Coley Stickels Leaves Alabama after 18 Months; Will be Replaced by Margo Geer

The University of Alabama swimming and diving team announced in a press release on Monday that head coach Coley Stickels had resigned in order to focus on training athletes for the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo and other national and international competitions. Alabama has reached an agreement with Margo Geer who will take over the program as head coach after the 2021 Olympics, in which she is hoping to compete. In the interim, associate head coach Ozzie Quevedo will lead the men’s and women’s teams.

SwimSwam has reached out to the University of Alabama asking for more information about the timing of the resignation, or for insights into why Geer was chosen as the successor, but the school has not responded to that request.

“This was not an easy decision, but I’ve decided it is best to step down as head coach of the Alabama Swimming & Diving program,” said Stickels. “It’s been an honor to serve in this position at Alabama. After personal reflection, however, I need to reprioritize my time to concentrate on training athletes for national and international competition, including the upcoming Olympics. I wish the team all of the best going forward and know they are in good hands.”

Stickels arrived in Tuscaloosa in April 2019 from Indiana University, where he had been the associate head sprint coach for the Hoosiers. Prior to that, he was a club coach with Canyons Aquatic Club in California, training U.S. Olympian Abbey Weitzeil as a high schooler. Stickels coached the Crimson Tide during the 2019-20 season that was cut short because of the coronavirus pandemic, and has Alabama to 2 wins (LSU and Kentucky) and 2 losses (Tennessee and Virginia) so far this season. During his tenure, 24 student-athletes qualified for the 2020 NCAA Championships and 22 earned a cumulative 57 All-America honors. At the 2020 SEC Championships, Alabama broke 23 school records and earned a combined 15 medals, placing 4th in the men’s standings and 7th in the women’s.

Geer, a 2015 World Champion and four-time Pan American Games gold medalist, has been a volunteer assistant coach at Alabama. Her only other coaching experience is from the 2016–17 season when she was a volunteer assistant coach at Ohio State. Geer is currently training for the Tokyo Olympics. She was a three-time NCAA champion the University of Arizona, winning the 50 free in 2013 and the 100 free in 2013 and 2014. In 2015 she was named Pac-12 Woman of the Year and was a finalist for NCAA Woman of the Year. She plans to take over as Alabama’s next head coach at the conclusion of the 2021 Olympics.

Alabama’s athletics director Greg Byrne was the athletics director at the University of Arizona from 2010 through 2017. Geer was a swimmer there from 2010 through 2014.

The full announcement can be seen here:

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Coley Stickels has elected to resign from his position as head coach of the Alabama Swimming & Diving program to focus more of his attention on training athletes for Olympic and other national and international competitions.

“This was not an easy decision, but I’ve decided it is best to step down as head coach of the Alabama Swimming & Diving program,” said Stickels. “It’s been an honor to serve in this position at Alabama. After personal reflection, however, I need to reprioritize my time to concentrate on training athletes for national and international competition, including the upcoming Olympics. I wish the team all of the best going forward and know they are in good hands.”

Stickels joined the program in April of 2019, coaching all of the shortened 2019-20 season in addition to the fall portion of this year’s slate. Under his tutelage, a total of 24 student-athletes qualified for the 2020 NCAA Championships and 22 earned a total of 57 All-America honors. At the 2020 SEC Championships, Alabama broke 23 school records and earned a combined 15 medals.

Margo Geer, 2015 World Champion and four-time Pan American Games gold medalist, has been selected as the program’s next head coach. She will take the reins once her competitive career concludes as she is currently training for the 2021 Olympic Games. Geer, who also serves as a volunteer assistant coach for the Crimson Tide, is a 27-time All-American, winning three NCAA Championships while at Arizona and was the 2015 Pac-12 Woman of the Year and finalist for NCAA Woman of the Year. Associate head coach Ozzie Quevedo will serve as the interim head coach until completion of Geer’s swimming career.

All such employment contracts are subject to approval by The University of Alabama Board of Trustees.

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Lokiz
8 months ago

April Fools??

swimfan210_
Reply to  Lokiz
8 months ago

December 28th is April Fools in Mexico…

PEMC15
Reply to  swimfan210_
8 months ago

Risas!!!

SadRollTide
8 months ago

If only someone could have foreseen this imploding.

Muddy Waters
8 months ago

Wow, sounds like something went down? Weird timing right?

Swim fan
8 months ago

How many top 25 combined programs have female head coaches? Big for the sport in my opinion

WeLoveMargo
Reply to  Swim fan
8 months ago

I think she will do great things for the team! So supportive and knows her stuff.

Coach
Reply to  Swim fan
8 months ago

Eh, not sure a major Power 5 program imploding and then fly by night hiring somebody with no paid coaching experience is the direction we were looking to head.

Ferb
Reply to  Coach
8 months ago

You guys both have good points.

Coachy
Reply to  Swim fan
8 months ago

Counterpoint; this is a terrible day for the sport. If a Power 5 AD is willing to make a hire like this it really shows how little they think of the sport.

And I know Margo and think she’s an awesome person. But nothing about this hire should make people feel good unless identity politics is all you care about.

