Former Auburn Associate Head Coach John Hargis Takes Job at Pitt

Former Auburn University associate head coach John Hargis has taken over the head coaching job at the University of Pittsburgh, the school announced on Tuesday.

Hargis spent the 2013-2014, 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 seasons as the head assistant for Brett Hawke and the Auburn Tigers – a job that viewed as so substantial that he left his role as the head coach at Penn State, where he was for 5 years, to take it.

Now, Hargis will take over for outgoing Panthers coach Chuck Knoles, who retired shortly before the NCAA Championships to be with his ailing mother in Arizona.

“I am tremendously excited to be joining the Pitt family,” Hargis said. “I want to thank Scott Barnes, Wendy Meyers [Executive Associate Athletic Director and Chief Financial Officer] and the search committee for giving me this great opportunity. The more I visited with Scott and the committee, the more impressed I became with their enthusiasm and vision for Pitt Athletics and the swimming and diving program. I’m equally excited about what we can accomplish at Pitt and can’t wait to share the vision with our student-athletes. Hail to Pitt!”

This will be a return to a state where Hargis first moved into the top tier of elite swimming – Pittsburgh is about a two-and-a-half hour drive from his prior home at Penn State.

He also had prior coaching jobs as the head women’s coach at Arkansas-Little Rock for one year to go with stints as an assistant at UALR, Penn State, and UNLV.

In his two years at Auburn, the women’s team finished 14th, 18th and 33rd in 2014, 2015 and 2016, respectively; while the men finished, 6th, 9th, and 10th in those same years.

Hargis takes over a combined program that saw the women finish 42nd out of 47 teams at last year’s NCAA Championship meet on the strength of senior distance swimmer Kayleigh Ritter, sophomore distance swimmer Amanda Richey, and sophomore diver Meme Sharp, who finished 13th on the 3-meter to score the Panthers’ only points.

The men’s season was highlighted by a historic victory from their only NCAA qualifier, junior diver Dominic Giordano, who placed 8th on the 1-meter and won the 3-meter: the first NCAA title in program history. His efforts lifted the team to a 22nd-place finish with 31 overall points.

Both teams have developed into a consistent presence at NCAAs.

The teams compete in the ACC Conference, where last year the men finished 10th out of 12 teams (11 that sponsor swimming) and the women finished 10th out of 13 teams (12 that sponsor swimming).

As an athlete, Hargis swam for the Auburn Tigers and earned 12 All-America citations, was a three-time SEC Champion in the 100 fly, and won a 1996 Olympic gold medal as part of the American 400 medley relay.

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6 years ago

How did they go at NCAA’s? 10th and 33rd.

It’s time for a change Auburn Athletics. You’ve let one man destroy a legacy.

Freshman swimmer's parent
6 years ago

I am really glad the female coach that was recruiting my daughter to Auburn left the program and we stopped even considering it! Sounds like a mess down there. We met John Hargis (Brett Hawke, too) and honestly, I wasn’t impressed with either of them. Lots of swagger. About Pitt’s program, it only has one way to go and maybe Hargis being on his own (and not an assistant to an even bigger jerk) will help. Good luck, Pitt (glad my swimmer isn’t going there. either) and sad that Auburn has become such a joke

6 years ago

While the comments above have been insightful and it is important to acknowledge the effect coaching under Hawke will have on Hargis, few people commenting on the actually hire of John Hargis. I don’t know the answers, but where are the hard results of what Hargis has accomplished. I do not know the man personally, but I do think there is more to being a head coach than where you went to school and how you personally swam in your career. Pitt needs a Head Coach that will actually lead a staff to do the hard work it takes to rise from the bottom of the ACC. While Pitt inwardly may view the Hargis hire as a “big name”, is… Read more »

Old Hilltopper
Reply to  Pittsburgher
6 years ago

I would look at what the results were at Penn State before and after Hargis was the head coach. Pitt will be much improved.

Reply to  Pittsburgher
6 years ago

This year, Auburn was split into coaching groups, where you stayed with a particular coach throughout the entire year. John’s group was far and away the most successful. He coached all three men that brought in a total of five individual SEC championships for Auburn. He coached ALL BUT ONE individual NCAA scorers in 2016 on both the men’s and women’s teams. He coached a female to a bronze medal at the Pan American Games last summer and put her on the U.S. National Team this year. All of these swimmers were in John’s group this year. I think it goes without saying, he’s a great coach.

6 years ago


Rory Connell
6 years ago

Us alums of the program know the Auburn Creed by heart. Its concepts speak of honesty & truthfulness, respect & confidence, sympathy, sound mind/body/spirit and an overwhelming point of BELIEF. As was Richard Quick’s motto “Believe in belief”, going hand in hand with the Auburn credo.

Unfortunately these tenets have not been as important in the Auburn S&D culture under the tenure of Brett Hawke (I cant name others because they haven’t stayed w the program longer than a few seasons…red flag on the head coach, especially since they have been alum assts). If these qualities were cultivated & valued we wouldn’t be seeing the revolving door of staff & exodus of swimmers (quick count 50 men & women… Read more »

6 years ago

The remedy to Auburn Swimming’s steady decline has been standing right there on deck every day since September. The answer is Lauren Hancock, the club coach who was recently hired by Brett Hawke as the Associate Head Women’s Coach. She is young, she is passionate and energetic and she is a proven LEADER. Coach Hancock cares about every one of the athletes, she is smart as a whip, the swimmers love and TRUST her, as do potential recruits, and, at 33 years of age, she has forgotten more about swimming than most coaches will ever know. What she ISN’T is an Auburn Alum who has an Olympic Gold Medal in her trophy case. But, I ask you Jay Jacobs –… Read more »

Auburn Swim Parent
Reply to  TigerFan
6 years ago

Coach Lauren is the best!

6 years ago

Could this be a good time to look at separating the programs and hiring a women’s coach, leaving Hawke to coach the men?

6 years ago

As a former swimmer who swam under Brett’s directions, wow it is time for him to leave. Auburn can’t keep an assistant head coach for more than three years. Why?? Because nobody wants to live in the shadow of Brett Hawke. He says he needs to “work on respecting the womens team”. WHY is that even a problem? No matter what the situation is, you respect your team. So there should be no question as to why he needs to work on this. Fire him for everyones sake; especially the swimmers still on the team.
This program is going downhill very fast and I feel badly for the swimmers still there. Jay Jacobs needs to step up. Period.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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