PHOENIX, Arizona, January 31. A few months before retiring as head coach at Brigham Young University, Tim Powers joins today's edition of The Morning Swim Show.
Powers talks about the reasons he decided to leave coaching after more than three decades in the sport, and looks back on the fortuitous nature by which he came to be a coach at BYU, and some of the athletes he's guided through the program. Be sure to visit SwimmingWorld.TV for more video interviews.
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Peter Busch: Welcome to The Morning Swim Show for Tuesday, January 31st 2012. I'm your host Peter Busch. In the FINIS monitor today we'll talk to Tim Powers. He's been the head swim coach at Brigham Young University for 37 years, and he recently announced this would be his last. Tim Powers joins us right now in the FINIS monitor from Provo, Utah. Coach welcome to The Swim Show. How are you ?
Tim Powers: I'm doing great, how about yourself?
Peter Busch: Good, congratulations on announcing your retirement, something we all wish we could do.
Tim Powers: It's always a little bit bittersweet. It's something that we kind of plan for and at the same time it's hard to believe that 37 years have gone by so quickly.
Peter Busch: Why did you decide that this was the last year?
Tim Powers: I think mainly because my wife and I would love to serve a mission for our church and we want to do it while our health is still good, we still have a lot of energy, and so the timing felt right as my wife retired a year ago and she has been anxious for me to join her in retirement.
Peter Busch: Now I know it's something you're supposed to do at some time in your lifetime as a member of the LDS Church – serve a mission. Did you do one in your younger days and this will be your second or did you not get a chance to do one earlier?
Tim Powers: No, I'm a convert and when I converted to the church Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints I was under contract with the United States Army and so I was shortly headed towards Vietnam and they had other plans for me at that time and so this will be the first time that we've had the opportunity to do that.
Peter Busch: A different mission you took earlier.
Tim Powers: That's correct.
Peter Busch: Do you get to choose? I know typically the church sends you where they think you should go but since you're a little bit older and wiser do you get to choose?
Tim Powers: You know what? I'm willing to go wherever I'm needed. I think that's what – when we want to serve we want to be able to say "Where do you need me the most?" and that's what I'm planning on.
Peter Busch: That's an exciting plan for retirement, isn't it?
Tim Powers: Yes.
Peter Busch: That's the first time ever a coach retires so he could go on a church mission.
Tim Powers: Good. It could even help the others.
Peter Busch: First here on The Morning Swim Show. Well tell us about looking back at your long career at BYU.
Tim Powers: Well my long career seems kind of short, it seems like I just got here yesterday and something my parents, when they were alive, warned me about. They said "You know this life or ours goes by pretty quickly and so you want to make the most of every opportunity and every moment that you have" and I can echo that sentiment now because 37 years goes by pretty quickly. I'm sure your father when he retired in Arizona felt pretty much the same way.
Peter Busch: He did and just like you I think he's been happy to find a second challenge in his later years. So, 37 years as we mentioned – tell us how you started there, how did you find BYU, how did you even get into coaching?
Tim Powers: I was coaching down in California at Los Gatos High School and I used to coach West Valley Aquatic team. Back at that time we had about 600 swimmers and we were doing quite well. We had 29 kids in Nationals the year I left and the high school had done well and one of my swimmers, Piero Ferracuti, had swam in the Olympics in '72 and so he was looking for a home. He'd looked at Tennessee, looked at Stanford, he looked at Yale, Yale had a really strong program at that time as well. And so I had just been up to BYU, my wife's brother was graduating from Law School here, I hadn't really been on the campus, they had offered me a scholarship actually when I was in high school but I wasn't a member of the Mormon Church at that time and I thought, "Oh the Mormons are just trying to convert me" and so I ended up taking a scholarship at the University of Montana and joined up the church there. I've been on the campus really for the first time at my brother-in-law's graduation and I thought "Wow, this is a beautiful fantastic city," it's a beautiful place, it had a great student body. So I suggested it to the swimmer, to Piero Ferracuti "You might want to take a look at BYU" and when we called up to try to make arrangements for them to fly him in, he was an excellent swimmer obviously and they were interested in, they said "Mike Burchett just stepped down as head coach" and I said "Who's the new coach?" and they said they're in the process of looking for a new coach and I said "Aha, I think I'll just throw my hat into that ring" and I did and went through the interview processes and everything and that was the start of my association with BYU and now that has been 37 years long and such a great and fantastic experience for me.
