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.