James E. Longnecker

The coach with more wins than any other in the history of Grove City College athletics concluded his 40-year coaching career in 1997. Coach Longnecker accumulated a three-sport collegiate record of 687 wins, 177 losses and one tie -- an amazing .795 winning percentage.

Longnecker is best remembered for his 40-year record as head coach of the men’s swimming and diving team. 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.

In 1977, he was named “Master Coach” by the American College Coaches Association, and in 1987 he received the organization’s “Distinguished Coach” award -- both honors in recognition of his outstanding contributions in the field of swimming and diving. He coached 44 NCAA All-Americans and three national diving champions. He guided Grove City to six undefeated seasons as head coach.

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 ninth in the nation. 

This three-sport mentor also directed the men’s track and field teams for 40 years, accumulating a career record of 224-53-1 (.808). Grove City posted 13 undefeated seasons during his career. His teams captured seven Presidents’ Athletic Conference track titles after Grove City 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 WPIAC titles, won one Penn-Ohio Conference championship, produced one All-American, and advanced to nationals twice. His teams amassed a 97-31 (.758) record, including one undefeated season.

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.