Saw Guerra
Reply to  Coachy
8 months ago

Maybe they are burning the field and she’s the only one not impacted.

SadRollTide
Reply to  Saw Guerra
8 months ago

I can’t imagine them leaving Ozzie as interim for an extended period if this is part of a staff purge.

Confused Female Coach
Reply to  Coachy
8 months ago

As a female coach, I couldn’t agree more.

Ferb
Reply to  Swim fan
8 months ago

Just a crazy theory: Maybe it won’t be a combined program for very long?

Admin
Reply to  Ferb
8 months ago

Seems like an odd choice then to just announce Geer and not the counterpart.

This one is a real head-scratcher to me. Even if Geer was your choice…I can’t see any conceivable upside to announcing that now. We don’t know yet if Margo is going to be a good head coach or not – but I can’t imagine that announcement is going to stop the defection of recruits who committed to Alabama with the goal of becoming All-Americans or National Teamers.

Last edited 8 months ago by Braden Keith
Ferb
Reply to  Braden Keith
8 months ago

I meant maybe they plan to ax the men’s team. Again, just a crazy longshot theory.

And I agree about announcing Margo now. Seems like it would make more sense to just announce the interim coach while “undergoing a thorough search,” even if in reality they already intended to hire Margo.

Last edited 8 months ago by Ferb
samos
Reply to  Ferb
8 months ago

always rumors there about ending swimming at UA

Becky D
Reply to  samos
8 months ago

If you are going to axe the program within the next year or two, why bother doing a thorough search for an experienced coach? That makes the announcement of promotion directly to HC slightly less baffling.

Last edited 8 months ago by Becky D
NC Fan
Reply to  samos
8 months ago

Hmm, and the $25 million pool renovation makes more sense at Bama if you think about it as prepping a football team lounge facility over a non-rev sports facility. Heck, it adjoins the football practice field and is Bear’s old office location, so that idea sounds more feasible every second. Saban just playing chess!

coach
Reply to  NC Fan
8 months ago

Wrong.

samos
Reply to  Braden Keith
8 months ago

yup – why announce Margo 8 months in advance? makes no sense.

Jason
Reply to  samos
8 months ago

I agree. It makes no sense. I have heard wonderful things about her. I wonder if Byrne knew her from Arizona and that influenced his decision.

WeLoveMargo
Reply to  Jason
8 months ago

I believe that they announced her early to put the swimmers’ minds at ease (the most important thing right now) and give them something concrete in a time of such uncertainty.

Julia B
8 months ago

How do you make a volunteer assistant a head coach? Imagine there’d be plenty of experienced coaches out there that would kill for a opportunity like this.

SadRollTide
Reply to  Julia B
8 months ago

Reads like a rushed decision instead of Byrne actually performing a search…

Friend
Reply to  SadRollTide
8 months ago

He didn’t do a lot of research when recruiting Stickels either

coach
Reply to  Friend
8 months ago

No, he just called Margo.

samos
Reply to  coach
8 months ago

seems the AD is very close to Margo

ITSYABOI
Reply to  samos
8 months ago

He is close to Margo. Did a whole talk about how amazing it was to know her from her time swimming at Arizona.

JusticeDelayed
Reply to  Friend
8 months ago

This is just a theory – no inside info – but what if Margo is a place holder for Sammy, or Augie presuming this is the end of Augie’s run at Arizona (alleged NCAA violations). Like “ok we’ll say it’s Margo, but really we’re just expecting Augie to be available after a one year show-cause order, so we’ll give it to him when that expires.”

Daddy Busch still carries a lot of pull in the right circles…this would be particularly masterful work, though.

4IM
Reply to  JusticeDelayed
8 months ago

Speaking as someone who knows Sam- they would be stupid to hire him as a head coach. The TCU job went about as well as expected. Sam doesn’t have the maturity to be in charge of a team and would need a strong assistant to do all the nitty gritty work.

SAMUEL HUNTINGTON
Reply to  Julia B
8 months ago

gotta imagine there are experienced associate head coaches out there scratching their heads right now

Jim
Reply to  Julia B
8 months ago

To make it seem like this was planned and thought out, rather than the mess it seems to be. That being said, I’m sure that Margo can do a great job

RammerJammerYellowHammer
Reply to  Julia B
8 months ago

After Denny retired, the AD (being the bumbling idiot he is) asked Margo who should he hire. Margo highly praised Coley (God of swimming) as the next Head. The AD went with her recommendation and NO OTHER. Byrne needs to step down as AD. He put athletes at risk in the care of Coley. Margo is also to blame for this mess to some degree. A nice person, but unproven as a swim coach. Has she ever coached/developed kids at the club level from novice to trials?

At least the Coley nightmare is over. However, we now have a coach that has never coached. Hmmm…

buckeye boys wife
Reply to  RammerJammerYellowHammer
8 months ago

Bryne was the AD at Arizona when Daddy Busch recruited and coached Geer. But I’m sure it is just a coincidence

BamaFan
Reply to  RammerJammerYellowHammer
8 months ago

This. Someone needs to take a hard look at Greg Byrne. I remember reading about issues at Arizona while he was the AD there. It seems he’s good at covering serious issues under a rug. The problems last year with Coley were not addressed. The questionable early retirement of Pursley was buried as well. No mention of potential lawsuits the school might have faced.

