Sept. 2, 2010
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Beth Beglin does not tolerate mediocrity, as confirmed by her record as head field hockey coach at the University of Iowa from 1988-99. That 12-year, 259-game stretch is the most successful in Hawkeye history with 199 victories and six trips to the NCAA Final Four.
"It was what we demanded out of our student-athletes," Beglin said. "I don't think we really focused as much on outcome as we focused on them being dedicated to absolutely doing their best and we demanded that."
Beglin joins five former Hawkeye greats in the Class of 2010 to be inducted into the National Iowa Varsity Club Athletic Hall of Fame. The others are Bob Jeter (football), Ken Leuer (wrestling), Tracy Dahl (cross country/track & field), Mark Ironside (wrestling) and Anthuan Maybank (track & field).
"This means a lot," Beglin said. "I know how big of a deal this is. I consider it to be a tremendous honor and I feel an extraordinary privilege to be here. I've always felt this was a special place and I'm thankful I had a chance to be a part of it."
The Hawkeyes won 45 consecutive matches on Grant Field from 1988-94 and on two different occasions under Beglin they amassed Big Ten Conference victory streaks of 20 or more (winning 25 in a row from 1990-93).
Beglin grew up in New Jersey and graduated from Northern Highlands Regional High School in 1975, where she participated in field hockey, basketball and softball and competed on the amateur tennis circuit. She was a three-sport student-athlete at West Chester (Pa.) State College, graduating in 1979 with a degree in health and physical education.
Joking that she played center-midfielder "because I wanted to control everything," Beglin remained a force as a field hockey player after college, earning a bronze medal at the 1984 Olympic Games. She was a member of the U.S. team that participated in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul (the United States boycotted the 1980 Olympics).
Originally hanging up the stick following the 1984 Games, Beglin came out of retirement to help the 1988 team qualify for the Olympics. Because of the time commitment of training, Beglin left a position as head coach at her alma mater and worked as a typesetter in Cambridge, Mass., for the father of the U.S. team's keeper, Patty Shea.
"I chose to continue to play," Beglin said. "You can coach the rest of your life; your playing career is limited by age."
Soon after, Beglin found it too difficult to live in Boston on $7,000 a year, so she called then-UI head coach Judith Davidson, who welcomed Beglin to Iowa City as a graduate assistant. Davidson resigned after a trip to the Final Four in 1987 and Dr. Christine Grant, director of athletics for the UI women's programs, hired Beglin to replace Davidson.
"This means a lot. I know how big of a deal this is. I consider it to be a tremendous honor and I feel an extraordinary privilege to be here. I've always felt this was a special place and I'm thankful I had a chance to be a part of it."
UI Hall of Famer
"That was a pretty big risk for Christine," Beglin said. "I was going to miss the first month of the collegiate season because the Olympic Games were in September."
"I was a little bit apprehensive, but I realized how important it was for Beth to participate in the Olympics," Grant said.
To fill the temporary void, Grant hired Janet Ryan as a third assistant coach and Liz Tchou, a fifth-year senior, also helped. Paula Jantz, now associate director of athletics for operations/event management, traveled with the team and provided additional guidance. Iowa finished 19-6 that season and upon Beglin's return, won 10 straight matches before falling to Old Dominion in the 1988 national championship.
Some memorable moments for Beglin came in 1994, a season when the Hawkeyes used a three-victory run in the Big Ten Tournament to secure the automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. Iowa captured the league title over Northwestern, 3-1, in a second stroke-off.
"We did what nobody expected," Beglin said. "We went through three top-ranked teams and we never would have qualified if we didn't win the Big Ten Tournament. Those are the types of things that took total team effort."
Another highlight came Nov. 13, 1994, in the regional final in Norfolk, Va. To that point, the Hawkeyes were winless in a dozen tries against Old Dominion and now they were playing on the Lady Monarch's home turf.
"Before we started the game I walked into the locker room and said, `No one expects you to win,'" Beglin said. "I put 0-11-1 on the board and we talked about leaving our best game on the field. A group that not many people expected to do a whole lot ended up beating Old Dominion (3-2 in overtime) on their home field to go to the Final Four."
During a rare two-year stretch from 1997-98, the Hawkeyes were 18-20 overall, 8-12 in the Big Ten. It became a challenge for Beglin to invest the energy she thought she needed to keep the UI among the elite programs in the nation. After finishing 19-3 in 1999, Beglin resigned.
"I could have stayed on at Iowa and been mediocre for a lot of years, but my life has never been about wanting to be mediocre," Beglin said. "If I couldn't be good and if I didn't feel I could keep the program at the level I expected, I didn't think it was fair to Iowa, nor to the student-athletes that I would be coaching. At that point I chose to step away."
"I'm very proud of her. I watched Beth play for the United States and she was one of the very best players ever. I thought she would also be a great teacher and she was. That's what a great coach is, an excellent teacher."
Dr. Christine Grant
Former UI women's AD
In December, 2004, Beglin graduated from the UI with a law degree; she passed the bar in the spring of 2005.
"That was probably one of the more difficult things I've done in my life," Beglin said. "Your career hinges on you passing the bar exam. If you don't pass it, you don't practice law."
Beglin, who resides in North Liberty, Iowa, is currently a prosecutor at the Johnson County attorney's office, handling a variety of cases. She does not hide the fact that the `coaching itch' remains.
"There are some aspects of coaching I really, really miss," Beglin said. "I miss working with the student-athletes, I miss the X's and O's, I miss that competitive aspect, that challenge of trying to pit your best against somebody else's best, to motivate student-athletes."
Beglin said she was fortunate to work at the UI when she did.
"At the time I was there, Iowa was at the forefront of women's athletics because of Christine Grant," Beglin said. "I also feel extremely blessed that I coached during a remarkable time to be at this institution. There were tremendous role models and I had phenomenal peers that were part of the coaching staff. I was here with Vivian Stringer, Dan Gable, Hayden Fry and Gayle Belvins. There were a host of tremendous coaches, mentors and role models on campus at that time."
Beglin led the Hawkeyes to the NCAA championship game in 1988 and '92.
"I'm very proud of her," Grant said. "I watched Beth play for the United States and she was one of the very best players ever. I thought she would also be a great teacher and she was. That's what a great coach is, an excellent teacher."