COLUMN: Margo Jonker's retirement is a time to celebrate four decades of greatness
A major announcement shook the landscape of the Central Michigan sports community Monday morning.
After 39 years as the head coach of CMU’s softball team, Margo Jonker retired.
Jonker, in her 40 seasons with the Chippewas, built a tremendous program brick-by-brick. She leaves as one of the greatest softball coaches of all time, but this is more than that.
Her 1,268 wins are good for ninth on the all-time NCAA Division I wins list. She led CMU to 10 Mid-American Conference Tournament championships and 10 MAC regular season titles. Her 10 MAC Coach of the Year awards span nearly her entire tenure. Her teams hold the MAC records for wins in a season with 51 and league wins with 26.
Her legacy will have an impact for years to come, but all of the accolades cannot tell the full story.
Plain and simple, she is a CMU legend.
It is not an exaggeration to say that she built the softball program from the ground up. She was an assistant coach in 1979, the program's inaugural season. Her first campaign in charge was 1980, only the second season of CMU softball's existence. She took the program from nothing and brought it national recognition.
The impact she has had on the program is immeasurable, and the stadium was named after Jonker in 2008 for a reason.
Despite her longevity at the helm, Jonker was consistently able to coach well and relate to her players.
Jonker was not just a winner; she encouraged her players to become the person they were meant to be. Her teams consistently had student-athletes not only be named to All-MAC teams but earn academic honors, as well.
Jonker is one of the best coaches CMU has had across its sports landscape, and her replacement will have large shoes to fill. Even if her replacement succeeds on the field, it is unlikely that we will ever see something similar to Jonker’s tenure.
Few programs have a coach who will be around for four decades. Even fewer will have a coach who can continue to be relevant for four decades.
Jonker’s ability to dominate as a coach for that long is truly remarkable, and we are lucky to have been able to watch her for so long.
In the end, her exit was just as unbelievable as the job she has done during her time in Mount Pleasant. Even though she's officially retired, there's no doubt she could've continued her success as the head coach.
Jonker retired on her own timeline, and she sure deserves that.
The hall of fame coach leaves a massive void in the dugout at Margo Jonker Stadium. The woman whose name graces the softball diamond that the Chippewas call home decided now was the time to leave. In the coming days, I am sure we will learn more about her motivation and what led to this decision, but for now, we can just take it in.
Jonker's retirement should be a time to celebrate her greatness. It's a pristine opportunity to look back on the 40 years she spent building a tremendous softball program – and succeeding.
Next season will be the first in CMU softball history that Jonker won't be involved. She has been the face of the team for 40 years. Her name is synonymous with the program.
We likely won’t see something like her reign again. It has been a pleasure watching Jonker do what she does best.
I think I can speak for those in the CMU community when I say: Thank you, Margo Jonker.