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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Great hire and hopefully this will be a great start of a new era.


Seems like a backwards move. Are the Tigers really looking that poor moving forward? Pretty pitiful showing for both teams at NCAAs.

What The Heck?

Elephant in the room…how does Brett Hawke still have a job?

Quick search reveals these NCAA finishes under Hawke as head coach:
WOMEN: 8th, 8th, 7th, 13th, 14th, 18th, 33rd
MEN: 6th, 6th, 6th, 8th, 6th, 9th, 10th

7 years pre-Hawke:
WOMEN: 1st 1st, 2nd, 1st 1st, 2nd, 6th
MEN: 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st, 5th, 1st


He’s taking the job, full well knowing Brett is out soon. Most athletic departments now hire out, so if Hargis stayed he would most likely also be canned. Move out of town, and he can now interview on a fresh slate.


You finish 10th and 33rd at NCAA’s. Second worst performance in school history on both the Men and Women’s side. How is this even a question that Hawke remains the head coach. Does the athletic department just not care about Auburn Swimming anymore?
The winning tradition that once was at Auburn is long gone. It’s time to make a change. It’s already hit rock bottom, what’s next?


Why has UNC and FSU not made coaching changes. Because athletic departments DONT CARE

Role Tide

Well tickle me pink. This ain’t no elephant in the room this is a daggum narwhal with whooping cough in the room. Politics play a massive part in many athletic departments and I’m sure it plays a part in why Brett still has a job. A few smiles and firm handshakes and the reputation of everyone else in the nation, including your own daggum swimmers, doesn’t seem to matter. Starts at the top with Jay Jacobs as AD. He is the very reason why Auburn Athletics is more up and down than an elevator at fat camp.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder 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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