Jimmy Tierney Taking Coaching Reins For New Swim Program At McKendree University

McKendree University director of athletics Chuck Brueggemann announced the addition of men’s and women’s swimming and diving as the newest intercollegiate programs to be offered by the University. The announcement brings the total number of sports available at McKendree to 32.

Brueggemann tapped former NCAA Division I and Big Ten head coach Jimmy Tierney to lead the McKendree men’s and women’s swimming and diving programs. Tierney brings a wealth of experience and success to the Bearcats’ newest sports after serving as the head coach for the women’s swimming and diving team at Northwestern University for the last 21 years.

The team will compete in the Division II ranks, and will be a part of the Great Lakes Valley Conference. Drury University, who have amassed multiple NCAA men’s and women’s Division II championship titles, is a part of the conference and will provide plenty of competition for Tierney’s first class at the 2017 conference meet.

Tierney didn’t have to move far for his new job, as McKendree is located 300 miles south of Northwestern’s campus outside Chicago. He’ll have a lot of support from the administration, as University President Dr. James Dennis served as an assistant coach at the University of Southern California under Peter Daland and swam for Occidental College in the 1960s.

The new team will have a new pool at their disposal when they begin training officially in 12 months. The McKendree Metro Rec Plex is now under construction and will be completed in a year. Inside the facility will be a 25-meter-by-25-yard competition/training pool and a separate recreation pool. Also in the venue will be two ice hockey rinks and weight rooms.

Currently, Lewis University and Quincy University are the only Division II schools in Illinois to offer a swimming and diving program. Seven schools in Illinois compete in Division I, while 12 colleges/universities in the state compete at the Division III level.

Men’s and women’s swimming and diving are the first aquatic sports for the McKendree athletic programs. Both teams will compete for the first time in the 2016-17 academic year, and will be one of the cornerstone tenants at the new McKendree Metro Rec Plex located in O’Fallon. Construction for the new facility will begin later this month, with the project expected to be completed in time for the Bearcats’ inaugural seasons. The McKendree Metro Rec Plex will be a state-of-the-art facility that will house a full aquatic center along with two National Hockey League (NHL)-size sheets of ice, fitness area and other amenities. The Bearcat swimming and diving programs will have dedicated locker room space, as well as offices for coaches and other staff.

“The sport of swimming and diving at the collegiate level has seen growth nationwide over the last several years,” said Brueggemann. “It has grown especially fast in the Midwest as this region has gained attention for hosting numerous national events and Olympic qualifiers. The St. Louis area boasts a wealth of talent, and we intend to build a top-quality swimming and diving program by tapping into that talent as well as recruiting on a national and international level. The Great Lakes Valley Conference has become one of the strongest NCAA Division II swimming and diving conferences, and it is our goal to compete among the league’s best. The McKendree Metro Rec Plex will only strengthen those efforts as we will have a first-class facility for our student-athletes to train and compete in for years to come.”

“Jimmy Tierney is the perfect choice to form the foundation for the McKendree men’s and women’s swimming and diving programs,” said Brueggemann. “He is well-known among the NCAA coaching community and has proven ability in managing all aspects of a program from a budgeting, scheduling and recruiting aspect. Not only that, Jimmy has coached his squads to both individual and team success at the conference and national levels in NCAA Division I. His coaching style reflects the type of person that he is, and in turn he is able to get the most out of his student-athletes. Through his efforts, I believe McKendree will have an immediate impact in Great Lakes Valley Conference and NCAA Division II competition, and cannot wait until Jimmy starts the process of building the Bearcats’ swimming and diving program.”

Tierney began his time at Northwestern in 1988 as an assistant coach for both the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams. In 1994, he was named as the head coach for the Wildcats’ women’s program. During his 21-year tenure as head coach at Northwestern, Tierney had a hand in coaching 74 individual NCAA All-America honorees. He guided 26 Big Ten champions along with 39 All Big Ten honorees.

Over those 21 seasons, Tierney led Northwestern to five different top-12 finishes and a total of seven top-20 efforts at the NCAA Division I Championships. In dual meet competition, the Wildcats posted a record of 126-94-1 with Tierney at the helm. He was named the 2008 Big Ten Swimming Coach of the Year at the conclusion of the conference championships.

In addition to his coaching responsibilities, Tierney oversaw team fund raising through several initiatives at Northwestern. He was instrumental in founding and serving as head coach for the Northwestern Aquatic Swim Association in 1988. Tierney created age group and master’s programs at Northwestern and coached both programs while adding staff to help run the day-to-day practices. Tierney also started the Wildcat Swim Camp in 1988 and served as camp director from its inception. In this role, Tierney handled many duties including the managing of daily operations (including budget, insurance and other aspects), establishing a camp website for registrations, and creating and updating the camp’s handbook.

In 2011, Tierney helped Northwestern establish a program endowment that saw the fund grow exponentially in its first four years. Brueggemann envisions Tierney developing both a youth club and master’s program in partnership with the owners of the McKendree Metro Rec Plex.

“Jimmy has shown an expert touch in crafting successful ventures in the area of fund raising that benefitted not only his institution, but local youth as well,” said Brueggemann. “The owners of the McKendree Metro Rec Plex were interested in partnering with someone who could not only create a top-level youth program. Jimmy brings that experience and success, and I know this will be an exciting venture for all involved.”

Tierney’s coaching experience is not limited to the collegiate level. He has coached with USA Swimming for many years and has been part of several international competitions. Tierney was the head women’s coach for the US Junior Team that competed in Rome in 2001. In addition, he was a women’s assistant coach for USA Swimming at the 1999 World University Games in Mallorca in 1999 and also the 2007 World University Games held in Bangkok. Tierney has served six three-year terms on the board of directors for the American Swim Coaches Association (ASCA), and currently serves as the vice-president for the organization.

“I am looking forward to the challenge of building the McKendree University swimming and diving programs from the ground up,” said Tierney. “This is a new and different challenge in the fact we are starting from scratch, but I cannot wait to connect with the student-athletes who want to be part of something special and exciting. McKendree is a hidden gem here in southern Illinois, and this area has all sorts of potential in building a top-notch swimming and diving program. The McKendree Metro Rec Plex will only help us in attracting some of the best talent not only in the region, but in the nation and internationally as well. Our immediate goal is to connect with the swim clubs in the region and build on the opportunities afforded us in the surrounding states. I’m excited to get out and spread the word about McKendree swimming and diving. I believe we have to potential to become a force at the NCAA Division II level, and I look forward to making that happen.”

Tierney is no stranger to the southern Illinois region. He began his coaching career with a two-year stint as an assistant coach at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, where he completed work for his master’s degree in 1988. A native of Louisville, Ky., Tierney earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Louisville.

The Sports Information Department for McKendree University contributed to this article.

1 Comment

1 comment

  1. avatar
    Gary Mans

    Quincy University in Quincy, Ill., is swimming its first season this year as a Div. II program. Therefore McKendree will be the 3rd Div. II program in the state. Your article leaves out Quincy University.

Author: Jeff Commings

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Jeff Commings is the Senior Writer for SwimmingWorld.com and Swimming World Magazine. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in journalism and was a nine-time NCAA All-American.

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