WEST LAFAYETTE, Indiana, April 9. PURDUE University athletics director Morgan Burke announced today that Cathy Wright-Eger has accepted an academic advisor position in the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics and will step down as head women's swimming coach.
Wright-Eger, who will report to Ed Howat, associate athletics director for student services, will be charged with implementing a leadership curriculum to foster the growth of all Purdue student-athletes.
"The name Cathy Wright-Eger is synonymous with Purdue women's swimming, and we salute her for two decades of excellence," Burke said. "In addition to the success her student-athletes have achieved in the pool, she has modeled countless young women into productive citizens. To that end, we believe that a leadership curriculum – one that starts the day a student-athlete commits to becoming a Boilermaker and continues until the day he or she graduates – will produce even better-rounded young men and women ready to enter the working world and also enhance the athletic and academic performance of the department."
Wright-Eger, who has overseen the swimming program since 1987, will continue to do so until her successor is hired. Burke and Terry Kix, who presently oversees swimming and diving, will lead a national search for Wright-Eger's replacement and be assisted by senior associate athletic directors Roger Blalock and Nancy Cross and one of Purdue's athletic faculty representatives.
"I am so grateful to have coached at Purdue for the past 21 years," Wright-Eger said. "When I think how far the program has come – from the six-lane Lambert pool to the state-of-the-art Doris Z. Holloway pool inside the Boilermaker Aquatic Center and hosting the NCAA Championships – it makes me proud of Purdue's commitment to excellence. Most of all, I am thankful and honored to have worked with the outstanding swimmers and divers who have given their best to Purdue, both in the classroom and the pool. I have complete faith that Morgan and his staff will hire a top-notch coach who will bring a lot of enthusiasm, energy and knowledge to the program.
"I look forward to my next Purdue challenge – implementing a leadership program with the student-athletes. It is a privilege to work for an educational institution such as Purdue with so many talented students, faculty, staff and alumni."
Over the past 21 seasons, Wright-Eger coached some of the best female swimmers in the Big Ten Conference and the nation, including five conference champions: Darlene Warta-Renie in 1988 and 1990, Susan Wolfle in 1991, Kim Fritsch in 1993 and 1994, Lindsay Lange in 2003 and Carlene Takaki in 2006. Fritsch and Warta-Renie achieved All-America status, and 20 other Boilermakers attained honorable mention status.
Wright-Eger, who guided competitors to the NCAA Championships on 20 occasions, posted an impressive dual-meet record of 150-93-2 (a .616 winning percentage). The Boilermakers attained their best national finish of 17th place during the 2004-05 season. In the Big Ten, they placed fourth twice.
This past season, freshman Allison Smith established a varsity record in the 200 back (1:58.73) and set class records in the 100 back (55.11) and 200 individual medley relay (2:02.41). She was one of seven swimmers to post NCAA provisional cuts through 14 events.
Holding an overall program grade-point average of 3.5, Wright-Eger's teams consistently placed well in the classroom as well as the pool. During her tenure, 231 swimmers and divers earned Academic All-Big Ten honors, an average of more than 10 per season. In 2008, 11 of 14 (79 percent) eligible Boilermakers received academic all-conference certificates.
A total of 39 Purdue swimmer and divers were named Academic All-Americans or honorable mention Academic All-Americans.
As a team, the Boilermakers ranked consistently at or near the top among Purdue varsity squads in terms of GPA. In fact, Wright-Eger's teams received the Purdue President's Cup award (presented to intercollegiate athletics team with the highest GPA) four times since the trophy's inception in 1998.
Wright-Eger is no stranger to personal honors and recognition. She was selected the 1990 Big Ten Women's Swimming Coach of the Year, the 1993 Boilermaker Coach of the Year by the Purdue Club of Chicago, and was handed the 1996 Salute to Women Award, presented annually by the local YWCA. In 2001, Wright-Eger was featured as one of three coaches in Sports Illustrated for Women, in an article focusing on being a mother and coach at the same time.
In the spring of 2007, Wright-Eger was accorded the honor of joining the U.S. Swim Team as its manager for the Pan-American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This was Wright-Eger's fourth time serving on an international games' staff and her second trip to Rio in as many years. Wright-Eger managed the U.S. Swim Team at the 2006 FINA World Youth Championships. In 2003 and 2005, she held the title of manager for Team USA at the World University Games in South Korea and Turkey.
Wright-Eger represented United States Swimming at the third-annual Women in Coaching Summit, which took place in Colorado Springs, Colo., in October of 2004.
Special thanks to Purdue for contributing this report.