Track and Field
NOTE: This story was updated May 27.
Joe Piane, the head coach of the men’s cross country team and the men’s and women’s indoor and outdoor track and field programs, will retire June 30, Notre Dame announced in a May 20 press release.
The Irish finish their season at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, which conclude June 14.
Notre Dame Director of Athletics Jack Swarbrick told The Observer that Piane notified Swarbrick of his retirement “two or three weeks ago.”
Piane, who was named head track and cross country coach in 1975, is the longest active tenured coach at Notre Dame. His 39 seasons in South Bend are the second-most of any coach in Irish athletics history, behind only former baseball coach Jake Kline (42 seasons, 1934-75).
Swarbrick said Piane’s impact could best be seen in many student-athletes he coached during his nearly four decades at the University.
“It’s the number of people he touched, so many student-athletes have been through his program in 39 years and have been impacted by Joe,” Swarbrick said. “While the on-the-track and on-the-cross-country-course successes are a big part of that legacy, the much bigger part is just the student-athletes that have benefitted from his tutelage.
“We had a reunion earlier this year, and you really got to see the impact of that, with all the people from decades who came back for that night or that weekend to spend time with Joe and the team.”
Piane was named the NCAA Division I National Cross Country Coach of the Year in 1987 and 2001. The men’s cross country team reached the NCAA Championships in 23 of the past 30 years, headlined by third-place finishes in 1990 and 2005.
During their time in the Big East (1996-2013), the Irish won 18 conference track titles, with the men claiming 13 and the women earning five.
Between men’s cross country and track and field, Piane has coached 189 All-Americans. Twelve Notre Dame athletes earned All-American honors at the NCAA Indoor Championships in March.
Piane ran track and cross country for four years at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, and graduated in 1969. He coached track and field and cross country in Morocco in 1970 and returned to the United State in 1972, when he served as an assistant coach at Western Illinois.
Piane moved to Notre Dame in 1974, serving as an assistant track coach and physical education instructor for one year.
Swarbrick said he has begun the process of finding a replacement, with the hope of selecting a coach sometime early in the summer.
“Each of these processes has its own rhythm and its own timetable, but we certainly want a new coach selected and in place well before we head into the new school year,” he said.
While Piane served as both the cross country and track and field coach, it is not known whether his replacement will take on the dual roles, Swarbrick said.
“Well, typically the coach that you hire will have their own views about how to structure that, their own strengths and weaknesses, their own staff, so it’s a cooperative process,” he said. “It is a part dependent on who you wind up selecting.”
Swarbrick also said the athletic department is “focused on trying to add some facilities and capability to the [Notre Dame Outdoor Track],” a project that has been in the works for some time.
“At a minimum, you need some administration space, some team space, locker rooms, restrooms, all the things that make it possible to do events there,” Swarbrick said.
Swarbrick, however, said there is no timeframe for the completion of the track upgrades, as the project is dependent on funding.
“All of those projects depend on being able to find the financing to do it,” he said. “We haven’t been able to yet, but we continue to work on it.”