The winningest coach in college swimming history is ready to step away.
Collegiate and international coaching legend Eddie Reese will retire at the conclusion of the 2024 U.S. Olympic Trials, the University of Texas announced Friday, with Reese stepping down from the post he’s held for nearly half a century.
The University of Texas will start a national search for his replacement following the 2024 Men’s NCAA Championships in March.
Reese, 82, is currently entering his 46th season as the head coach of the Texas men’s program, having led the Longhorns to an NCAA record 15 national titles, the most recent of which came in 2021.
After that 15th title in March 2021, Reese announced he was retiring following the conclusion of the Tokyo Olympics, but the Games hadn’t even commenced when news broke that Reese would indeed be returning to the pool deck in Austin for the 2021-22 NCAA season.
After guiding the Longhorns to a runner-up finish at the 2022 NCAA Championships and then a 3rd-place showing this past season, the eight-time NCAA Coach of the Year appears to be stepping aside for good next year.
“Where we are today and where I am today is made possible by everyone who has swum here before and is swimming here now,” Reese said. “They are the reasons behind the success of this program. When people get together with the mindset of accomplishing something, even though it is tough during that year in time, it adds up to something truly amazing. I want to thank those guys who trusted me, did all the hard workouts and made the sacrifices in and out of the water.
“Working with swimmers has been one of the true joys of my life,” Reese continued. “In my life, I’ve discovered that the most important thing for us to do in this world is help others, whether it be for something simple or complex. It has been an honor for me to be a part of this program.”
Hired in 1978, Reese is the only swim coach in history to win NCAA titles in five separate decades (1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s and 2020s), having claimed his first championship victory back in 1981. His 15 national championships are tied for the seventh-most by any coach, in any sport, in NCAA history.
In addition to the 15 NCAA titles, Texas has had 13 runner-up finishes and 36 top-three finishes at the NCAAs under Reese’s watch, with a staggering 43 consecutive top-10 finishes and a total of 44 conference titles.
“Eddie Reese is truly the greatest coach ever,” said UT Vice President and Athletics Director Chris Del Conte. “His records speak for themselves, but the way he led his program, trained and prepared his student-athletes to perform at their best in the pool and all facets of their lives, is just exemplary and extraordinary. Nobody has or will ever do it better.”
A four-time College Swimming & Diving Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) National Coach of the Year and four-time American Swimming Coaches Association (ASCA) Coach of the Year, Reese has led swimmers to 75 individual NCAA individual titles and 55 relay crowns throughout his career, with a chance to add to that tally this season.
“To coach swimming well, it cannot be a job. It’s got to be a lifestyle,” Reese said. “In reality, I haven’t had a job for the 58 years that I’ve coached. It has been an incredible part of my life. And the incredible part has had nothing to do with winning and losing. It has to do with the people that I’ve been lucky enough to be around. They have kept me young, and they showed great acceptance by continuing to laugh at my bad jokes.
“For those who add to the program, from the parents of the swimmers to compliance to academics to nutrition to the training room, and to The University of Texas, this could not have been accomplished without your contributions.”
In addition to his incredible career as a collegiate coach, Reese has also served on several U.S. Olympic Team staffs, including being the head men’s coach at the 1992 (Barcelona), 2004 (Athens) and 2008 (Beijing) Games.
He’s also served as an assistant on the U.S. staff at the 1988 (Seoul), 1996 (Atlanta), 2000 (Sydney) and 2012 (London) Games, and he also accompanied eventual Olympic champion Joseph Schooling with the Singapore staff at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
Despite his incredible longevity in Austin, Reese didn’t get his start at UT, having served six years at Auburn University (1972-78), helping rebuild the Tigers up to a runner-up finish at the 1978 NCAAs.
As a swimmer, Reese led the University of Florida to three SEC titles (1961, 1962, 1963) before graduating in 1963. As a senior, he became the first Florida swimmer to win five SEC titles in a single career.
He remained at Florida as a graduate assistant coach while earning his master’s degree and also served as a high school teacher and coach at Roswell (N.M.) High School for two years (1965-66) before returning to Florida as an assistant coach for six seasons (1967-72).
Reese and his wife, Elinor, have two daughters, Holly and Heather, and four grandchildren.