1:44 p.m., March 23, 2009----University of Delaware Director of Athletics Edgar N. Johnson, who led the Blue Hen athletics program to unprecedented success and through sweeping change during his 25-year tenure, has announced his retirement.
Johnson, 64, only the third person to hold the position at Delaware since 1940, made the announcement Monday at a meeting involving the Blue Hen coaching staff and athletics and recreation staff members. He will retire at the end of the academic year that concludes on June 30. A four-person selection committee has been formed and a national search for his successor is currently underway.
"Edgar Johnson's legacy will leave a profound mark on this University,” said UD President Patrick Harker. “His unwavering passion, dedication and support for UD has had a positive influence on the countless number of individuals who have participated in or were spectators of varsity sports, intramural teams, clubs and recreational programs throughout his tenure as director of athletics and recreation services.”
A native of Wilmington, Del. who earned his bachelor's degree in physical education in 1967 and his master's degree in education in 1969 from Delaware, Johnson also holds the title of associate professor and plans to serve as a faculty member in the UD sport management program beginning in September, 2010.
“It has been an honor to serve at my alma mater for the last 25 years,” said Johnson, who succeeded College Football Hall of Fame member David Nelson as director of athletics in September, 1984. “Every athletic director and coach wants to win more but I'm very proud of the success that we have had here, not only on the playing fields but in the classroom. I have been fortunate to have great support from the University throughout my time here and I leave confident in the fact that we have a superb staff that includes some of the most talented and energetic coaches in the country and a loyal and capable staff. The success of our student-athletes has always been a paramount. I have always found great pride in watching the growth of our student-athletes not only during their time here but in their future careers.”
Johnson, whose 25-year tenure is one of the nation's longest among NCAA Division I athletic directors, is only the third person to serve in the capacity at Delaware since 1940. Bill Murray, also a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, served in the capacity from 1940 until 1951 before Nelson served for 33 years from 1951 until 1984. Johnson's 25 years of service as director of athletics at one school is the second longest active tenure among Colonial Athletic Association-member directors of athletics behind only Old Dominion's Jim Jarrett, who is currently in his 38th year at the helm.
“Edgar is one of the most honorable men in our profession,” said long-time CAA Commissioner Tom Yeager. “He is a passionate friend, counselor, role model and consummate professional that has represented Delaware, the conference and the NCAA with tireless distinction throughout his career. His future students will learn from one of the best.”
During his tenure, Delaware has enjoyed unprecedented success on the playing fields, for graduation rates of student-athletes, and improvement of its athletic facilities, and has guided the movement of Blue Hen athletic teams from the East Coast Conference to the America East conference (then known as the North Atlantic Conference) in 1991-92 and a full move to its current home in the Colonial Athletic Association prior to the 2001-02 season. He also guided the football program into its first conference affiliation since 1970 with entry into the Yankee Conference in 1986 followed by its evolution to the Atlantic 10 Football Conference in 1997 and to the CAA in 2007.
Since 1984, Delaware teams have made 32 NCAA Tournament appearances, including an NCAA Division I-AA football national championship in 2003 and an NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision runner-up finish in 2007, and a first-ever trip to the NCAA Final Four in men's lacrosse during the 2007 season.
Blue Hen teams have also captured 83 conference regular season and tournament team titles during his tenure, as well as numerous conference individual champions, conference player and coach of the year awards, All-Americans and Academic All-Americans.
While members of the America East conference from 1991-2001, Delaware teams captured 10 straight Stuart Haskell Commissioner's Cup awards, signifying overall athletics excellence based on final league standings in all sports. While a member of the East Coast Conference, Delaware finished as runner-up for the Commissioner's Cup each of its final nine seasons in the conference. No Commissioner's Cup program currently exists in the CAA.
