PITTSBURGH, Penn., September 12. ERIC Stephanski, a standout Pittsburgh swimmer in the late 1990s, was named an assistant coach of the Panthers' men's and women's swimming programs, by Head Coach Chuck Knoles recently.
Stefanski joins the Panthers from the University of Rochester, where he coached the Yellowjackets' men's and women's teams in 2003-04 and earned the University Athletic Association's Women's Coach of the Year award. He led the women's team to a third-place finish in the conference, an improvement of four places, and the Yellowjackets had their first NCAA qualifier in seven seasons under his tutelage. He will return to his alma mater to help coach the sprinters for both squads, replacing Rick West, who is the new director and head swimming coach for a YMCA in Marietta, Ohio.
"Eric was one of Division III's up-and-coming success stories," Knoles said. "He was able to have a tremendous impact on the University of Rochester swimming program in the two years he was there."
Prior to his appointment as head coach of the Yellowjackets, Stefanski was an assistant coach for both the men's and women's teams during the 2002-03 season. He also served as the head master's swimming coach at the U of R that same year. While earning his Master's of Science in kinesiology with an emphasis in sports psychology at Georgia Southern from 2000-02, he was a teaching assistant and a swimming coach for the Statesboro Bulloch County Sharks, where he taught five-to-18-year old swimmers. He was also an assistant swimming coach for nearby Seneca Valley High School from 1998-2000 as well as the coach of the Seneca Valley Swim Club.
His swimming career had many highlights as well, including the 1992 and 1993 U.S. Opens, the 1994 U.S. Olympic Festival, the 1997 Fina World Cup and the 2000 U.S. Olympic Trials. Stefanski came to Pittsburgh as one of the most highly recruited athletes the men's program had to date. While at Pitt, Stefanski won the 1998 Big East title in the 100 freestyle and earned a relay title with the 200 freestyle team that same year. He also qualified for the 1997 NCAA Division I National Championships.
"Eric's decision to come to Pittsburgh as an athlete helped us regain our balance as a program and helped elevate our recruiting," Knoles said. "I am sure that his coming back to Pitt to help coach will have no less an impact. It is quite a point of pride for me to have one of our best athletes ever enter the coaching field, be successful, and then return to their alma mater to coach."
Stefanski is the Panthers' record-holder in the 200 freestyle with a time of 1:37.18 in 1997 and is a part of the school-record 200 medley relay team that finished in 1:29.38 at the 1998 Big East Championships. He graduated from Pittsburgh in 1998 with a bachelor's degree in psychology.
"This is an opportunity of a lifetime – to return to coach as an alumnus of a swimming program of this stature," Stefanski said. "I will lend my talents to the team in aggressively promoting the high standards of excellence that Pitt swimming and diving has enjoyed over the years."