Eastern Illinois Parts Ways With Head Swim Coach Tyler Donges

Eastern Illinois University has parted ways with head coach Tyler Donges after just one season, athletic director Tom Michael announced on May 6.

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.

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EIU Swimmer
1 month ago

The reality is there is no way Eastern Illinois can acquire a coach with plenty of experience and direction as well wanting to stay long term with the salary the coach is being paid.

AAA
1 month ago

But hey they just posted the job so good luck to getting someone decent and them having any support…hahaha

Eastern Swimmer
1 month ago

Hard to “take a leap forward” from a year when Denver had the majority of its swimmers out with covid.

Eastern Swimmer
Reply to  Eastern Swimmer
1 month ago

And Miguel followed Evan to Lewis

Eastern Swimmer
1 month ago

Two records were broken

Womens 50 Free and Womens 200 Breast

BearlyBreathing
1 month ago

Hired in September, fired in May.
Unless there was some kind of egregious error like the coach killed someone I can’t imagine giving up on a coach that quickly.
Third coach in four seasons doesn’t look good for the AD.

Swimmer
Reply to  BearlyBreathing
1 month ago

I feel like regardless of what the coach did production wise, it is unprofessional to let them go after one season. Poor decision on part of that AD

All4One
Reply to  Swimmer
1 month ago

Well we aren’t in the department or on the team to know what happened. I think it’s hard to trash the AD without knowing what’s going on.

Panther Supporter
Reply to  BearlyBreathing
1 month ago

I can’t speak for the other coaches but i know someone on the team and they constantly complained about the coach cancelling practice last minute and never being at practice to begin with. He had a baby right before starting so sounds to me like he was just focusing more on being a dad than a coach.

EIU Swimmer
Reply to  Panther Supporter
1 month ago

Yes. Of course. Because your job definitely comes before your family and new born child.

EIU Swimmer
Reply to  Panther Supporter
1 month ago

Constantly complaining? That happened like twice in the whole season and never last minute. I also can’t think of any practices he missed that weren’t recruiting. He was even back 4 days after the birth…

I think someone just needed to complain

Swimmmer
1 month ago

That athletic department is garbage. I think he was making under $40k per year. For two genders at the division I level, that’s insulting.

Swimpop
Reply to  Swimmmer
1 month ago

Holy shit, I guess not all div 1 programs are same. Make more being a head age group coach. But it explains why a couple of them left for D2.

All4One
Reply to  Swimpop
1 month ago

I think you have to look at budget, student fees at play into the budget, other teams have a bigger budget but EIU can provide the opportunity to swim in college which a lot of schools can’t.
I’m exhausted with comments trashing teams that provide opportunities.

Bignowhere
Reply to  Swimmmer
1 month ago

That is a low salary, but the cost of living in Charleston, IL is very low. The average cost of a house there is $95k

CollegeSwimCoach
Reply to  Bignowhere
1 month ago

$40k is less than assistants make in many below average cost of living cities.

To pay a head coach less than $40k is ridiculous, no matter what Division.

Admin
Reply to  CollegeSwimCoach
1 month ago

What solution do you propose?

1) Raise student fees to pay the swim coach more?
2) Cut the swim program?
3) Cut the football coach’s salary, which is also less than assistant college football coaches make in many below average cost of living cities?

I thin the reality is that some schools that are in D1 shouldn’t be in D1. There’s a massive massive financial gap between the SEC and schools like Eastern Illinois. That’s why this model is unsustainable, and why the Power 5 + a handful of other schools will probably split off in the next few years.

CollegeSwimCoach
Reply to  Braden Keith
1 month ago

Yes, there is a wide and growing gulf between the P5 & the rest of D1, and even within the P5 the SEC is separating itself, which will only accelerate with the Texas and OU additions.

I’m not sure what the solution is, but you cannot invest so little into paying a coach and expect any sort of success or longevity.

I would think the athletic department could hire more people to fundraise for the department in order to support the coaches.

What are your thoughts?

About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor in the …

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