LSU gymnastics coach D-D Breaux retires after 43 years

D-D Breaux, who oversaw LSU gymnastics for 43 years and twice won National Coach of the Year honors, retired on Tuesday as the longest-tenured coach of any sport in SEC history.

In a letter posted to the school's website, Breaux said she would stay on in the athletic department as an ambassador. Jay Clark, who was named co-head coach in 2019, will take over sole leadership of the program.

Breaux, who was inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in 2017, took over a struggling LSU gymnastics program in 1977 as a graduate student and promptly went 9-1 the following season.

Regarded as the dean of SEC coaches, Breaux led LSU to 35 consecutive NCAA regional appearances, 15 individual national titles and four SEC championships, including back-to-back-to-back titles from 2017-19. The athletes she trained produced 260 All-America honors and seven SEC Gymnast of the Year awards.

She leaves her post with an overall record of 802-425-7.

In her farewell letter, Breaux cited the coronavirus pandemic and the need it's created for change as part of the reason for her stepping aside at this time.

"I have always told myself that I would know when it is time to make this most difficult decision," Breaux said in her farewell letter. "The gymnastics program was not built easily or without moments that jeopardized its very existence but each challenge was met with determination and enthusiasm. The program is in the most secure and positive position it has been in since its inception. Transition is difficult, but it is made much easier when you are confident that it is being left much better than it was found. I am confident that as great as it is now, it is destined for greater heights. LSU Gymnastics is one of the best and most powerful programs in the country with, most importantly, the most incredible fan support."

In a statement, Clark called Breaux's departure a "bittersweet time in the history of LSU gymnastics."

"D-D stepping down marks the end of one of the most storied and decorated careers in LSU sports history," Clark said. "After fighting countless battles for her program and for women in sport generally, D-D leaves a legacy and impact that has affected countless in this community and the state of Louisiana. I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to have served side by side with her for the last eight years. The growth we have seen has been a joy to help her achieve. She is a credit to this university, and I know she will attack her new role with her trademark enthusiasm we have all come to know and love."

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey called Breaux a "genuine legend" in a statement.

"For more than four decades she has taught her student-athletes the traits of dedication, perseverance and relentless pursuit of perfection," Sankey said. "Her record of endurance and success is a truly remarkable achievement and she has been a cornerstone in the growth of the popularity of gymnastics in SEC. D-D's remarkable career earns a 10.0 and we wish her all the best."

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards thanked Breaux for "her tenacity, for her commitment to her gymnasts and the University and for her leadership in prioritizing academics and community service alongside athletic achievement."

"D-D Breaux's contribution to this university, this community and to our athletic program is simply immeasurable," said LSU athletics director Scott Woodward. "She has had a generational impact on the student-athletes she has coached and mentored over her 43 years of service, not to mention all of the rest of us she has taught along the way. With hard work and pure force of her will, D-D built a gymnastics program from the ground up into one that is now recognized worldwide for elite-level excellence. D-D has given her all to LSU and to Louisiana and we have been made better because of her contributions here. D-D has always represented the purple and gold with the highest levels of dignity, grace and grit and will continue to do that in this new role."