Auburn has filled the vacant spot in their men’s and women’s coaching staffs with a significant hiring – Penn State head coach John Hargis. The deal becomes official and is expected to be announced next week, though both programs were informed of the decision on Saturday.
Hargis will take over as the associate head coach of both the men’s and women’s teams, filling the role left when Frank Bradley was named the head coach at Florida State.
Auburn is widely viewed as one of the top assistant coaching jobs in the country, both in terms of compensation and opportunity, as evidenced by Hargis giving up a head coaching role at a Big Ten, top-25 type program in Penn State.
Hargis and Auburn head coach Brett Hawke were teammates on the Tigers’ 1997 NCAA Championship team. Nearly the entire Auburn swimming coaching staff (Hawke, Hargis, Richard Long, Demarae Christensen, and strength coach Bryan Karkoska) are now alumni. Sam Busch went to Arizona, and Bradley, who Hargis replaces, is a Florida State alum.
Prior to being the head coach at Penn State, he spent a few years as the head coach of the Arkansas Dolphins club, and as the head coach of Arkansas-Little Rock. Prior to that, he was a Penn State assistant, and before that was an assistant at UNLV.
As a swimmer, Hargis was an Olympic gold medalist as the prelims butterfly leg on the 400 medley relay at the 1996 Olympics, and was on an NCAA/US Open Record setting 200 yard medley relay.
Hargis’ men’s team finished 20th at last year’s NCAA Championships, and his women were 29th. The Auburn women were 8th and their men were 13th.
Hargis’ Penn State teams had great success, especially at the Big Ten Championships where the women were 3rd last year, though at times they had issues carrying their taper through to NCAAs. 17 of his swimmers swam at the 2012 US Olympic Trials, and he coached Patrick Schirk to a World University Games silver medal in his first year as the head coach of Penn State in 2009.
Among the returning swimmers awaiting the new Penn State head coach are a group of promising young women’s freestylers in Carolyn Fittin, Megan Siverling, and 2013 Big Ten 200 free champion (as just a freshman) Alyson Ackman, who appears to be one of the country’s best under-the-radar prospects.
The men’s team also returns a strong group that was in the top 15 two-thirds of the way through NCAAs. They will be led by junior Nate Savoy, who scored in the B final of both the 100 and 200 back at NCAAs last year.