Donges spent eight months with the Panthers leading their men’s and women’s swimming programs. Neither squad took a step forward at this year’s Summit League Championships as both finished 6th out of six teams. In 2021, when the Summit League Championships featured only five teams, the men placed 4th while the women were last.
“We don’t take these changes lightly,” Michael said. “After in-depth review of the status of the program, we have made the decision to move in a different direction with the leadership for both the swim teams.”
The Division I program appeared to be building some momentum following the 2021 Summit League Championships. Eastern Illinois won five medals there, including the program’s first individual gold medal (Miguel Turcios, 200 backstroke) since 2010. But former head coach Evan Sholudko resigned last July to become head coach at Division II Lewis University. Sholudko’s swimmers set seven school records during his two seasons with the Panthers. His departure, however, came less than six weeks before the start of Eastern Illinois’ fall semester.
Donges was hired last September following a one-year stint at Anderson University that saw his men’s and women’s teams set 22 school records. The Panthers broke (W 50 free, W 200 breast, The Ball State graduate also coached for seven years at Yorktown Swim Club in Indiana.
A national search is underway for the Panthers’ third coach in four seasons since Jacqueline Michalski’s five-year tenure ended in 2019. Like Sholudko, Michalski also left for a D-II program at Gannon University.
Eastern Illinois competes in the Summit League along with Denver, Omaha, South Dakota, South Dakota State, St. Thomas, and the incoming pair of Southern Indiana and Lindenwood joining from the D-II ranks this fall.