Plasencia steps away from coaching after 25 years with the Gophers

Plasencia served as the head coach for the men’s cross country program since 1996 and as an assistant coach for the Minnesota track and field program.


Courtesy of Gopher Athletics

Men’s Cross Country, Oz Memorial Run on Friday, September 8, 2017. (Photo/Craig Lassig)

Michael Lyne

Gophers men’s cross country head coach and men’s track and field assistant coach Steve Plasencia announced Thursday that he is stepping away from his coaching duties after a long, successful 25-year career at the University of Minnesota.

The two-time Olympian has served as the eighth head coach for the Gophers men’s cross country since 1996, served as an assistant coach for the Minnesota track and field program since 2018, and earned a promotion to director of men’s cross country and track and field in July 2008.

Known as “Coach Plaz,” Plasencia had a notable college running career at the University of Minnesota, remaining one of the Gophers’ most decorated athletes. He won the Fred O. Watson Award three times, awarded to the most valuable Gophers cross country runner in 1976, 1977 and 1978, and served as the team captain in 1977.

As a 1979 graduate, Plasencia was a three-time cross country and two-time track and field All-American.

Plasencia accumulated 11 Coach of the Year awards during his time with the Gophers. He was Midwest Region Cross Country Coach of the Year four times, Big Ten Indoor Track and Field Coach of the Year three times, and Midwest Region Indoor Track and Field Coach of the Year and a two-time Outdoor Track and Field Coach of the Year .

Coach Plaz led the cross country team to 15 NCAA Cross Country Championships appearances and eight top-20 NCAA Cross Country team finishes.

Under Plasencia’s guidance, Chris Rombough (2006) and Hassan Mead (2008, 2009) produced three Big Ten cross country individual championships.

In Plasencia’s first year as the track and field team director, the Gophers won the 2009 Big Ten Indoor and Outdoor Team Championships.

The Gophers and Plasencia followed up their sweep in 2009 by repeating both titles in 2010 and won a third-straight Big Ten Indoor Team Championship in 2011.
During Plasencia’s involvement in the track and field program, the Gophers accumulated 26 Big Ten Individual Champions, 22 Big Ten Outdoor Individual Champions and 82 indoor track and 47 outdoor track All-Americans.

Plasencia’s departure from the Gophers marks the end of his historic 25-year era at the University of Minnesota.