Illinois Hires Jeana Kempe as Swimming and Diving Coach

Photo Courtesy: Illinois Athletics

Illinois Hires Jeana Kempe as New Swimming and Diving Coach

The University of Illinois on Wednesday announced the hiring of South Carolina assistant coach Jeana Kempe as its new head coach.

The hiring is pending approval at the university’s Board of Trustees meeting in July.

Kempe spent one season as an assistant coach to Jeff Poppell at South Carolina. The Illinois native was an assistant coach at Auburn from 2019-21 and spent six seasons on staff at LSU from 2013-18. With the Gamecocks, Kempe oversaw the women’s middle distance program and was the women’s recruiting coordinator.

“Growing up in Illinois, I want to express the extreme excitement I have to come home, grow roots in Champaign-Urbana with my own family, and build upon the Fighting Illini swimming and diving program,” Kempe said in a university release. “I first want to thank Josh Whitman and Dr. Breanna Robinson for the opportunity to be the leader of Illinois Swimming and Diving. Their belief in me was felt immediately and I cannot wait for the opportunity to work alongside them. The University of Illinois is an elite academic institution and has everything set in place for success in the Big Ten Conference. I am ready to hit the ground running to build this program in the Big Ten and nationally.”

Kempe, then Jeana Fuccillo, is a native of Lebanon, Illinois, who was a five-time state champion in high school at Belleville Althoff. The 2002 Illinois High School Swimmer of the Year swam at UCLA, where she became a team captain and led two runner-up finishes at the Pac-12 Championships. A U.S. Junior National Teamer, Kempe got her degree in sociology from UCLA in 2007 and a master’s in education psychology and human relations from Northern Arizona in 2009.

She began coaching as a grad assistant at NAU, and returned there as a full-time assistant in 2011-12 around a stint with the Flagstaff Peaks Aquatic Club.

Kempe specialized in middle distance at Auburn, helping mentor 11 individual All-American performances. She was an assistant at LSU for five years before becoming the associate head coach of the women’s team for a season.

“As we launched the search for the new head coach of our swimming and diving program, it was important to us that we identify a coach with unbridled energy, great relationship skills, and tireless work ethic,” Illinois Athletic Director Josh Whitman said. “We wanted a new leader with a strong vision for the future of our swimming and diving program, who understood and embraced the opportunity to build our program in the Big Ten Conference and on the national stage. In Jeana Kempe, we found all that and so much more. As a native of Illinois, Jeana has long followed our Fighting Illini program, and we are excited for her to connect with our current student-athletes and the athletes and coaches in our state. I have no doubt that her impact will be felt almost immediately. We are grateful to Jeana, her husband, Andrew, and their daughter, Avery, for trusting us, and we look forward to welcoming them to the Fighting Illini family.”

Kempe replaces Sue Novitsky, who retired in March after 28 years leading the Fighting Illini.

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Jim Halliburton
25 days ago

Congrats Jenna. I am so happy for you. You will do a great job at Illinois

20 days ago

When is someone going to uncover the mess at SC Jeana helped create along with Coach Poppell? All recruits should steer clear of both these programs.

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