Kentucky Hiring Princeton’s Bret Lundgaard as Next Head Coach

Princeton women’s swimming and diving head coach Bret Lundgaard is returning to the SEC as the next leader of Kentucky’s combined men’s and women’s swimming and diving program. 

A former assistant coach at Tennessee from 2012-17 prior to his six-year stint at Princeton, Lundgaard replaces Lars Jorgensen, who resigned last month as the Wildcats’ head coach after 10 seasons in Lexington. Sources told SwimSwam that Jorgensen had been off deck since the beginning of May pending an NCAA investigation into potential compliance rules violations

Not only is Lundgaard familiar with the SEC, but he has also had recent success running his own team. At Princeton, he took over for longtime coach Susan Teeter after three decades and filled her shoes admirably by taking home two of the past three Ivy League crowns. This past season, the Tigers also beat Power Five foes Notre Dame and Rutgers in dual meets.

In his first season at Princeton, the Tigers improved by more than 270 points at the Ivy League Championships compared to the previous year. Lundgaard earned Coach of the Year honors this past season as Princeton was the only non-Power Five school to have more than two relays with NCAA ‘B’ cuts (the Tigers had four).

At Tennessee, Lundgaard was the primary coach working with 2016 U.S. Olympian Molly Hannis, who contested the 200 breast in Rio and became the school’s first U.S. Olympian since 2008. In his first season in Knoxville, he helped guide the Lady Vols to a 3rd-place finish at the 2013 NCAA Championships, their best showing in program history. He specialized in coaching breaststroke, butterfly, and mid-distance groups. 

Before Tennessee, Lundgaard spent three years as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Army, where he primarily trained freestylers and IMers. He began his coaching career at Boulder City High School as well as the Desert Storm Swim Team in Nevada. As a swimmer, he was a team captain and 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials qualifier (100 fly) at the University of Washington. Growing up, both his mom and step-dad were club swimming coaches

Lundgaard will have some important staffing decisions to make upon arriving at Kentucky. Associate head coach Michael Camper reportedly resigned from his position, and volunteer assistant Scott Stern left to join Cincinnati’s staff. That leaves diving coach Ted Hautau, assistant coach Jordan Lieberman, assistant coach Geena Freriks, assistant coach Bailey Bonnett, and volunteer assistant diving coach Jules Vincent remaining on staff for now.

This past season, the Kentucky women placed 3rd at the 2023 SEC Championships and the men placed 8th as freshman distance specialist Levi Sandidge became the Wildcats’ first-ever conference champion in the men’s 1650-yard freestyle.

This hire leaves Northwestern as the lone Power 5 head coaching position still open in what has become a wild offseason.

The school says a national search for Lundgaard’s successor will begin immediately.

Bret Lundgaard‘s letter to the Princeton swimming family:

Hello Tiger Family,

I recently made the difficult decision to accept the job as head coach at the University of Kentucky.

This decision was not taken lightly and it came with internal struggle for my family and I. In reflection, I realize the difficulty in our decision stems from the simple fact that the people in the Tiger family are special. The individuals on this team, this university and in the Princeton community represent the best of the human spirit through their perpetual quest for growth, service and loving empathy. I’m grateful to be influenced by you, and I feel tremendously motivated to represent your influence as I strive to positively impact my next community.

One of the most challenging parts of this decision is acknowledging that I’m leaving without having the opportunity to watch the end of the journey for these women… This is a special team and the future of this program is bright. While I’m sad to acknowledge that I won’t see everything we set out to accomplish, I have to practice what we preach to the student-athletes and recognize the growth and celebrate every small win along the journey. When I do that, I’m filled with joy and gratitude for the dedication, sacrifice and commitment that our women have given to this team and university. I am so proud of where they have taken this team and where it is inevitably going. I have full faith that my successor will continue that growth and actualize the potential that is inside each of these amazing student-athletes.

