Karen Dennis was hired as Ohio State's first women's head coach since 1993 in July, 2005. Prior to taking over the OSU women's helm, Dennis spent four seasons as a sprints and hurdles assistant for both the Buckeye men's and women's programs. The Detroit, Mich. native and Michigan State grad returned to the Midwest in 2003 following a 10-year stretch (1992-2002) as head coach at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
Dennis brings with her vast experience in each of the collegiate, Olympic and international circles. She has led her squads to conference championships in the collegiate ranks, while also serving as the women's head coach at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.
The 2004 season saw Dennis help Ohio State record-holder Joel Brown to an All-America performance at the NCAA championships, placing third in the 110-meter hurdles. Brown was the NCAA Mideast Regional champion and defended his 2003 hurdles crown at the Big Ten championships. On the women's side, senior Molly Logan claimed the league title in the 100-meter hurdles. In 2003, Dennis helped guide the Ohio State sprints and hurdles squad to an exemplary season as she mentored Brown to Big Ten hurdles titles and All-America honors in both the indoor and outdoor seasons.
Dennis also guided Logan to compete as a national qualifier in both the indoor and outdoor seasons in the hurdles events.
Last season, she helped guide Jenna Harris and Anthony Cole to Big Ten titles in the indoor 60-meter dash, while Harris added a league crown in the outdoor 100m.
Prior to UNLV, Dennis served as the head coach of the Michigan State University track and field program for 11 seasons, where she guided the Spartans to a 1982 Big Ten Outdoor Championship as she was named District IV Coach of the Year.
Dennis enjoyed a successful collegiate career as a standout sprinter, competing at Michigan State. With a victory in the 220-yard dash, she led the Spartans to a fourth place finish at the AIAW National Championships in 1975.
Her career is highlighted by a fifth-place finish in the 220 at the 1968 U.S. Olympic Trials. She also was part of the 4x160-yard relay team for Michigan State, which set a world record.
Dennis remained at Michigan State to complete the necessary coursework for a bachelor's degree in public affairs in 1977. In that same year, she was hired as the Spartans' women's track and field assistant coach.
Dennis earned her second degree from MSU in 1979, a master's in physical education, while also gaining valuable coaching experience. She was rewarded for her efforts in 1981 and was named the program's head coach.
The Spartans thrived under her direction as she produced a number of outstanding athletes. Judi Brown-King won the silver medal in the 400-meter hurdles at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Cheryl Gilliam was a 12-time Big Ten champion. Odessa Smalls won 13 Big Ten titles and earned All-America honors three times. In addition, Dennis coached a Big Ten champ in the 10,000 meters, two-time All-American Mary Shea.
In 1992, Dennis took over the UNLV cross country and indoor and outdoor track and field teams after 11 seasons at Michigan State. Only the second women's track and field coach in school history, her 1993 Rebel squad went on to win the MPSF Indoor Conference Championship, led by All-American Crystal Irving. This earned Dennis Conference Coach of the Year honors in just her first season.
Dennis guided 12 different student-athletes to All-America status while at UNLV. She also coached former distance standout Katie Barto to the NCAA Championships in 2002, All-American status and NCAA Woman of the Year honors for the state of Nevada. That same season, Dennis guided Michelle Davis, a six-time All-American, to the 2002 UNLV Sportswoman of the Year Award.
In UNLV's final season in the Western Athletic Conference, Dennis' crew posted a runner-up finish at the outdoor championships in 2000. Perhaps the most impressive accomplishment on Dennis' resume was her appointment as the head coach of the United States women's national team that competed in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.
Dennis has been involved on the national and international track and field scenes for quite some time. Most recently, she served as the assistant coach of the 1995 World Championships squad in Gotteberg, Sweden. She also coached the U.S. women's team at the 1991 Pan American Games in Havana, Cuba and served as an assistant women's coach at the World University Championships in Duisburg, Germany, in 1989.
In addition, she coached at the 1985 U.S. Sports Festival and has served as the women's referee at the Drake Relays. She is on the USA Track & Field International Competition Committee and is a past president of the Athletic Congress Women's Track Coaches Association. Dennis also has served as a member of the NCAA Women's Track and Field Committee and the NCAA Track Coaches Association.
Dennis has one daughter, Ebony, who is a graduate of Howard University and is currently in pursuit of a doctorate in clinincal psychology.