Yoculan to retire after 2008-09

ATHENS - University of Georgia gymnastics coach Suzanne Yoculan, who has led the Gym Dogs to eight NCAA national championships, will retire from her head coaching position following the 2008-09 season according to an announcement Wednesday by UGA Director of Athletics Damon Evans. Long time UGA assistant coach Jay Clark will succeed Yoculan according to Evans.

"Suzanne has done a remarkable job in her 25 years at UGA," said Evans. "She has built the Georgia program into the most successful in the country. She's been relentless in her quest to be the best every year and has brought to Georgia an enviable record of national and SEC titles, national champion gymnasts, and graduation rates. And there's certainly reason to believe she will add to that legacy in her final two years.

"At the same time, we're excited about Jay taking over the program. He's been an integral part of the program that has been built and is the perfect fit to continue that tradition of excellence for many years to come. We're fortunate to have Jay and I'm sure the coaching transition will be a seamless one."

In 24 years at Georgia, Yoculan has led the Gym Dogs to eight NCAA titles, including three straight from 2005-07. She also has coached 15 Southeastern Conference Championship teams and 19 NCAA Regional Championship teams in her tenure. In fact, in 17 of her 24 years at Georgia she has led her team to either an SEC title, an NCAA title or both, and she has won at least an SEC, Regional or NCAA title in each of her 24 years.

"Twenty-five years ago, associate athletic director for women's sports Liz Murphey gave me, an inexperienced but enthusiastic coach, an opportunity to fulfill my dream," said Yoculan. "This program has come a long way since then as have I, but I'm just as passionate about what I do today and still love coaching. The girls past and present and the experiences I've shared with them are what have made me who I am today.

"And what could be a better way to step down, with the program in a position to maintain its level of excellence. We have a brand new gym, our recruiting is up and Athletic Director Damon Evans and the Athletic Association are behind us all the way, so I know the foundation is set for future success."

Clark has been part of the Gym Dog program for 16 seasons, including spending the last three with the title of Associate Head Coach. He received the nation's top award for a gymnastics assistant two seasons ago being named the 2006 National Assistant Coach of the Year. He has been instrumental in Georgia's acquisition of top notch talent that has led to six national titles since he first joined the staff in 1990.

"I am incredibly humbled and grateful to have this opportunity ahead of me," said Clark. "I realize the expectations that go with this program and will do my best to ensure that those standards continue to be achieved. I want to thank Suzanne for believing in me 17 years ago and continuing to believe in me as she has seen me grow over the years. It is a daunting task to follow such a legendary record, and I'm grateful for her unwavering support. I would also like to thank Damon Evans and in particular Dr. Carla Williams. I am appreciative of their trust and belief in me as well."

Six times Yoculan has been named the SEC Coach of the Year while also being tabbed as National Coach of the Year four times, the last award coming in 2006 after an undefeated 36-0 season and SEC, Regional and NCAA titles.

Since the current championship format was implemented in 1993, no team other than Yoculan's Gym Dogs have advanced to the Super Six in every year. Additionally, Yoculan-coached teams have placed in the nation's top 3 in 19 of the last 21 years.

While teams have flourished under her tutelage, individuals have as well. Georgia gymnasts have combined to earn 31 NCAA Individual NCAA Championships under Yoculan – more than any other school in the nation – while 55 Gym Dogs now have earned a total of 282 All-America honors.

Among the classes Clark is credited with recruiting are the classes of 1998 and 1999, which consisted of All-Americans Kim Arnold, Julie Ballard, Jenni Beathard, Karin Lichey, Sam Muhleman and Canadian National Team member Stacey Galloway. Those two recruiting classes are regarded as the "two best recruiting classes ever in the history of Georgia gymnastics and possibly in all of collegiate gymnastics" by Yoculan.

Arnold, Beathard, Lichey and Muhleman were former U.S. National Team members. Also due in large part to his efforts, Georgia signed the No. 1 recruits in 1993 (Leslie Angeles), 1994 (Arnold) and 1995 (Amanda Borden). The Gym Dogs' roster currently includes two former Olympic medalists in Kupets and sophomore Courtney McCool.

"The consistency in our coaching staff has been a critical part of our success, and Doug McAvinn and I have been grooming Jay for this position for many years now," said Yoculan. "He has a passion for this sport and the program, he bleeds red and black, and he knows what it takes to win. He has been a part of our winning tradition and understands the things we have had to do to stay on top. I see this being a perfect transition as he takes over as head coach."

Clark also has been a key factor of the Gym Dogs' success on the uneven bars. In the past two seasons alone, he has led Georgia gymnasts to nine All-America certificates on the bars. In all, there have been a total of 44 All-America certificates earned under Clark's direction on bars. He also has coached five NCAA Champions on the event, most recently Courtney Kupets in 2006.

Clark also coached 13 years at the club level, where his gymnasts from Classic City Gymnastics were regular qualifiers for and winners of regional and national championships at USA Gymnastics Levels 8, 9 and 10. He was named the 2001 USA Gymnastics Georgia Coach of the Year. He is also a member of the National Women's Collegiate Program Committee, which makes recommendations for the rules that govern college gymnastics.

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