Cyndi Gallagher Retires After 31 Years as Head Coach of UCLA Swimming and Diving

Cyndi Gallagher has announced her retirement after serving as the head coach of UCLA for 31 years; Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

UCLA swimming and diving head coach Cyndi Gallagher announced her retirement on Tuesday, bringing an end to a distinguished 31-year tenure at the helm of the program and a 38-year run at UCLA as a head coach, assistant coach, and student-athlete.

The Bruins’ head coach since 1988, Gallagher ends her coaching career with a 202-107-2 overall record in dual meets, by far the winningest coach in program history. Gallagher led the Bruins to Pac-12 titles in 2001 and 2003 and has steered UCLA to top-10 finishes at NCAAs in nine separate seasons.

“Being the head coach at UCLA was my first and only full-time position, and I can honestly say I have had the greatest job in the world,” said Gallagher. “I always wondered why anyone would ever leave UCLA – it has everything from academic and athletic excellence to a great locale by the beach and a true Bruin family. Dreams come true at UCLA. At least they did for me.

“While I am excited for my next journey (to tackle the next chapter of my life), the memories from my time at UCLA – and the moments I’ve had the privilege to share alongside amazing student-athletes, empowering coaches, and caring staff – will always be a vital part of who I am and an important reminder about how special it is to be a Bruin.”

“It is with a tremendous amount of gratitude for her service and devotion to UCLA for the past 38 years that I accept Cyndi Gallagher’s decision to retire,” said Athletic Director Dan Guerrero. “As a former UCLA student-athlete, assistant coach, and head coach for more than three decades, Cyndi has become an intrinsic part of the athletic department. The accomplishments she has managed to amass over her time in Westwood and in the national swimming community are far too many to name, but what stands out most is her commitment to this institution and our athletic department. She will be missed, but her legacy will remain.”

UCLA Athletics - UCLA Swimming and Diving media day, portraits and team photos, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA. September 19th, 2016 Copyright Don Liebig/ASUCLA Gallagher_Cyndi_08.NEF

Photo Courtesy: Don Liebig

Under Gallagher’s direction, UCLA became one of the premier women’s swimming and diving programs in the country. The Bruins have finished inside the top-15 nationally in 15 of her seasons. Gallagher has twice been named the Pac-12 Coach of the Year, first in 1990 when the Bruins finished fifth at NCAAs and then again in 2003 after UCLA secured its second league championship in three years.

Her tenure in Westwood produced a number of internationally renowned swimmers and divers, including 11 Olympians, 21 Pac-10/12 Champions, and 91 All-Americans.

2004 Women's NCAA S&D Cyndi Gallagher, Greg Meehan

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

In 1996, she helped Annette Salmeen become the most-decorated senior in program history, as she won two Pac-10 titles, was named the UCLA Female Athlete of the Year, was an NCAA Champion in the 200 fly, qualified for the 1996 Olympics where she won a gold medal in the 800 freestyle relay, and was named a Rhodes Scholar.

Gallagher had several coaching stints with USA Swimming, culminating in her being named the Head Coach at the 2007 World University Games. She also served on the advisory coaching staff for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and was an assistant coach at the 1997, 2001, 2005, and 2006 World University Games.

While she hit plenty of milestones during her time in Westwood, she focused on enriching the lives of her student-athletes outside the pool as well. Gallagher’s swimming alumni gave gone on to earn master’s degrees and Ph.D.’s, and to become successful teachers, lawyers, scientists, doctors, engineers, businesswomen, ministers and mothers.

“Thank you Dr. Judith Holland for having the vision to hire a 28-year old, and for having faith that I was the best fit for the job,” said Gallagher. “Thank you Betsy Stephenson, Ken Weiner, and Christina Rivera for being on my team and making my job easier. Thank you Dan Guerrero and Gavin Crew for supporting me and my decision to retire when the time was right. Thanks as well to Tom Stebbins, who has done a masterful job as the diving coach at UCLA over the last 20 years, and to Naya Higashijima, who is the glue that holds everyone and everything together in this program.”

A national search for the next head coach of the UCLA women’s swimming and diving program will begin immediately.

— The above press release was posted by Swimming World in conjunction with UCLA Swimming and Diving. For press releases and advertising inquiries please contact

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MK Mahoney
5 years ago

Great Coach

Daniel Ross
5 years ago

Claasy coach great friend

Helen Grace
5 years ago

Annie Gallagher i might guess you know her

Vic Stawik
5 years ago

Awe I still have my acceptance letter from her from a long long time ago.

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