LSU gymnastics coach D-D Breaux says she’s immediately retiring after 43 years

Head coach D-D Breaux is retiring after 43 seasons as the leader of the LSU Gymnastics program, she announced Tuesday.

Breaux, who retires as the longest tenured coach of any sport in Southeastern Conference history, has built the LSU program into a national powerhouse. Breaux will remain a part of the athletics department doing what she loves the most, being an ambassador for LSU. Co-head coach Jay Clark will take over for Breaux as just the third head gymnastics coach in school history.

As the “Dean of Coaches” at LSU, Breaux has represented the University at the highest level in the gym and in the community. She has dedicated her life to LSU and to more than 200 gymnasts she has coached over the years.

During her tenure, Breaux has maintained LSU’s reputation as one of the premier collegiate gymnastics programs in the country with more than 800 wins under her leadership. The Tigers have placed among the top-10 teams nationally 31 times in 43 seasons with program-best second place finishes in 2016, 2017 and 2019, third in 2014, fourth in 1988 and 2018, fifth in 2008 and 2013 and sixth on four separate occasions.

Her letter on the LSU website read:

It is with joy, love, peace, appreciation and some sadness, but no regret, that I announce to my LSU family and community that I am retiring from coaching, but not retiring from LSU. Coaching has filled my heart and life and has fueled my passion for 43 years; leaving will be difficult. While I may be changing how I express my passion for LSU Gymnastics and our university, I can assure you I will continue to express it.

I have always told myself that I would know when it is time to make this most difficult decision. 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.

As LSU’s head coach, I worked with the mantra, “Everything Counts.” I have been committed to recruiting outstanding young women, building the finest training facility in the world, achieving high academic standards, growing the TAF scholarship endowment program, supporting our season ticket campaign, marketing this great program, and encouraging community service. LSU Gymnastics now enjoys the full support of the university, the athletics department and the athletics director. It has taken “GREAT VILLAGES” all along the way. Thank you all.

Why step away now? 
This silent but deadly pandemic we are facing will necessitate change in how we do everything, at least this next season, so I believe it is the best time to make a personal life decision. I have never walked away from a challenge; and not doing so now, I am moving forward with this one, just in a different role.

Before our 2019 season, I asked that Jay Clark be named co-head coach in anticipation of this moment. Jay is a great recruiter and his coaching philosophy is demanding and produces excellence. I have confidence in my decision because the torch is being passed on to Jay. I also believe this is an opportunity for an aspiring young person to join the coaching staff. The 2020 team I am leaving is one of the most talented teams ever assembled, and it will be gratifying for me to watch them “climb the mountain” and plant the LSU flag at the TOP!

Thank you to the talented women who chose to place their confidence in me and LSU, you are always a part of LSU Gymnastics legacy. I have had the privilege of coaching some of the best student-athletes in the country and I am proud of how they represent LSU and even more proud of the women they have become. 

For 43 years, I have dedicated my life to LSU Gymnastics and to my children; they were part of every team, every practice and every competition. I am so proud to say that they have grown into great women and mothers during this journey. I am excited to be part of what is driving their lives and to play a much greater role in the lives of my fabulous grandchildren. My mother, who drove me to practice four times a week from Donaldsonville to Baton Rouge, made some of the clothes I wore for LSU competitions as an adult, passed away this past December. I cannot deny this expedited my thinking about this transition.

A Thank You!
My siblings, their children, and my close friends who have made this journey with me. When we had no one in the stands, I could always look up and see the Breaux Krewe in my section. I cannot thank them enough for the support they have always offered to me and this program. 

To the unbelievable boosters and fans of this program – there are no words to express my gratitude and my love. You have filled the PMAC on many occasions and you helped us grow from double-digit season ticket holders to nearly 7,000 because of your love for LSU Gymnastics. Your faithfulness to our program and our amazing, young student-athletes will never go unnoticed. Thank you for not only creating a world-class environment in the PMAC but showing me love each and every time I see you on campus or out in the community. I will love you forever. 

