Lock Haven University, which considered cutting women’s swimming & diving over the winter, has hired a new head coach this week, naming South Dakota State assistant Phil Hurley as the new program leader.
Hurley has been with South Dakota State for 13 years, and had previously coached at George Mason and at the club and high school levels. He was also a recruiting coordinator with SDSU, and before that was a four-year letterwinner at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania, a few hours away from his new coaching site in Lock Haven.
He takes over a Lock Haven program that has been without a coach since March. Former coach Joel Blesh was informed in early March that he would no longer be leading the program. The school said it merely declined to extend Blesh’s contract, but Blesh said the school exercised a buyout on his contract to remove him almost four months before his contract would end.
That came a few months after the school informed the team that a proposal was on the table to cut the women’s swimming program entirely. It’s been a tumultuous spring for the school and program. Lock Haven ultimately decided not to cut the program in March, but then in June, eight student-athletes filed a Title IX lawsuit against the school, with the suit criticizing the delay in hiring a new head coach and suggesting that the school was still preparing to cut swimming and demote field hockey to Division II “in the very near future.”
Here’s the full Lock Haven press release announcing Hurley’s hiring:
LOCK HAVEN, Pa. – Phil Hurley has been named Lock Haven University’s new head women’s swimming coach, bringing with him 15 years of collegiate coaching experience.
Hurley comes to LHU after spending the last 13 years as a men’s and women’s swimming & diving assistant coach at South Dakota State University.
“I am looking forward to joining the coaching staff at The Haven and leading the women’s swimming program,” said Hurley. “Lock Haven has always been a special place to me and I am excited for this opportunity to take this team to a new level of achievement.
“I am very happy that Phil is joining our staff,” said LHU Director of Athletics Dr. Tom Gioglio. “Besides his many years of professional coaching experience at a Division I institution, Phil brings an outstanding knowledge base on swimming technique and recruiting strategies, which I am confident will propel the LHU women’s swim team to new successes.”
During his time at SDSU, Hurley played an important role in helping the South Dakota State athletic department and the men’s and women’s swimming & diving programs transition from the NCAA Division II level to the NCAA Division I level.
Although he was personally responsible for the distance and sprint programs at South Dakota State, Hurley worked with, and coached all training groups and strokes. He coached numerous Summit League individual champions and helped a number of student-athletes reach NCAA DI “B” cut standards.
While at SDSU, Hurley also served as the program’s recruiting coordinator. In that role, he nearly doubled the team’s roster size.
Under the guidance of Hurley, the men’s and women’s swimming & diving teams also excelled in the classroom. The men’s team earned 10 consecutive Scholar Team Awards and the women achieved a team GPA of 3.0 or higher for every semester Hurley was on campus.
Prior to his time at South Dakota State, Hurley was a two-year graduate assistant coach at Division I George Mason University. He has extensive club and high school coaching experience, and also brings with him a strong collegiate teaching background.
A native of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, Hurley graduated from Dickinson College in 1998 (B.A., economics). He earned his master’s in exercise, fitness and health promotion from George Mason in 2006. Following his graduation from Dickinson, Hurley was an officer in the United States Army.
As a member of the Dickinson College swimming team, Hurley was a four-year letter-winner, three-year team captain, All-Conference performer and former school record holder.