Portions of this article were written by Stephen Norris, Evergreen Online
PULLMAN, Wash., May 2. WASHINGTON State University women's swim coach Rocco Aceto announced Thursday his resignation to pursue other opportunities, according to WSU Director of Athletics Jim Sterk.
"I have resigned my position at WSU to pursue other career opportunities," Aceto said in a statement released by the WSU Sports Information office. He was not available for additional comments.
Aceto took over WSU's swimming program in 1998. Under his leadership, WSU developed its first three-time All-America swimmer, Erin Eldridge, sent at least one swimmer to the NCAA championships in each of his five seasons, gained the school's best finish in the Pacific-10 Conference championships and continued to annually rank as one of the best academic swim teams in the nation.
Aceto also put the team on the map academically, the Cougars – at No. 30 – were the only Pac-10 school ranked in the top 50 in academics. "We wish Rocco the best as he seeks new opportunities," Sterk said.
However, despite the surface success of the team, there was some apparent conflict between Aceto and some of his athletes.
"Not everyone agreed with his tactics," Henahan said. "He is prideful; I think his ego means a lot to him."
Lumped on top of Aceto's resignation are several swimmers who had planned on transferring, including the team's two NCAA swimmers – sophomore Rachel Dong and junior Andree-Anne LeRoy.
"It came as a shock," said junior Sarah Schmeid of the swimmers who had planned to leave the team. "I know we can still have a good team, though. I'm just ready to move on and finish my last year."
Although it was confirmed by teammates and coaches that there had been talk of player transfers, there has been no official word. It is also uncertain whether their decisions were a result of Aceto's coaching methods.
After taking a hard look at the direction of the team, Henahan confessed she had considered transferring, as well.
"I just felt like all the progress the team had made, and me personally in the past few years, was slipping away," Henahan said. "Naturally, you think there must be something better for you out there. But after thinking about it, there are a lot of reasons why it would be better for me to stay here."
In 2001, WSU won a school record nine dual meets and finished 9-3, then placed seventh at the Pac-10 Championships, the highest finish ever for the Cougars. WSU also beat cross-state rival Washington for the first time.
Cougar swimmers have broken school records 53 times since the 1997-98 season, while four Cougar swimmers have made six appearances at the NCAA Championships during the past five seasons.
Before joining the WSU staff, Aceto spent two years as an assistant coach at Auburn University. The Maine native also was a successful United States Swimming coach at Kingwood, Texas, and Southern Maine prior to joining the Auburn program.
Sterk said WSU assistant coach Suzanne Yee will coordinate the program while a national search for a new head coach is conducted.