SALT LAKE CITY — Words were uttered today by the University of Utah that many thought never would come. Gymnastics co-head coach Greg Marsden, 64, announced his retirement from coaching after a 40-year run.

“My first reaction is that I’m sad,” said former Utah great Missy Marlowe. “I heard him joke just this year ‘Why do people keep asking me when I’m retiring? I’ll retire when I’m dead.’ I really thought for sure we’d have a couple more years with him leading the program. He fought for everything for this program.”

Marsden has been with Utah gymnastics since its inception, and the program celebrated its 40th year this season with an alumni reunion that several of his former gymnasts attended. Over the past couple of years during interviews, he's reflected several times on his career to discuss 40 years and 1,000 wins. He stressed over and over that what was most important to him were the experiences with his gymnasts and coaches — more so than any accolades.

Marsden will retire as the winningest coach in NCAA gymnastics history with a 1,048-208-8 record. Marsden’s teams have qualified for every national championship under his reign and have recorded 10 titles, which ties Georgia for the most ever.

Marsden’s final season included several highlights. The Red Rocks repeated as Pac-12 champions and finished second at the NCAA championships last weekend. Senior Georgia Dabritz won the NCAA bars title as well as the AAI, the award for the nation's top senior gymnast.

“I told Chris Hill, Megan (Marsen) and Tom Farden before the season began of my plans to retire at the end of the season,” said Marsden. “I asked them not to say anything because this program is not about me, it’s about our incredible student-athletes, and I wanted all the attention focused on them. We’ve actually been preparing for this transition for the past few years and I feel really secure in leaving this program, which has been my life for 40 years, in the hands of Megan and Tom. There is no one reason I chose to leave now. 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. I am especially grateful to Megan, my wife and partner, and to Chris Hill, my friend and mentor.”

Word of Marsden’s retirement surprised many. Longtime UCLA coach and Marsden friend Valorie Kondos Field posted a picture of herself wearing Marsden’s 1,000-win celebration shirt — which features him sporting the famous Marsden mustache — on Twitter with the following tweet, “What do you mean you’re retiring? We were supposed to ride into the sunset together Marz!!!”

“You think about something a lot, and then it finally happens,” said Kondos Field. “It’s not shocking that Marz is retiring, but it’s shocking to think about gymnastics without him. He’s the grand poobah who started it all.”

Kondos Field said Marsden had a vision 40 years ago for gymnastics that none of the others saw. The vision included, among other things, building fan bases by marketing the sport and recruiting the best athletes.

“It is remarkable to maintain the level of the program he did getting athletes to the championships 40 years in a row,” said Kondos Field. “He won 10 national titles and it drives me crazy when people don’t say that just because it’s not the same championships as it was 40 years ago.”

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Marsden’s first championship came under the AIAW in 1981 while the other nine were under the NCAA.

Megan Marsden will maintain her role as co-head coach. She was an assistant for 25 years before her new role six years ago. Farden has been an assistant for the past five years, and was head coach at Southeast Missouri State before that.

“That’s a big secret to keep all year,” said Marlowe, a five-time NCAA champion under Marsden. “Though I am truly surprised, the good part is that the program is in great hands. Megan has grown into a head coach, showing her leadership and taking over various things. And Tom has done a great job as well. ”

Utah will host a press conference Tuesday to announce the retirement and new co-head coaching team.

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