Kauffman announces plans to retire
To step down after 42nd season of service at Elizabethtown
ELIZABETHTOWN, Pa. -- Coaches are continually building programs from obscurity to contender, but few get to stamp their mark on the rise of an athletic department. Forty-second-year women's basketball head coach, and associate director of athletics, Yvonne Kauffman is one of those few. Kauffman has served Elizabethtown College for over five decades, as coach, educator and administrator. Thursday morning she announced what many close to her have known, that she plans to retire following the 2011-12 academic year.
Those who have followed Elizabethtown Athletics can point to over 1,130 career wins divided amongst women's basketball, field hockey and women's tennis as a definer of Kauffman's career. Or they can single out NCAA Division III Women's Basketball National Championships in 1982 and 1989. All accomplishments hold their own special place, says Kauffman, but it's been about much more than that.
“Every year was special. All the trips, all the student-athletes that I had a chance to teach or coach, kids telling me that if it weren't for me [recruiting them] they may not have gone to college,” reflected Kauffman. “Those things really stuck with me through the years.”
After attending nearby Manheim Central High School, Kauffman headed south to Virginia, where she did her undergraduate studies at Bridgewater College. She credits one of her mentors, Allegra Hess, as being the one to push her in that direction. “I knew I wanted to be a physical education teacher from about sixth grade on,” noted Kauffman. “Allegra was my field hockey coach at MCHS and I looked up to her. I ended up going to Bridgewater like she had, and she came here [to Elizabethtown College] to coach the women's basketball team following my senior year.”
Kauffman played all three sports she would coach at Elizabethtown under Laura Mapp at Bridgewater. She arrived back in Central Pennsylvania following her graduation in 1966 and immediately began teaching physical education classes at E-town that fall. A year later, Kauffman took the reins of the field hockey program. In 1970 she began coaching both the women's basketball and tennis teams.
Success quickly followed the standout athlete. Kauffman compiled 346 victories with the hockey team, including three Middle Atlantic Conference Championships (1975, 1978 and 1987), seven NCAA tournament appearances and trips to the AIAW Final Four (1980) and NCAA Division III Final Four (1981). She spent 33 seasons with the field hockey team before stepping aside following the 2000 season, in which she was also named Commonwealth Coach of the Year.
In her 14 years as the tennis coach the Blue Jays turned in four unbeaten seasons and were MAC Runners-Up in 1983. Beckie Donecker '82 won an NCAA Division III Singles National Championship under the tutelage of Kauffman during her senior year and teamed with Jen Haifley '81 to win an AIAW Doubles title in 1981.
Each of her teams and many of those individuals whose lives she has had the chance to impact all resonate with Kauffman, but her coaching legacy was unquestionably laid while commanding the sideline at Thompson Gymnasium as leader of the women's basketball program.
Entering the 2011-12 season, Kauffman was 27 wins shy of 700 all-time. That number has decreased to 23 following her team's 4-3 start. The longest tenured coach in E-town history, Kauffman ranks 18th amongst NCAA coaches in wins with 677, regardless of division, and 12th amongst active coaches. When it comes to her Division III colleagues, Kauffman is second amongst active coaches in wins and third all-time.
The Blue and Gray captured its first MAC Championship in women's basketball in 1976, Kauffman's sixth season on the job. E-town would repeat the feat five more times (1981, 1986, 1988, 1989 and 1998), while also taking the Commonwealth Conference Championship in 2001.
Elizabethtown had been a player on the national AIAW scene, qualifying for three tournaments and reaching the championship in 1980-81. Following that season there was a choice to be made. Would Elizabethtown continue to compete under the AIAW banner, or would it opt to join the NCAA, which was now sponsoring women’s national championships? The Blue Jays went the NCAA route, and the goal was clear. “We wanted to win it all, nothing else,” recalls Kauffman. Twenty-six wins later (26-1) the Blue Jays did just that, taking the 1982 NCAA Division III National Championship on their home court, 67-66, against UNC-Greensboro.
Kauffman led Elizabethtown to national runner-up finishes in 1983 and 1984, before her 1988-89 Blue Jays capped a decade of unparalleled success for the program with its second NCAA Division III Championship in 1989. From 1979-89, Elizabethtown recorded an astounding 237-39 record, which included nine seasons of 20 wins or more, two national titles, five MAC Championships and seven NCAA tournament appearances.
All 22 1,000-point scorers in E-town women's basketball history were coached by Kauffman, as were seven All-Americans. Coaching honors have poured in from organizations throughout the years, but Kauffman noted that a few stand out above the rest. She was one of 13 individuals to receive a Centennial Award from Elizabethtown College, cementing her influential status on the institution. Kauffman also received the George W. Kirchner Memorial Award following the 1996-97 season. Kauffman was just the second woman to have the award, given annually by the Lancaster County Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association, bestowed upon her.
“There are no words to adequately describe the impact Yonnie Kauffman has had on Blue Jay Athletics and Elizabethtown College over the past 45 years,” said director of athletics Nancy Latimore. “While her record of achievement speaks volumes by itself, Yonnie has also contributed to the athletics program and College in countless other important ways throughout her tenure. Few people work as hard as Yonnie behind the scenes.”
Kauffman was inducted into Bridgewater's Athletic Hall of Fame in 1997 and a few years later Manheim Central inducted her into its Hall of Fame as well.
“Most of us in intercollegiate athletics have never known Elizabethtown College and Blue Jay Athletics without Yonnie Kauffman,” added Latimore. “There will be quite a void left, no question.”
“I'm so grateful for all those people I've gotten to coach or teach,” said Kauffman. “The time we had together, the bonding, the camaraderie. The trips we took and getting to see student-athletes blossom and grow right before my eyes, that's what I look back on and cherish most.”