Jeff Poppell to Take Over as Head Coach at South Carolina

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Jeff Poppell at the 2018 U.S. National Championships -- Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Jeff Poppell, previously the head coach of the women’s team at the University of Florida, will become the new head coach of the University of South Carolina Gamecocks. Poppell replaces McGee Moody, who stepped down in March after 14 seasons at the helm in Columbia.

Yahoo Sports’ Pat Forde first reported the hire. South Carolina confirmed it on Friday.

Poppell spent three seasons as head coach of the Florida women’s team after taking over the program when Gregg Troy retired from college coaching in 2018. Florida’s women had struggled in Troy’s last few years with the program, going from winning an NCAA team title as recently as 2010 to not scoring a single point at the 2017 championships. Under Poppell, the Gators finished 17th at this year’s meet with 84.5 points and took second at the SEC championships, just 53 points behind Kentucky. That was Florida’s third straight runner-up finish at the conference meet.

“I am excited to welcome Jeff and his family to the University of South Carolina and our athletics program,” Athletic director Ray Tanner said in a university release. “Jeff brings an outstanding coaching resume and a coaching philosophy that will greatly benefit our student-athletes. He knows what it takes to move our swimming and diving program to a championship level.”

“I’m both honored and thrilled to have been named the new Head Swimming & Diving Coach at South Carolina,” Jeff Poppell said. “On my visit earlier this week, I was absolutely blown away by the beauty of the campus, the highly ranked academic programs offered, as well as the strong commitment made by the Gamecock Athletic Administration to help build and sustain a championship caliber program at the University of South Carolina. We have a lot of work ahead of us in the future however I can’t wait to get to Columbia, meet the teams, and begin this exciting new journey.”

Before he was head coach of the Florida women, Poppell was an associate head coach on Troy’s combined Florida staff from 2016 to 2018, and he also was the women’s coach at the University of Arkansas from 2006 to 2012. He swam in college at the University of Georgia and graduated in 1993, so after his hire at South Carolina, Poppell now has connections to four different SEC programs.

The South Carolina swimming program has struggled in recent years. At this year’s SEC championships, the Gamecock women finished 11th out of 12th teams, and the men were 10th out of 10 teams. But South Carolina has had some individual standouts in the not-too-distant past. At the 2018 NCAA championships, Emma Barksdale finished fourth in the 200 breast and fifth in both the 200 IM and 400 IM, while on the men’s side, Akram Mahmoud had an impressive career at South Carolina in the distance events, finishing as high as second in the 1650 free in 2016 and third in 2017. Fynn MinuthNils Wich-Glasen and Brandonn Almeida were all been A-finalists at the men’s NCAA championships between 2017 and 2019.

The past year has been a nervous one for supporters of South Carolina’s program. In December, school president Robert Caslen suggested that the school may have to cut some Olympic sports programs to save money during the COVID-19 pandemic, but recent developments have suggested the swim programs are currently safe. The Gamecocks have the only Division I swimming program in the Palmetto state after rival Clemson cut their swim teams after the 2012 season, and the College of Charleston cut their program in 2015.