“It's a sad day for Delaware athletics,” said Delaware volleyball head coach Bonnie Kenny, who was hired by Johnson and has led the Blue Hens to consecutive CAA titles and NCAA Tournament berths in 2007 and 2008. “Edgar has given his heart and soul to the University of Delaware and to this department and I will always be appreciative of that. He hired me and supported our program and without that we would not have evolved the way we have. It is really hard to find people who have stayed at one place as a student, as a coach, and as an administrator like Edgar has. Everyone likes him and someone like that is hard to find these days.”
“Edgar has been a great friend and mentor to me and a great supporter of our program,” said Delaware football head coach K.C. Keeler, who has led the Blue Hens to a national championship and a national runner-up finish since being hired by Johnson prior to the 2002 season. “We will miss him but it is nice to know he will still be around. He is a great person and someone who has always had a steady hand and an open door policy with all of his staff. He had a lot of different things he had to deal with everyday but he never overreacted and has always had a calming way of handling situations.”
During his tenure, Johnson has overseen construction of the 5,000-seat multi-purpose home of the UD men's and women's basketball facility, the Bob Carpenter Center, the school's first artificial surface facility at Rullo Stadium, and extensive renovations of Delaware Stadium, Delaware Field House, and Carpenter Sports Building. Preliminary plans are also underway for the construction of a student-athlete performance center that will serve as the centerpiece of the south athletic campus and serve all University student-athletes, both academically and athletically.
Johnson, who took over the added responsibilities as director of recreation services at Delaware in 1999, has spent his entire adult life at the University of Delaware. A graduate of Salesianum High School in Wilmington, he arrived at Delaware as a student in 1962 and was a standout swimmer for long-time head coach Harry Rawstrom, serving as a team captain twice and setting nine school records, including marks in the 100- and 200-yard butterfly events.
He joined the Delaware staff in 1969 as assistant athletic trainer and assistant men's swimming coach. In 1971 he was named men's cross country coach and compiled a 70-44 record through the 1979 season. He also served as assistant track coach in 1975-79.
He found his greatest coaching success with the Blue Hen women's swimming team, serving as head coach of the Blue Hens in 1979-84. During his tenure, he compiled a remarkable record of 59-4 that included 42 consecutive dual meet wins -- a record that still stands as the longest winning streak by any team in Delaware athletics history. His 1980-81 and 1981-82 teams won EAIAW Division II eastern championships. His 1980-81 team placed ninth at nationals (AIAW), had six All-Americans, and established 46 school records. Three of his former swimmers have been inducted into the University of Delaware Athletics Hall of Fame, which he helped found in 1997.
In 1981 Johnson was named director of aquatics, serving as head men's and women's swimming coach as well as director of the UD indoor and outdoor pools. He succeeded Rawstrom as co-head coach of the UD men's program along with Peter Brown and guided the team to a 6-3 dual record in 1981-82. Brown served as head coach the following year before Johnson returned as head coach in 1983-84 and led the Blue Hens to a 6-4 record and a fourth place finish at the East Coast Conference championships in 1983-84. He stepped down as coach when he took over the director of athletics helm in 1984.
He has been active in several community organizations such as the Delaware Secondary Schools Athletic Association Swimming and Diving Committee, Delaware Special Olympics, American Red Cross, and the Newark American Little League.
He was the executive director of the Yankee (football) Conference in 1989 and vice president of the East Coast Conference in 1987-90. Additionally, Johnson was chair of the Atlantic 10 Football Executive Committee in 1997-98 and was the president of the CAA for the 2006-07 and 2007-08 academic years.
He is past chairman of the Eastern College Athletic Conference Eligibility Committee and was the chair of the DSSAA Task Force to Review Eligibility and Participation. He also is a past member of the NCAA Division I Management Council. In December, 1999, he received the All-American Football Foundation Gen. Robert R. Neyland Lifetime Achievement Award.
Johnson and his wife Karen live in Newark. They have two children and three grandchildren. Son, Chris, was a linebacker for the University of Delaware football team and is a 1995 Delaware graduate, and daughter, Sarah, is a 1998 Delaware graduate. Chris currently serves as assistant football coach at Milford (Del.) High School and led the team to the 2008 state title this past fall. Sarah is a middle school teacher in the Christina School District in Newark.