When Notre Dame coaching legend Mike DeCicco retired as men's fencing coach after 34 years, there was only one choice as his successor - Yves Auriol.
And now, six years later, there is a perfect ending in place for Auriol, who has announced his plans to retire at the end of the 2002 season.
Auriol, who served as head women's fencing coach at Notre Dame from 1985-95, assumed head coaching responsibilities for the men's and women's programs in 1996.
Auriol steadily has developed into one of the most successful and respected coaches in the nation, culminating in his selection as the national fencing coach of the year (as bestowed by the U.S. Fencing Coaches Association). He also was made an honorary member of the Notre Dame National Monogram Club, in recognition of his many years of quality service to the Irish fencing program.
Over the course of 16 seasons as leader of the Irish women and six with the men, Auriol's Notre Dame fencers have combined for 54 All-America honors (six national champions), plus five Academic All-America citations. His 1987 squad won the NCAA women's fencing championship while his '94 women's team helped Notre Dame claim the NCAA combined title.
Auriol's men's and women's teams have totaled nearly-identical winning percentages, with the women compiling a 344-22 (.940) record in 16 seasons while the men won 143 meets and lost just nine during six seasons (.941)-yielding a 487-31 combined record (.940) for Auriol's Notre Dame teams.
Seven other Auriol teams have finished as NCAA runner-up, including the 1986 and '88 women's teams and the 1996-2000 teams in the combined competition.
"Seventeen years ago, I decided to come to Notre Dame because of its reputation and what the school stands for," says Auriol.
"My time at Notre Dame has been very rewarding and there are many people who have made the fencing program such a great success. I'm very excited about the upcoming season and we certainly could have the makings to win a national championship."
Auriol has been instrumental in the transformation of the women's program, with his women's teams losing just 22 matches during his coaching tenure.
Auriol's first year as head coach of both squads in 1996 saw the men compiled a 29-3 record while the women were 31-1. In 1998, when the Irish fell three bouts shy of a national championship, Auriol's squad garnered eight All-America honors, including NCAA sabre champ Luke LaValle.
The 1999 season saw Auriol coach seven more All-Americans, including sabre Gabor Szelle's second-place finish, while the 2000 squad claimed eight more All-America honors (led by Szelle's championship performance and a runner-up finish by foilist Ozren Debic).
Three of Auriol's 2000 men's fencers placed among the top three at the NCAAs-a feat matched just once in the program's storied history-with Szelle and Debic joined in that triumvirate by third-place epeeist Jan Viviani.
Most recently, Auriol's 2001 squad finished third at the NCAAs, with the top-ranked men's team posting a 25-0 record before producing an unprecedented six All-Americans.
Auriol's 2002 Notre Dame squad boasts an impressive array of talent, as eight of his fencers have combined for past All-America honors while the squad's crop of newcomers may be the best in the nation-giving the Irish a strong shot at claiming the NCAA combined team title after several near-misses.
Auriol has elevated the women's program to a status that is equal to the traditionally-talented men's team.
His first two women's teams posted undefeated seasons, including a 1986 squad that went 23-0 and placed second at the NCAAs. The following season, the Notre Dame women posted a 19-0 regular season before winning the program's first women's NCAA crown. It wasn't until Auriol's third season (1988) that his women's squad lost a match.
Auriol's '91 team also finished with an unblemished 19-0 record and-after going 23-0 in '94- he helped guide Notre Dame to the '94 NCAA combined national title. In '95, his squad finished 32-0, marking the fifth undefeated squad in Auriol's first 10 seasons.
In each of his first five campaigns as head coach of both teams, Notre Dame placed second at the NCAAs, adding to Auriol's impressive record in national championships. His women's foil teams have finished first once, second three times and third on four other occasions. His third-place 1995 team was led by runner-up foilist Maria Panyi and third-place epeeist Claudette de Bruin.
A native of France, Auriol graduated in 1955 from Lycee de Toulouse in Toulouse, France before earning a master's degree as a fencing master from the Institute National du Sport in Paris.
After establishing himself as one of the world's top fencing teachers, Auriol moved from his native France to Portland, Ore., in 1972. He formed the Salle Auriol Fencing Club, spent some time as women's fencing coach at Portland State from 1975 until 1985 and served as a physical education instructor at Portland Community College.
A former professional rugby player, Auriol joined the Irish in the summer of 1985 and serves as an instructor in the physical education department.
A three-time Olympic coach, Auriol served as a coach for the 1992 U.S. Olympic squad in Barcelona. Prior to his appointment in 1992, he served as coach for the U.S. Olympic women's team in 1980, '84 and '88. He also served as coach for the U.S. at the Junior World Championships from 1976-1979 and guided the U.S. at the 1977 World University Games in Bulgaria and at the 1978 World Championships in Hamburg, West Germany.
One of Auriol's pupils was Michael Marx, a seven-time national champion and four-time U.S. Olympian who was selected as the U.S. Fencing athlete of the year on four occasions.
Under Auriol's tutelage, former Notre Dame All-American Molly Sullivan was a two-time NCAA champion and led the Irish to the national championship in 1987. She competed at the Pan American Games, winning a gold medal in 1987 in Indianapolis. One year later, she represented the United States in Seoul for the 1988 Olympic Games and returned to the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.
Born Aug. 12, 1937, Auriol and his wife, Georgette are parents of a son, Stephane, a four-year foilist on the Notre Dame fencing team who graduated in 1999.