Dave Jennings is taking a deep breath and getting out of the pool at Miami University.
Jennings has spent the last 31 seasons as the women’s swimming and diving coach at MU, but he’s retiring at the end of June after collecting 16 Mid-American Conference championships and 265 dual-meet victories.
“I’ll probably be a little emotional those last couple days because this is kind of where I’ve lived for a long time,” Jennings said. “I’ve been very fortunate most of the time to jump out of bed and be pretty excited about going to work. But I’m also ready to move on and see what happens.”
The 57-year-old Jennings, originally from Lexington, Ohio, spent four years coaching at the high school level (Coshocton and Upper Arlington) before starting his Miami career in the 1982-83 school year.
He transitioned from Billings Natatorium to the Miami Recreation Center during his tenure. Jennings is also going out with a splash, having directed the RedHawks to the MAC title this season.
The 2013 crown exemplified the kind of deep team Jennings always strove to have. MU made MAC history by capturing the championship without winning a single event.
“There’s been many, many years of great memories, but this has also been a special year,” said Jennings, who attended Youngstown State for a year and got a physical education degree from Ashland College in 1978. “We had a group of seniors that were just unbelievable. We had very minimal drama. It was a really fun year to coach.
“I always wanted to make sure we had a competitive team in the water, a team that could challenge for a championship. For the most part, I feel we’ve been able to do that.”
Among his career highlights:
• Kelsey Vehr finishing seventh in the nation in the 100-yard breaststroke in 2010.
• Winning the 1998 MAC championship while his father, Bob, was dying of cancer.
• Having six RedHawks at the 2012 Olympic Trials.
Jennings said he’ll miss a lot of people at Miami, but added, “I’m not dying. I’ll be around.” He and his wife, Kathy, plan to stay in Oxford.
“I’d like to do a little traveling. It’ll be kind of nice to introduce myself to my wife again — that or I’ll drive her crazy,” Jennings said. “I’d like to get involved a little bit with the community and experience some of the other things in a university setting beyond swimming.”
He may be back to watch some Miami meets in the future, but not right away. The winningest single-sport coach in MU history doesn’t want to cast a shadow over the program.
“In all fairness to whoever the new coach is, I think that coach needs to develop his or her philosophy and direction,” Jennings said. “I’ll be watching from afar. But when it’s time to go, it’s time to go.”