Gophers finish second at Gainesville Regional to earn first trip to nationals since 2002.
While Jim Stephenson is certainly not new to Minnesota gymnastics, he began serving in a new role two years ago. After 17 years as a head coach with the Golden Gopher program, Jim became a volunteer assistant coach prior to the 2010 season.
During his 17 years at the helm of the Minnesota program, Stephenson experienced many successes. The coaching strengths of the Stephenson duo were evident in their athlete's performances in 2002 when Minnesota achieved its highest national finish (9th) in the history of the program. Minnesota's tandem received Big Ten Coach of the Year honors twice (1998, 2002), as well as Regional Coach of the Year honors in 2002.
The co-head coaches led the Golden Gophers to NCAA regional competition in each of the past 14 seasons, capturing top-10 finishes at the NCAA Championships twice (1997, 2002). In their 17-year tenure at Minnesota, the Stephensons have led the Gophers to top-25 national finishes 10 times. The Gophers' final 2008 ranking of No. 16 tied for the third-best national finish in team history.
The Golden Gophers won two Big Ten Championships in the Stephenson era, in 1998 and 2006. Jim earned a 232-218-1 record in his 17 years as a head coach at Minnesota.
In addition to the two Big Ten Coach of the Year honors he shared with Meg Stephenson, Jim was also honored as the league's coach of the year in 1997 and 1995.
The Stephensons have worked to increase meet attendance at the Sports Pavilion and to uphold and better the University of Minnesota's gymnastics reputation locally and nationally. Minnesota has ranked among the top 20 nationally in average home attendance in each of the last 15 seasons, ranking as high as ninth in the country in 2000. In 2010, the Gophers drew 3,472 to the Best of Minnesota meet, marking the third-biggest crowd of all time, and the best crowd at a regular-season competition. In 2008, Minnesota added two meets to the top 10 list in the school's attendance records. With 3,571 fans at the 2008 NCAA Regional Championship, Minnesota set a new Sports Pavilion attendance record. The 2008 Best of Minnesota meet drew a crowd of 2,685 to tie for the 10th-biggest attendance in program history.
Jim Stephenson knows all about coaching a team to national success. Before coming to Minnesota, Stephenson spent four years at the University of Utah as the first assistant coach. He helped coach the women's program to national titles in 1990 and 1992.
Before going to Utah, Stephenson was an assistant men's coach at the University of New Mexico. There he coached NCAA vault champion Chad Fox and NCAA rings champion Paul O'Neill.
From 1982-87, Jim and Meg Stephenson owned and coached at the Pantheon School of Gymnastics in Rancho Cordova, Calif., where they produced 98 individual state champions, two national Junior Olympic champions and seven state team champions.
Outside of coaching, Stephenson has an accomplished history on the collegiate competitive level as well. Stephenson was a member of Iowa State's NCAA championship teams in 1971 and 1973, and earned All-America honors in 1973.
Stephenson and his teammates were honored by Iowa State in December 2006 for their accomplishments, and are now recognized with national championship banners in ISU's home arena. Prior to college, he won Southern California High School all-around titles in 1967 and 1969.
Stephenson competed internationally in the 1974 World University Games in Moscow and represented the United States in the 1974 South African World Cup.
In addition to his coaching success, Stephenson is an accomplished artist and has worked as a technical illustrator for numerous U.S. Sports Federations. He has also sculpted various bronze pieces for both public sites, including Oregon State University and the University of Georgia, as well as several private collections. Last year, Stephenson worked with Dr. Gerald George on the book "Championship Gymnastics: Biomechanical Techniques for Shaping Winners". Stephenson provided all the illustrations for the project.
Born in Ann Arbor, Mich., and moving to San Diego at age 10, Stephenson graduated from Iowa State in 1973 with a bachelor's degree in physical education.