LSU has asked that I remain a part of the athletics department to do what I love doing – being an ambassador for the LSU Athletics. I do bleed purple and gold and know firsthand all of the great things that LSU athletics and academics mean to our state. You will see me out there passionately advocating for the university, city and state that I love. Thank you LSU for all you have done for me and the sport I love. There are so many people I want to thank that have been such an intricate part of my journey. That would take pages and I am confident I would leave someone out!! 

“Nothing great has ever been achieved without enthusiasm!” Let’s all get fired up and support all efforts to pull Louisiana and LSU through this trying challenge and let’s WIN! Do What’s Important Now!

I look forward to seeing y’all at the next gymnastics, football, baseball, softball, basketball, volleyball, beach, tennis, golf, swimming, track, soccer …… meet, match and game!

Breaux is considered a pioneer of collegiate gymnastics and women’s sports. Since her first season in 1978, she has advocated for her program and has built it from the ground up. At the beginning of her career, the Tigers trained in a corner of the Carl Maddox Field House. They now utilize the top gymnastics training facility in the world.

The Tigers are the three-time defending Southeastern Conference champions. Breaux’s squad won the inaugural SEC Championship title in 1981 and returned to the top once again in 2017, 2018 and 2019. The three-peat marked the fifth time in SEC history a team has won three or more SEC titles in a row. Her team has also gone on to finish second on five occasions and third seven other times.

Breaux’s gymnasts have combined to win 15 individual national titles and 44 SEC titles. There have been 266 All-America and 91 All-SEC honors earned in 43 seasons.

Breaux’s top priority for LSU gymnastics student-athletes is their work in the classroom She is known to annually have one of the finest academic teams, and LSU gymnasts have been named WCGA Scholastic All-Americans 160 times.

Breaux’s team won the Tiger Cup in 2013, 2014, and 2015, an award given to the LSU team with the most community service hours, the highest GPA and the highest national placement in postseason competition. In addition, the gymnastics team earned the Community Service Award for combining community service with excellence in the classroom at the annual LSU Academic Gala in 2013 and again in 2015.

For her dedication to the sport and her teams’ numerous accomplishments, Breaux has been recognized by her peers time and time again. In the summer of 2009, Breaux received one of the highest honors as she was voted into the USA Gymnastics Region 8 Hall of Fame. Breaux was first recognized as the National Coach of the Year in 2014 and once again in 2017. She was inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in 2017.

She has been named the SEC Coach of the Year on nine occasions (1990, 1993, 1994, 1995, 2000, 2005, 2015, 2017 and 2019) and NCAA Central Regional Coach of the Year nine times (1999, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2010, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017).

From passing out free tickets at the local grocery store to creating the premier gymnastics environment in the country, Breaux has built a powerhouse program through hard work and dedication. LSU Gymnastics has taken the state by storm.

LSU owns two sellouts as well as four meets with 13,000-plus fans in Maravich Center history. LSU has averaged more than 10,000 fans in each of the last four seasons and finished top-five nationally over the last seven seasons. Tiger fans helped LSU finish first in the SEC in average attendance in 2018 and 2020 and third in the nation amongst any women’s teams.

One of the most fulfilling moments of Breaux’s career came in 2016 with the opening of the Gymnastics Training Facility. Breaux worked with the Tiger Athletic Foundation and the LSU administration to fulfill a dream of a training center for the gymnastics program. It is considered the top gymnastics facility in the world and modeled by many collegiate gymnastics team.

The foundation for Breaux’s coaching career developed long before her arrival at LSU. An excellent athlete in her own right, Breaux’s affiliation with the sport began at the club level where she was a nationally-ranked gymnast by both the A.A.U. and the U.S.G.F. She was set to compete at the 1972 Olympic Trials before a career-ending knee injury forced her to retire.

Breaux, a native of Donaldsonville, Louisiana, attended Southeastern Louisiana University, where she competed for the Lady Lions gymnastics team for two seasons (1972-73) and helped SLU to a second-place finish at the 1972 AIAW Championships.

