The Latest Buzz on the NCAA Swim Coaching Carousel

Morning Splash by David Rieder.

This season’s ride around the NCAA swim coaching carousel started early, when TCU head coach Sam Busch was placed on administrative leave on Feb. 2, three weeks before the Big 12 championships. At that point, his departure was all but a foregone conclusion, even before his official resignation on Feb. 18.

The dominoes continued to fall: Whitney Hite left Wisconsin at the end of the men’s NCAA championships, and Brett Hawke resigned from Auburn shortly after. Neither departure was a shock. Less expected was Gregg Troy’s decision to retire from the University of Florida.

That’s a lot of action for a single offseason, and some big names have already found new homes. Perpetually-hot coaching candidate Yuri Suguiyama departed the Cal men’s program after six years to accept the job at Wisconsin. Another high-profile assistant, NC State’s Gary Taylor, landed at Auburn. Rumors have swirled about the Florida position.

So where are we, and what do we know? Here are some of the basics.

Tiger Surprise

As Braden Holloway built NC State into one of the country’s elite swim programs, his two lead assistants were Taylor and Todd DeSorbo. DeSorbo coached the sprinters and Taylor the distance group. In the span of less than nine months, both have departed. DeSorbo’s early success at UVA—including a women’s conference title in year one—did not hurt Taylor’s chances of landing a top job of his own.

Seems like a strong hire, right? No argument here—Taylor is deserving of an opportunity. But many Auburn supporters expected a bigger name.

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David Marsh — Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

David Marsh won seven men’s NCAA championships at Auburn and five women’s titles. For several years during that run, current Cal men’s coach Dave Durden was a key assistant on Marsh’s staff. Sergio Lopez looked like a strong candidate after serving as associate head coach at Auburn the last two years, and a source close to the program indicated that Michigan coach Mike Bottom was a consideration.

But the job went to Taylor, while Durden signed a contract extension with Cal. Marsh remains at UC-San Diego.

No, Auburn did not have much success during the nine full seasons under Hawke (after he led the men’s team to the 2009 national title as interim head coach), but the job remained one of the most prestigious in the sport. That’s why some of the sport’s best coaches, like Marsh and Durden, were interested.

And then Auburn chose Taylor? Not what some Tiger insiders were expecting.

A New Gator Era

At 67 years old, Troy made the call after the 2017-18 season to leave college coaching and concentrate on coaching professionals for the Olympics. The announcement was unexpected, but consider this: The Florida men are graduating their three best swimmers (Caeleb Dressel, Jan Switkowski and Mark Szaranek), and the Gator women scored just three swimming points at the NCAA championships in 2018 and none in 2017.

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Caeleb Dressel — Photo Courtesy: Dan D’Addona

Lead two teams through rebuilding periods or work with Dressel, Switkowski, Szaranek and Florida legend Ryan Lochte with an eye on 2020? Can’t blame Troy for choosing the pros.

So where does Florida turn next? According to a source, the Gators may opt for exact opposite track that most college programs have chosen in recent years: two separate head coaches for women and men.

Northwestern is moving from a split program to a combined program next season. Ohio State made the same transition before the 2017-18 season, and Notre Dame went that way the year before. So rare are split programs nowadays that in the Southeastern Conference, which has more swim teams than any other league, only one of Florida’s rivals (Texas A&M) has separate women’s and men’s head coaches.

Now, the Gators are considering that option in the wake of Troy’s departure, and members of his most recent coaching staff are strong possibilities to be given command of one of the two teams. Anthony Nesty, the 1988 Olympic gold medalist in the 100 fly and for the past 12 years an associate head coach at Florida, is a name worth watching.

Suguiyama’s New and Old Jobs

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Josh Prenot — Photo Courtesy: Andy Ringgold / Aringo Photos

For several years, it has never been a case of “if” Suguiyama would eventually become a head coach somewhere. Since he succeeded Greg Meehan as Durden’s lieutenant at Cal in the fall of 2012, the Golden Bears never finished lower than second at the NCAA championships, and Suguiyama was the primary coach for most of Cal’s middle-distance and distance swimmers, including Josh Prenot and Jacob Pebley.

During the summer of 2017, Suguiyama was a finalist for multiple head coaching positions before he ended up returning to Cal. Now, he heads to Wisconsin, which in some years would have been the most attractive job available.

Now, who takes his old spot at Cal? That job looks like the most attractive assistant spot available given the track record of sustained success at Cal, the cadre of Olympians still training in Berkeley and the fact that both men who have assisted Durden at Cal have gone onto Power-Five head coaching opportunities—and in Meehan’s case, two national titles at Stanford.

The Longhorn in the Room

A prediction about which you can be sure: Eddie Reese will not be the men’s head coach at Texas forever. After 40 years in Austin and 14 national titles, the end will come… eventually. But even after longtime assistant Kris Kubik retired in 2016, Reese decided to stay.

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Eddie Reese — Photo Courtesy: Dan D’Addona

“People ask me when I’m going to quit. I tell them, ‘Every year I coach, I get closer to retirement,’” Reese said last fall. “When I didn’t go with Kris—and I really thought about it then—my wife said, ‘You’ve got to go through 2020.”

Reese is not at all eager to quit, but he is 76 years old. Texas will be looking for a successor soon enough.

Jack Bauerle, meanwhile, is 66. The longtime Georgia coach might be ready to be done before too long.

Succeeding Troy at Florida will be a difficult task. Ditto for following Reese and Bauerle. But someone is going to have to fill all those shoes at some point. Of course, it’s way too early to speculate about who will be the next head coach for the Bulldogs or for the Texas men, but coaches know that those two job openings are on the horizon.

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Author: David Rieder

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David Rieder is a staff writer for Swimming World. He has contributed to the magazine and website since 2009, and he has covered the NCAA Championships, U.S. Nationals, Olympic Trials as well as the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio and the 2017 World Championships in Budapest. He is a native of Charleston, S.C., and a 2016 graduate of Duke University.

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