It was probably part naiveté but plenty of confidence that Bev Plocki, a graduate assistant coach at West Virginia, started to look for a coaching position in the sport she loved and competed -- gymnastics. After all, she wasn't looking for an assistant position; she was looking for the top job, a head coaching spot.
Letter after letter were mailed out and only two schools were interested in this young coach -- Wisconsin-Whitewater and Michigan. She never expected what would come next -- an offer from U-M.
Just a few years after competing as a student-athlete, Plocki now was heading a up a Big Ten program that finished dead last and winless in the conference. Now, she was the head coach and it was her job to turn a major Division I program into a winner.
The team won seven contests in her first season (1990) and 13 in 1991. In 1992 she led the team to its first Big Ten championship and a second-place finish in the NCAA Regional.
Once she got the team rolling, her next task was to help build the fan base and get a new facility for the budding program. She knew she had to cultivate fans and supporters. And she did that quite well.
She worked closely with the community, promoting her sport at every opportunity presented. She developed strong relationships with her supporters and the results were similar to her success she had with the team.
The fan base started to grow in the late 1990s. The team had to move many of its events out of the smaller Cliff Keen Arena over to Crisler Arena. In 2005, all Wolverine women's gymnastics meets were held in Crisler. Now, Michigan is annually one of the top 10 in NCAA attendance every year.
In 2002, the team moved into a brand new 22,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art practice facility. The Donald R. Shepherd Women's Gymnastics Training Center has 17,000 square feet of training area that is outfitted with the latest in gymnastics training equipment, including resi- and free-foam pits for each event. It was Shepherd's love for the sport and the relationship with the team that led to a $3.5 million gift that made it possible for this grand facility.
Turn the clock ahead to April 2011 and the Wolverine women gymnastics program has more Big Ten championships (19) than any other women's sport in the entire Big Ten.
Now, Plocki is the third winningest active coach at U-M. Only softball coach and 2011 Michigan Sports Hall of Fame inductee Carol Hutchins along with legendary ice hockey coach Red Berenson have won more contests.
Saturday night (April 2) at Crisler Arena, No. 9-ranked U-M will host the NCAA Regional Championships at 6 p.m. looking for a berth to the NCAA finals. This will be the team's 20th consecutive appearance in an NCAA Regional. Top seed and No. 4-ranked Stanford, third seed and No. 16 Ohio State, No. 21 Iowa State, No. 23 Minnesota and No. 24 Kent State round out the field. The top two teams in each of the six NCAA Regional Championships will advance to the NCAA Championships, to be held April 15-17 in Cleveland, Ohio.
In just three seasons, Plocki helped create Michigan as a perennial contender for the NCAA championship. If things go right for the Wolverines, they will be making their 18th NCAA finals appearance in the last 19 years.
There is no naiveté now with this veteran coach. Instead, it is the knowledge, hard work, the team's resolve and the love for the sport and the University of Michigan that have allowed her to flourish and make the Wolverines women gymnastics program an integral part of the great Michigan athletic and academic tradition.