Breaux then served as an assistant coach for the Lady Lions for three seasons, where she also became a national-level judge and served as the first state director for the Louisiana USA gymnastics program. She later transferred to LSU in 1976, where she earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Breaux is one of eight children and comes from a great family tradition. Her parents, brothers, sisters and their spouses and children have supported the program since the coach’s arrival at LSU.

Breaux has two daughters, Jewel and Sara. She is the proud grandmother to Porter, Chase, Robert and Rose.

LSU Accolades under Breaux

8 NCAA Championship Finals Appearances (2008, 2009, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019)

35 Consecutive NCAA Regional Appearances

30 NCAA Championships Appearances

15 Individual National Titles

19 Regional Titles

1 Honda Award Recipient

3 AAI Award Winners

1 NCAA Woman of the Year Finalist

266 All-America Honors

22 SEC Champions with 44 SEC Titles

93 All-SEC Honors

160 Scholastic All-Americans

7 SEC Gymnasts of the Year

6 SEC Championships

LSU Athletics Director Scott Woodward…

“D-D Breaux’s contribution to this university, this community and to our athletic program is simply immeasurable. 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.”

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards

“Coach D-D Breaux set a standard of excellence for her athletes on and off of the mat and her 43-year career with LSU is unparalleled. On behalf of the state and of all of us who had the pleasure of witnessing her talented teams take to the floor on Friday nights in a packed PMAC, I thank her 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. Coach Breaux is truly a legend, and we wish her well in the future.”

SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey…

“D-D Breaux is a genuine legend as the longest serving coach, in any sport, across the 87-year history of the Southeastern Conference. For more than four decades she has taught her student-athletes the traits of dedication, perseverance and relentless pursuit of perfection. 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.”

LSU Board of Supervisors Chair Mary Werner

“D-D Beaux has been a leader not only in collegiate gymnastics, but a leader for our university and Louisiana. She pushes us all to be our best and do better for our students. I’m proud to call her my friend as well as colleague. Her energy, hard work and dedication to the women’s gymnastics program, LSU and the community reminds us all what leadership and dedication can accomplish.”

LSU Interim President Tom Galligan

“Congratulations, D-D, on an absolutely phenomenal career! Your spirit and passion is the epitome of what it means to be a Fighting Tiger, and I know your impact will be felt at our university for years to come. Thank you for all you’ve done for LSU.”

LSU Gymnastics Head Coach Jay Clark

“It is 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. 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. Congratulations coach! “

LSU Gymnastics Assistant Head Coach Bob Moore

“I am so grateful for the past 20 years working with D-D here at LSU and the opportunities given to me to be a part of this family. The opportunities to be a part of a wonderful group of athletes and a program that fed off her passion and energy. Had it not been for her tenacious spirit, this program would not be where it is today.”

LSU Gymnastics Volunteer Coach Ashleigh Clare-Kearney Thigpen

When you think about LSU Gymnastics, the first thing that comes to mind is D-D Breaux. Her vision, passion, and tenacity are unmatched and those qualities are what transformed LSU Gymnastics into the powerhouse it is today. D-D believes that in life you’re dealt certain hands, and maintaining a positive attitude and perspective is what will get you through life’s adversities. She made it a point to instill this philosophy in her student athletes to ensure they felt empowered and could make a powerful impact on society in life after gymnastics. I am so grateful for the opportunities D-D has given me and the relationship I’ve built with her over the past 15 years. She is a pioneer for women’s athletics and I pray her energy and fire permeates the program and forever remains at the core of LSU Gymnastics.

Olympian and SEC Network Commentator Bart Conner

“D-D Breaux is one of the true icons in women’s collegiate gymnastics. Her enthusiasm, passion and resilience never wavered, even after 43 years, as she built one of the great programs, not just in gymnastics, but in the history of collegiate sports.”

Tiger Athletic Foundation President and CEO Rick Perry

“D-D Breaux is much more than one of LSU’s most successful coaches. She is an architect who built a program from the ground up to a national power. She is a tireless promoter who developed a loyal and energetic fan base for her team. She is a producer and director who turned LSU Gymnastics meets into sold out happenings. And finally, she is a teacher and mentor who played a significant role in the lives of the student-athletes and all the young people she worked with throughout her remarkable career. D-D, from the members and staff of TAF, congratulations on a job well done.”

