UCLA’s Cyndi Gallagher is retiring following her 31st season as head coach, multiple sources have told SwimSwam.
Gallagher graduated from UCLA in 1983 and was named head coach in 1988, and coached Bruins to an initial string of top three Pac-12 finishes. Her team won Pac-10 titles in 2001 and 2003, but has not finished higher than fourth since 2006.
Gallagher has placed swimmers on multiple Olympic teams and was named an assistant coach on the 1996 staff, as well as for the 1997, 2001, 2005 and 2006 World University Games. She was also an assistant for the 1995 U.S. National Junior Team, the 1994 U.S. National Distance Camp, and for the Japan International Grand Prix and the 1993 US Olympic Festival. Her biggest appointment came in 2007, when she was named USA Swimming’s head coach for the World University Games. She was more recently named to the 2014-2015 U.S. National Team coaching staff.
Gallagher’s women’s team tenure saw the UCLA men’s team cut in 1994, a decision about which she was vocal.
“When we had a men’s team, we were always in the top 10,” Gallagher told the Daily Bruin in 2004. “When we talk to recruits, the issue is brought up of why we don’t have a men’s program… Swimming is a community sport. You swim together growing up and there’s a visibility factor whether you train together or not.”
The UCLA women have not cracked the top-10 at NCAAs since the 2003-2004 season. Gallagher saw the unveiling of UCLA’s $14 million Spieker Aquatics Center in 2009, which many thought would draw more national talent to the school, but the Bruins have not capitalized on the situation.
The team’s highest national finish under Gallagher came in her second and third seasons, when the team was fifth, and its highest finish in the past decade is 17th in 2013 and 2016, and 2019. Last season, the team scored 75 points in total at NCAAs, with 20 coming from Diver of the Meet Maria Polyakova, who notched first- and second-place finishes on the 3-meter and 1-meter boards, respectively.
Gallagher was one of three female head coaches of Division I top-25 schools nationwide, the others being Cal’s Teri McKeever and Texas’ Carol Capitani.