Peter Busch: That's quite the story.
Tim Powers: Yes, so it's just being in the right place at the right time was part of that. There were a lot of candidates for that job at that time because it is a great place to work and so I was fortuitous enough to get the position and then I've been able to hang to it for 37 years.
Peter Busch: Throughout the years you've had some success especially with international swimmers coming through and they went on to make the Olympic team for their own countries. Was that something you felt like you had to do – was recruit internationally just because BYU wasn't kind of a national power and outside of members of the ODS Church there's not a ton of kids there?
Tim Powers: Yes, BYU actually is an international kind of campus. We've got all 50 states and unions represented here. We've got 33,000 students here and we have every state and union represented and we have over, usually it varies between 110 and 120 different countries, that are represented here on our campus and so one of the mottos at BYU is "The world's our campus" and another one is "Enter to learn and go forth to serve" and so we send young men and young women from this campus all over the world really. Of course the missionary efforts for the Mormon Church are legendary – we've got anywhere between 50,000 and 60,000 missionaries out there at any given time, 775 of the student body speaks a foreign language fluently and so this is a natural spot for kids that come from other countries. We've had about 16 different countries represented here. But the bulk of our kids usually come from the US. We usually only have three or four kids maybe at any given time that are from a foreign country.
Peter Busch: What are the plans for the final month, month and a half of the season for you? When's the last home dual meet?
Tim Powers: The last dual meet is this Friday night against the University of Utah, that's always been a great rivalry I think. Last year on the guys' side it came down to the final yard to determine the meet and we managed to pull that off at their place and I'm sure they haven't forgotten that. Our women's team won their but it wasn't really down about the last two events before, that was not in [inaudible 7:33] more and it's always been a great rivalry, we have a great respect for the program there and how they rise to the occasions and we're expecting – we usually will get anywhere between 1000 and 1200 out for our swim meets, we'll probably have 1500 or 1800 that will be hanging from the rafters Friday night. That's what makes college swimming so great – these great rivalries. And so we're looking forward to that, we're looking forward to this year with football going independent, we went into the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation as far as our men and women's teams go and so we've had a new list of teams to swim against and we'll be out in California for the conference championships on the 15th and 16th and 17th of February so we're looking forward to that and then on the NCAA championships and hopefully we'll be getting kids qualified for that and we typically do and so we're looking forward to getting our men and women qualified for the national championships and that will take me up right to the end of my career because when that's over we'll have a new coach in place to search and interview and everything is going on as we speak and BYU has committed to a great swim program here, they want it to be the best they can be and they're doing their due diligence right no to make sure that happens.
Peter Busch: Have you had any input on who the next co0ahc might be?
Tim Powers: Yes, I've had a chance to write letters of reference and support the people who are on our staff currently as well as get some ideas about some other possibilities as well. I do have 37 years invested here and so it's not like I'm disinterested but I'm not allowed to crown my successor so that's the process that our administration goes through.
Peter Busch: Well if there's one thing that you'd like to see your successor continue to build on or one area on the program where they could take it to the next level what would it be?
Tim Powers: Well I think one of the things that we feel is most important right now is our facility is aging, we have actually a plan, we've spent a good deal of money for the drawings and everything for a new facility, we're looking at that as the economy starts to turn around. They've got several academic building projects going on in campus right now, that they've started now. We've been on the list behind some of those academic ones and so in the future at some point, hopefully the near future, BYU will unveil a new swimming facility that will be as good as anything in the country.
Peter Busch: Well Coach congratulations on your retirement. We wish you the best of luck on your mission. And whenever that last meet is be sure to take your cell phone out of your pocket because there's a chance you're going swimming at the end.
Tim Powers: Okay, thanks. It's been good talking with you.
Peter Busch: Thanks Coach. That's Tim Powers joining us from BYU and that is it for today's show. I'm Peter Busch reminding you to keep your head down at the finish.
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