LSU Football Head Coach Ed Orgeron

“Congratulations on a great career D-D Breaux!! One of the greatest coaches in LSU history!! Geaux Tigers!”

LSU Baseball Head Coach Paul Mainieri

“What can you say about D-D except to say she is an icon! Not only is she a legend in the world of gymnastics but she is one of the greatest coaches in all of college athletics, in the SEC, and at LSU. Her enthusiasm and love of LSU cannot be measured. I don’t know if I have ever come into contact with another coach in any sport that can match her boundless energy and love for what she is doing. I’ve admired her and been captivated by her since I came to LSU 14 years ago. I’m so happy she has had an amazing career and is at peace with her decision to retire from coaching. She’s a dear friend, and I’m looking forward to her enjoying the next chapter of her life and watching her contributions to LSU in a different role.”

LSU Softball Head Coach Beth Torina

“I’m so thankful for everything D-D did before my arrival to LSU and everything she has done for me in my time here. She has been a great mentor and friend, and due to her advocacy the experience of all of us at LSU is elevated and significantly enriched. D-D’s career can’t truly be measured in wins and losses or in longevity, it’s the impact she’s had on women’s athletics, our community, and the lives of everyone surrounding her. Congratulations on a job well done. For the past 43 years the pride and tradition of LSU has been entrusted to one of the greatest of all time!

LSU Men’s Basketball Head Coach Will Wade

“I appreciate you for welcoming me with open arms … You are a legend and the absolute best!!!”

LSU Swimming Head Coach Dave Geyer

“It was an honor to work as a head coach alongside D-D here at LSU. While it’s clear she had a tremendous impact on the gymnastics program, it should be made known that she had an impact on all women’s sports and Olympic sports programs as well by bringing our sports to the spotlight. She truly is and will always be one of a kind.”

LSU Diving Head Coach Doug Shaffer

“I feel so fortunate to have worked with D-D for 18 years. I’ve enjoyed her mentorship over the years. She is an iconic Division 1 coach whose impact on the student athletes, staff and LSU community is unparalleled.”

LSU Director of Golf Chuck Winstead

“D-D has brought so much passion and energy to not just LSU Gymnastics but to LSU Athletics and the entire LSU family. She is a legend. Her contributions and impact are immeasurable. She will forever go down as one of the greats in LSU history.”

LSU Volleyball Head Coach Fran Flory

“D-D is the single most influential woman in the history of LSU Athletics. She fought tirelessly for LSU, our athletes, coaches and staff every day for each of her 43 years. She covered every detail and made everything matter. She cared for and loved everyone around her, in a way only D-D could. Most importantly she loves LSU. There will never be another D-D Breaux. We will miss her as a coach and leader in our department.”

LSU Women’s Basketball Head Coach Nikki Fargas

“I can’t think of a coach who has impacted so many so profoundly than D-D Breaux.  The success and happiness you brought to the LSU family, community and fans cannot be measured.  You have been an inspiration to us all, my friend.”

LSU Beach Volleyball Head Coach Russell Brock

“From the moment I stepped on campus it was clear that D-D was someone who was worth learning from. Her passion and commitment to LSU are second to none. The high standards of excellence across the board that she has contributed to on our campus inspires us as we look to build a program that represents our school and our state as well as the LSU Gymnastic program does. Her Pride, Passion and Purpose will continue to motivate us! I’ll forever be honored and grateful to be able to say that I know D-D and that I learned about building a program and coaching at LSU by watching her and talking to her. It is an incredible privilege to carry on the Legacy of Excellence she has devoted the last 43 years of her career to promote and grow.”

LSU Women’s Golf Head Coach Garrett Runion

“I’ve had the good fortune of having my office on the same floor as D-D’s office for the last eight years. Every day when she came in with her sunglasses still on and that big smile it made me smile. Her pride and passion for LSU is unmatched and you see that every day in everything she does. I thoroughly enjoyed her stories and hearing how things have changed over the years. I could not be more excited for her and proud to say I got to coach alongside an SEC legend”

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