College mourns passing of legendary coach

Legendary Grove City College coach and faculty member Jim Longnecker passed away Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017 at the age of 84 after an extended illness.

A “player’s coach” long before the term became part of the sports vernacular, Longnecker’s knowledge, enthusiasm and positive attitude energized the programs under his guidance. A Memorial Service is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Sun., Sept. 24, in Harbison Chapel on campus. A reception will follow in Rathburn Hall. 

Longnecker spent 40 seasons as Grove City College’s head men’s swimming and diving coach from 1957 to 1997. He guided the College to 40 consecutive winning seasons, including six undefeated campaigns. 

With a 366-93 (.797) record at retirement, he stood as the winningest active swim coach in NCAA Division III and among the top five in all NCAA classifications.

Longnecker coached 44 NCAA All-Americans and three NCAA Division III champions in diving. Grove City College won seven Penn-Ohio championships and eight Presidents’ Athletic Conference titles under Longnecker.

The American College Coaches Association honored him as “Master Coach” in 1977. Ten years later, that organization presented him with its “Distinguished Coach” award in recognition of his outstanding contributions in the field of swimming and diving.

Longnecker proposed, organized and hosted the inaugural NCAA College Division Swimming and Diving Championships in 1964 at Grove City College. Nine Wolverines earned All-America status at this inaugural meet, placing Grove City ninth in the team standings.

Longnecker directed the men’s track and field teams for 40 years, accumulating a career record of 224-53-1 (.808). Grove City College posted 13 undefeated seasons during his career. His teams captured seven Presidents’ Athletic Conference track titles after the College joined the league in 1984. Three field men achieved NCAA All-America status.

In 12 seasons as cross country coach (1960-1971), his runners posted five Western Pennsylvania Intercollegiate Athletic Conference titles, won one Penn-Ohio Conference championship, produced the program’s first NCAA All-American, and qualified for the NCAA College Division Championships twice. 

His teams amassed a 97-31 (.758) record, including one undefeated season. Overall, Longnecker compiled a 687-177-1 (.795) mark as a head coach at the College.

In 2009, Grove City College renamed its competition pool in Longnecker’s honor. In 2007, the College inducted him into its Athletic Hall of Fame as part of the inaugural class of honorees.

Born September 18, 1932, Longnecker grew up in Dayton, Ohio. A 1954 graduate of Bowling Green State University, he served in the U.S. Air Force from 1954 to 1956 and received his Master of Education from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

Longnecker’s coaching career began as the freshman swimming coach and varsity assistant at Miami in 1955.

Expressions of sympathy may be sent to the Office of Alumni and College Relations via mail at 100 Campus Drive, Grove City, PA 16127 or via email at Memorials gifts may be directed to or to the James E. Longnecker Endowment Scholarship Fund at Grove City College, 100 Campus Drive, Grove City, PA 16127.

College mourns passing of legendary coach

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