA to the 1989 and 1990 NCAA tournaments, setting a school record of finishing third at the national finish in 1989. With the Mavs, she became the first woman to coach in the NCAA Division I Final Four (1989) and won the Southland Conference Coach of the Year three times (1989, 1990, ’92) when she set 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 with North Dakota State in 1987-88, leading the Bison to a record 87-11 (.888) in her two seasons. In 1987, NDSU posted a score of 44-8 en route to fifth place in the NCAA Division II Championships, going 43-3 in 1988, finishing third. She was named North Central Conference and Regional Coach of the Year in both 1987 and 1988, and also received NCAA Division II National Coach of the Year honors in 1988.
An Illinois state graduate in 1985 and a four-year letter winner in the volleyball program, George helped the Redbirds win three consecutive Missouri Valley Conference titles and make three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. As a team captain and cunning striker from the outside, she was a three-time All-MVC roster who earned all region honors. She was inducted into the Illinois State Athletics Hall of Fame on October 26, 2019.
George, who received her master’s degree in education in Central Michigan in 1987, lives in Okemos with her husband Jerry. The couple have two sons: TJ and Conner, both graduates of MSU.