Oct. 28, 2005
NOTE: In honor of the MSU Athletics Hall of Fame induction ceremony this Saturday, Oct. 29, msuspartans.com will take an in-depth look at each of the five honorees throughout this week. Today is a look at Gene Kenney.
GENE KENNEY (SOCCER COACH: 1956-69)
By Ashley Johnson, MSU Sports Information
Gene Kenney, soccer coach from 1956-69, was the founding coach of soccer at Michigan State. In his 14 seasons at the helm of the program, Kenney collected a record 120-13-13, good for a .866 winning percentage. Included in that record are two co-NCAA championships, which came in the 1967 and `68 seasons.
"It's a great honor, with all the great coaches and players that are already in there," said Kenney of being inducted.
Kenney, who was born and raised in Urbana, Ill., attended the University of Illinois, where he was a member of the football and wrestling teams. After graduation in 1950, Kenney went to North Carolina as an assistant wrestling coach. It was at North Carolina that Kenney got his first experience in coaching collegiate soccer, when the head soccer coach became ill.
Following his time at North Carolina, Kenney spent two years in Korea as an Army officer, where he coached several service soccer teams.
Kenney arrived at Michigan State in 1955 as assistant wrestling coach and physical education instructor. At that time, he was also the advisor of the club soccer team which ran out of the intramural office.
When the soccer team rose from club to varsity status, Kenney was offered the head coaching position.
"Biggie Munn, who was the athletic director at the time, called me and asked if I wanted to stay assistant to the wrestling team, or take over coaching soccer," Kenney recalled. "Well, there was no choice in my place, so I took over coach of soccer."
A success from the beginning, Kenney led the Spartans to undefeated, untied seasons in the programs first three years, something he attributes to the talented players he had.
"It was one of the finest times in my life," Kenney said. "I had some really great student-athletes, and I really enjoyed them. Of course it helps when you win a lot. But I was blessed with some really fine players in my 14 years."
During his tenure, Kenney coached 13 first-team All-Americans and six second-team All-Americans. Two of his former players have also served as head coach of the Spartan soccer team - former All-American Payton Fuller from 1970-73, and current MSU coach Joe Baum, who is in his 29th year as head of the program (1977-present).
"Joe Baum, who is coaching now, was the goaltender on my 1967 national championship team," said Kenney. "I still get to see him and some of the others who are living around town now."
Under Kenney's watch, the team competed in eight-straight NCAA Championships, from 1962-69. His 1964 and 1965 teams took second place, and Kenney's 1966 team took third place. The 1967 and 1968 teams both ended the tournament in a tie, making them co-Champions.
In 1967, Kenney was recognized nationally for his coaching success as US Soccer Magazine and Pro Soccer Magazine named him National Collegiate Coach of the Year. He was also named coach of the year by the Michigan State student government.
Kenney was designated Assistant Athletic Director for facilities in 1970, and served in the position under five athletic directors. During his tenure, he oversaw the building and renovation of many athletic buildings, including Munn Ice Arena and The Breslin Student Event Center.
"Those are beautiful buildings," Kenney said. "It was great fun working on the buildings themselves, and it was great fun going back and sitting in them watching some games."
Also during his time at Michigan State, Kenney founded and directed the Summer Sports School, the nation's first of its kind, as well as the largest. Currently he is a member of the Varsity Alumni `S' Club.
"I enjoyed my whole time at MSU," said Kenney. "I worked for quite a few athletic directors in 39 years, and I certainly enjoyed the whole thing."