Personally, I’d like to thank former Athletic Director, Mollie Marcoux Samaan ’91, for believing in me and providing me the responsibility to honor your support and carry on your legacies. I’d also like to thank our current Athletic Director, John Mack ’00, and his staff for their support and relentless efforts in providing a world class experience for these student-athletes.

Due to the nature of college athletics, I will physically make this transition immediately. Please know that emotionally I will not, and I wish I could personally thank and acknowledge each of you that has influenced me, my family and our team’s growth. We are grateful for your continual support.

Please stay in touch and don’t be a stranger if you’re ever in the Lexington area.

Tiger, Tiger!

Bret Lundgaard

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Hello
8 months ago

Bailey is literally doing interviews at other schools already so she probably knows she’s going to be fired from UK

Admin
Reply to  Hello
8 months ago

It’s not uncommon for coaches to replace their entire coaching staff when a new head coach comes in, so if I were an assistant at a school where a coach was fired, I would definitely be doing other interviews.

Heck, I’d be doing other interviews anyway to see if there’s an opportunity to climb the ladder.

Though this late in the season, Lundgaard might keep some of the assistants if he doesn’t have better options willing to make a late change.

KentuckyRecruit
Reply to  Braden Keith
8 months ago

Fingers crossed he keeps Jordan Lieberman — he’s a true gem and a huge asset to the program.

Comment Section President
Reply to  KentuckyRecruit
8 months ago

Pretty sure he’s staying

Coach ID
Reply to  Hello
8 months ago

It’s not always a matter of being fired – some/many assistant coach contracts become null and void when the former head coach is no longer in that position. It’s a clause added so the administration can appropriately support the new head coach.

GoWildcats
8 months ago

Good for him! The head coaches at Princeton don’t have any meaningful decision making authority. The kids on the team have way more decision making control of the program than the coaches do. While it may seem like a desirable coaching job on paper, the grass is certainly greener at Kentucky from a coaching perspective. It probably won’t be long before Crispino follows suit.

Beast Mode
8 months ago

Congratulations to Bret Lundgaard on their new position as the head coach of swim and dive at the University of Kentucky! Your dedication, expertise, and leadership have clearly been recognized, and it’s a testament to your hard work at Princeton University.
Your time at Princeton has undoubtedly left a lasting impact on the swim and dive program, and your move to UK presents an exciting opportunity for growth and success. The University of Kentucky is fortunate to have someone of your caliber joining their coaching staff.
We have no doubt that you will bring the same level of passion, commitment, and excellence to the Wildcats’ swim and dive team. Your ability to inspire and develop athletes is truly… Read more »

Surf it
8 months ago

Lucky Kentucky!

BigCarotTop
8 months ago

not easy to recruit to Kentucky,,, i mean if you go to the deepest, darkest, depths of hell, you would still be 45 miles from Lexington

Wildcat
Reply to  BigCarotTop
8 months ago

Deepest, darkest, depths of hell is about 70 miles from Lexington..it’s called Louisville.

SwimX
Reply to  Wildcat
8 months ago

Imagine thinking there are any winners in a game of “where in Kentucky is the worst place on earth?”

College swim fan
Reply to  BigCarotTop
8 months ago

I’d say it’s a whole lot easier then trying to recruit athletes with GPAs high enough for Princeton.

Wildcat
Reply to  BigCarotTop
8 months ago

The beautiful horse farms & bourbon distilleries?

Swimfin
Reply to  BigCarotTop
8 months ago

What!?!?

Kim Kredich
8 months ago

Congratulations to Bret!!! Amazing coach and phenomenal family.

Kim Kredich
Reply to  Kim Kredich
8 months ago

Disturbing that anyone would dislike this comment. I have known Bret and his family for over a decade.

Swim fan
8 months ago

So excited to see all he will accomplish at UK! A very bright, dedicated, and competitive Coach.

Wavemaker
8 months ago

Great hire! I’m excited!

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 at newspapers …

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