ITSYABOI
Reply to  BamaFan
8 months ago

I say Byrne sus…
jokes aside though, only a questionable AD can explain the drastic difference in character between the two recent head coaches… and now this ✨interesting✨ hire.

flygirl21
Reply to  RammerJammerYellowHammer
8 months ago

Alabama Football Revenue: $95,208,399
Alabama Swimming Revenue: $122,791

Yeah, I’m sure the AD will get fired over a swim coach nobody knew they had

SwimFan49
Reply to  flygirl21
8 months ago

Serious question: how the hell does the swim program generate $122k of revenue? Camps?

Admin
Reply to  SwimFan49
8 months ago

Camps can generate a lot of revenue. Different schools structure that different ways – sometimes the athletics department gets that money, sometimes the head coach owns the camp. I don’t know what Alabama does.

I haven’t seen the accounting referenced above, but hypothetical thoughts:

1) Maybe they’re allocated a percentage of the overall Nike deal, for accounting purposes?
2) Donations earmarked for the swim program
3) It’s plausible for swim teams to sell game-sponsorships. I don’t think they’d amount to much, but when I was at Texas A&M, there would be maybe 100 people at a meet (they incentivized people to show up with a system of rewards that got you free swag).

Wahooswimfan
Reply to  Braden Keith
8 months ago

royalties from sales of logo gear – Alabama fans, Alabama residents, Alabama camp attendees;
share of ad revenue from ads shown on the SEC channel when Alabama swimming is on the broadcast.

Admin
Reply to  Wahooswimfan
8 months ago

Ahhh yes, gear is a good one, especially from swim camps, that can add up pretty quick.

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  Julia B
8 months ago

Maybe they’re paying her volunteer salary.

Bleach
8 months ago

Sounds more like he got fired lol

UhHuh
Reply to  Bleach
2 months ago

Stickles was fired in Oregon and in Arizona by club boards. Not surprising here.

SAMUEL HUNTINGTON
8 months ago

Wow, becoming head coach of a major combined program after just 2 years as a volunteer assistant, that is quite a leap!

Coachy
Reply to  SAMUEL HUNTINGTON
8 months ago

And by “volunteer assistant” you mean “title that was given to a pro so they could train with the team”

swimgeek
Reply to  Coachy
8 months ago

Isn’t Ryan Held a pro there also — is he also a volunteer asst. coach?

Allwet
Reply to  swimgeek
8 months ago

Ryan (and others) are pros but not named as coaches. Margo apparently did coach with the distance group but swam with the sprint group.

Swimmer
Reply to  SAMUEL HUNTINGTON
8 months ago

This does seem crazy. She could be great, but surely you need experience to lead a programme. It doesn’t seem fair (to her) to put her straight in at the top – I doubt, if needed, any allowances will be made for her inexperience by her swimmers/their parents/the faculty?

Coachy
Reply to  Swimmer
8 months ago

A lot of things are happening here, but Margo being a victim is not one of them.

Mde
Reply to  Swimmer
8 months ago

Nor should they be. No room for allowances at that level. The time for that is as a volunteer assistant or the coach of a small club team or junior coach etc.

If you want to sit at the big kid table you have to play by the big kid rules. She obviously thinks she is up to it, only time will tell.

SwimmerfromCali
8 months ago

Congrats to Margo on the new coaching job!

gkjhdslks
Reply to  SwimmerfromCali
8 months ago

c’mon y’all. Whether or not you believe that it was a prudent decision, it’s a big deal for her – not to mention for women’s swimming coaches as many are relegated to age-group jobs and not promoted to higher roles like this.

Last edited 8 months ago by gkjhdslks
GOML
Reply to  gkjhdslks
8 months ago

Uh, no…..hiring someone with no track record as a head coach, barely out of the competition phase herself is NOT a big deal for women coaches. How many women coaches with proven track records are out there that have just been shat on. Let alone the high probability that someone with no track record will likely fail, setting back the “cause” for women coaches in the NCAA.

gkjhdslks
Reply to  GOML
8 months ago

Fair enough – I had not considered that

Woman Coach
Reply to  gkjhdslks
8 months ago

This is not a good thing for women coaches. There are many deserving women coaches out there, but Margo is not one of them. She may be a wonderful person, but this flies in the face of all the women putting time in and work, in the trenches, that would have been appropriate hires for this position. It’s a set back because it reeks of favoritism, be that sexist favoritism or friendship favoritism, but something reeks here. I can think of 3 top program women assistants that would blow Margo’s resume out of the water.

Human Ambition
Reply to  SwimmerfromCali
8 months ago

Heading a program is coaching but a substantial share of being boss for assistants, communication with department and other parts, setting up schedules and so.

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Anne Lepesant is the mother of four daughters, all of whom swam in college. With an undergraduate degree from Princeton (where she was an all-Ivy tennis player) and an MBA from INSEAD, she worked for many years in the financial industry, both in France and the U.S. Anne is currently …

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