Now that the 2022-2023 NCAA swimming and diving season has wound down and the coaching carousel is turning, let’s take a look at the Division I head coach openings that are out there.
It’s been a big year for coaching changes among Division I programs, for a variety of reasons. We’ve seen a number of coaches who had been serving in their capacity as head coach for a long time either retire or abruptly resign. Among those coaches are Oakland University’s Pete Hovland and Purdue University’s Dan Ross, both of whom made the decision to retire at the end of this season, bringing about the ends of two of the longest tenured head swimming and diving coaches’ careers.
Hovland, who is set to officially retire on May 7th, joined the Oakland swimming and diving program as an assistant in 1979, has served as the head coach of the program since 1981. The Oakland men’s team has won 45 consecutive conference championships, across a variety of conferences and both NCAA DI and DII, including every year in which Hovland was the head of the program. The women’s team has won 28 consecutive conference titles, 22 of which came with Hovland as the head of the program, which he took over in 2001.
The Golden Grizzlies announced Mitch Alters as the next head coach of the men’s and women’s swimming and diving programs back at the end of March. Alters is taking control of the program after spending the last two seasons as an assistant coach with the Golden Grizzlies. Prior to his arrival in Rochester, Alters was an assistant coach at the University of Richmond. He began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at the University of Arkansas.
Dan Ross recently concluded his 38th season as the head coach of Purdue men’s swimming and diving, a role which he began in 1985. Ross won three Big Ten Coach of the Year awards during his tenure at Purdue, earning the honors across three different decades (1988, 1997, 2009). Ross also notably swam for Purdue himself from 1977 to 1981. After graduating, Ross stayed in West Lafayette, serving as an assistant coach for four seasons before taking over as the head coach himself.
The Boilermakers just announced Alex Jerden as the new head coach of the men’s swimming and diving program earlier this week. Jerden will officially take over as head coach in June, upon Ross’ official retirement. Jerden has been with the Boilermakers for the past four seasons, starting as a volunteer assistant before being promoted to full-time assistant following the 2021 season.
Before we get into what positions still remain on the market, let’s first briefly examine some of the other the head coaching roles that have already been filled.
- New Mexico has hired Naya Higashijima as the head coach of the women’s swimming and diving program. Higashijima comes to UMN after spending the last four seasons as the associate head coach at SMU. The hiring of Higashijima comes after former New Mexico head coach Keegan Ingelido resigned midway through the season, citing “personal reasons” as reasoning for her departure.
- Ozzie Quevedo has been named the new head coach of the SMU women’s swimming and diving program. The announcement was made last week. Quevedo was hired after spending the last four seasons as the associate head coach at the University of Alabama. The women’s head coaching position at SMU opened up after Steve Collins announced his retirement following 37 seasons at the helm of the program.
Now, let’s take a look at the Division I head coaching positions that have yet to be filled. There aren’t too many, however, a few of them are high-profile positions.
NCAA DI programs with head coach openings:
- Duke University – men’s and women’s head coach
- University of Arkansas Little Rock – women’s head coach
- Boston University – men’s and women’s head coach
- Incarnate Word – men’s and women’s head coach
- Bellarmine University – men’s and women’s head coach
- Auburn University – men’s and women’s diving coach
- Navy – men’s and women’s diving coach
Headlining the current crop of head coach vacancies is Duke University. The ACC member program is currently under the direction of interim head coach Doak Finch took over as head coach of the program midway through the season, following the death of Dan Colella, who had served as the head coach at Duke for 16 years. Finch was promoted to associate head coach of the Blue Devils in July of 2017. While Duke hasn’t yet announced an official hiring of the next head coach, given his history with the team, it would be surprising if Finch isn’t toward the top of the list of candidates.
One of the most recent additions to this list of head coach openings is Arkansas Little Rock. Head coach Amy Burgess announced her retirement after 15 seasons in charge of the team a few weeks ago. Little Rock is an NCAA Division I women’s team that competes in the Missouri Valley Conference. In 2023, they finished 9th out of 10 teams at the MVC Championships, beating out Valparaiso.
Incarnate Word is another program which had their head coach abruptly resign in the middle of the season. Back in December, former head coach Phil Davis suddenly resigned but remained head coach of the local club team Streamline Aquatics. Davis started as the women’s head coach in 2006 and went on to found Incarnate Word’s men’s program the following year. Following Davis’ departure, Andrii Nikishenko was named interim head coach. Nikishenko has been coaching at UIW since 2016. Like Finch at Duke, Nikishenko would seem to be a likely candidate to be officially named head coach of the program, however, the position remains open.
Boston University also finds themselves in the market for a new men’s and women’s head coach after Bill Smyth announced his retirement. Smyth served as the head of the swimming and diving program for 18 years.
It was announced just yesterday that Bellarmine head men’s and women’s swimming and diving coach John Brucato is resigning from his position, effective July 1st. Brucato is the first and only head coach in Bellarmine swimming and diving history, helping guide the program through the transition from Division II to Division I.
On top of the head coach openings out there right now, there are a number of notable assistant coaching positions up for grabs. As SwimSwam recently reported, Arizona parted ways with assistant coaches Anna Heller and Clif Robbins, leaving the Wildcats with two open assistant coaching positions.
Florida, Pitt, and Dartmouth are among the Division I programs currently looking to hire full-time assistant coaches as well.