With longtime men’s head coach Bill Wadley retiring, Ohio State will combine its men’s and women’s swim and dive programs under current women’s head coach Bill Dorenkott.
Wadley announced his retirement just two days ago after 28 years at the helm of the Buckeye men. Though much of the fan conversation centered around outside hires to replace Wadley, the school responded Thursday with an announcement that the program would be combined. Dorenkott, who has coached the women since 2008, will take over both programs.
That follows the trend of several other Big Ten programs that have combined their programs over the past few years. Minnesota did it in 2011 and Michigan followed suit in 2012 under Kelly Kremer and Mike Bottom, respectively.
The advantage is that the staff essentially gains an extra member. NCAA rules give each swimming & diving program 3 coaches. In a single-gender program, those roles typically fall to a head coach, an assistant coach and a diving coach. Since the same diving coach often works with men and women, a school with split-gendered programs often has 4 full-time swim coaches – a head coach and assistant coach for each gender. In a combined program, NCAA rules allow 6 coaches (3 for the men’s program, 3 for the women’s). So a single diving coach can take one spot and leave 5 for the swimming side.
It’s been a somewhat mixed bag for programs that have combined on the national stage. 4 combined programs placed teams in the top 10 for both men’s and women’s NCAAs this year: Georgia, NC State, Indiana and USC. On the other hand, several combined programs have struggled to get both genders swimming fast at the same time: this year’s Florida men were historically good and their women historically bad. Michigan had the inverse result and Tennessee struggled on both ends.
Dorenkott has been coaching Ohio State’s women for 9 seasons, and was the head coach of a combined program at Penn State before that.
Ohio State will return Dorenkott, associate women’s head coach Jordan Wolfrum, assistant men’s coach Michael Hulme and diving coach Justin Sochor for roles in their new combined program. They’ll be able to hire up to two more coaches to round out their staff. A couple names to watch are the team’s volunteer coaches from a year ago: Margo Geer and Jackson Leonard.
The full Ohio State University press release:
Columbus, Ohio— T.J. Shelton, associate athletics director-sport administration with the Ohio State Department of Athletics, announced Thursday the combining of the men’s and women’s swimming and diving programs. Current women’s swimming head coach Bill Dorenkott will take over as the director for men’s and women’s swimming and diving.
“I am humbled and honored to be presented with this opportunity,” Dorenkott said. “The tradition that is Ohio State swimming and diving is unparalleled. Our goal is to build on the legacy of the athletes and coaches who have worn the Scarlet and Gray. We will do it with the relentless pursuit of excellence in the classroom, the pool and all of our endeavors. We will build a program that all of Buckeye Nation will be proud to call their own.”
At the 2017 NCAA Championships 32 universities finished among the Top 25 scorers at either the men’s or women’s championships. 23 of those schools feature combined swimming programs, and 12 of those finished in the Top 25 at both men’s and women’s championships.
“We are excited to announce Bill Dorenkott has been promoted to Ohio State Director of Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving for our newly combined program,” Shelton said. “Bill’s passion for developing young people, operating a program with integrity and his overall commitment to enhancing student-athletes’ collegiate experience make this transition the right thing to do for the Buckeye swimming and diving program.”
Ohio State’s women’s swimming team has seen great success the last few seasons under Dorenkott. A 19th place finish at NCAA’s this past season marked the first time the Buckeyes placed in the Top 20 in consecutive years since 1990-95. Of the 12 Big Ten titles his swimmers have won since he arrived in Columbus, eight have come in the past two seasons. On the national stage Ohio State boasts 20 All-American performances since 2009; internationally he has coached two Olympians: Sam Cheverton and Michelle Williams swam for Canada in 2012 and 2016, respectively. Williams earned a bronze medal in Rio as a member of the 400 freestyle relay.
“Bill has shown in his nine years as a Buckeye that he is an excellent coach and leader for our student-athletes,” Senior Vice President and Wolfe Foundation Endowed Athletics Director Gene Smith said. “I can’t think of anybody better suited to lead our newly combined program than him. We are eager and excited to see him build upon the storied legacy and tradition of Ohio State swimming and diving as it enters this new chapter.”
Ohio State’s men’s swimming program is one of the most prestigious and successful in the history of the sport. Its 11 NCAA Championships are third-most in the history of college swimming and its 119 individual champions rank fifth. The Buckeyes have claimed 202 Big Ten titles in their history and 13 team championships, the most recent coming in 2010. In 2015 USA Today named Ohio State the number one school in the country for men’s swimming.
“I am grateful to Gene Smith and TJ Shelton for their trust and their vision,” said Dorenkott. “In particular, I am thankful to have had the opportunity to share the deck with my good friend Bill Wadley over the past nine years.”
In its history 55 swimming and diving student-athletes have gone on to participate in the Olympics, and many more have competed at Olympic Trials. Just last summer 34 Buckeyes went to Omaha to swim at Trials, one of the largest groups from a single organization at the meet.
Academically, the swimming and diving programs have been excellent. Twelve former swimmers have been awarded the Big Ten Medal of Honor and a total of 59 student-athletes have been named Big Ten Distinguished Scholars, which is awarded to those who maintain a perfect 4.0 GPA during the previous academic term. Earlier this week 61 swimmers and divers were honored at the 50th-annual Ohio State Scholar-Athlete Dinner, where Taylor Vargo was named a finalist for the Big Ten Medal of Honor and Joey Long was a recipient of the Woody and Anne Hayes Scholarship.
Not only do the Buckeyes have one of the richest aquatic histories in the NCAA, they have one of the best swimming and diving facilities in the world. Since 2005, McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion has hosted events for USA Swimming, USA Diving, the NCAA and the Big Ten. This past February the Big Ten Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships were held at McCorkle, and next year both the Big Ten and NCAA Championships for women’s swimming and diving will be contested there.
Dorenkott just completed his ninth season at the helm of the Scarlet and Gray and his 26th season in collegiate coaching. Prior to coming to Ohio State he spent 13 seasons at Penn State, 10 of which he served as a head coach. For his final seven seasons with the Nittany Lions he was the head coach of both the men’s and women’s programs. During his time in State College he won women’s Big Ten Championships in 2002, 2005, and 2006, and he coached Pat Schirk to a national championship in the men’s 200 backstroke in 2008. His swimmers won 32 individual Big Ten titles while he was at Penn State.
Head diving coach Justin Sochor, associate head coach Jordan Wolfrum and assistant coach Michael Hulme will all remain in their same roles moving forward and will continue to have a great impact on Ohio State swimming and diving. Dorenkott, who received a five-year contract, is in the process of completing his staff.