From governors to sporting stars, North Carolina’s coach Karen Shelton was lauded as a true great after she ended her successful tenure after a staggering 42 years on Wednesday.
An NCAA record of 10 national championships culminated with an undefeated season in 2022 as Shelton admitted that, even into a fifth decade with the Tar Heels, it was an “extemely difficult” decision to make.
She said: “I feel like it’s the right time, on the heels of an outstanding season. I’m so grateful for this opportunity.”
Shelton is the most successful coach in US college hockey history, finishing with a career record of 745-172-9.
“Karen Shelton is, quite simply, an icon of Carolina Athletics,” UNC director of athletics Bubba Cunningham said.
“Her legacy is more than her phenomenal 10 national championships and 745 victories – it’s about the hundreds of women who have gone on to successful lives and careers, and continued to credit her influence many years after playing for her.”
The Tar Heels’ 2022 NCAA title was their fourth in five years, the third time in the past five years that Carolina had finished the season undefeated.
She became coach of the year for a 12th time, after first taking the helm in 1981.
Mia Hamm, the former US women’s soccer play, simply said: “Legend!!”
US hockey star Erin Matson, who finished her Carolina hockey career this season, said: “The icon of icons. Words can’t express how much I appreciate, respect, and love this woman and what she has gifted so many of us.”
Three-time Olympian Rachel Dawson said it was an end of an era.
She added: “The game will never know another like her. Not ever. The ultimate competitor and recruiter.”
The Karen Shelton Stadium opened in 2018 at a cost of $15.2 million. The stadium became the first college playing facility to be named in honour of a woman.