South Carolina Will Hire Jeff Poppell as New Head Swim Coach

Update: South Carolina made the announcement official on Friday afternoon.

Poppell’s comments:

“I’m both honored and thrilled to have been named the new head swimming and diving coach here at South Carolina. On my visit earlier this week, I was absolutely blown away by the beauty of the campus, the highly ranked academic programs offered, as well as the strong commitment made by the Gamecock Athletics administration to help build and sustain a championship caliber program at the University of South Carolina. We have a lot of work ahead of us in the future, however, I can’t wait to get to Columbia, meet the teams, and begin this exciting new journey.”

Jeff Poppell, the head women’s swimming & diving coach at the University of Florida, will leave Gainesville for another SEC job: as the head coach of both the men’s and women’s teams at the University of South Carolina. The news has not been officially announced, but has been confirmed to SwimSwam by multiple other coaches with knowledge of the matter.

He replaces McGee Moody, who was the head coach at South Carolina for the previous 14 seasons, but left via “mutual agreement” with the athletics department.

While SwimSwam has requested details of Poppell’s new contract, Poppell made more last year as just the women’s team head coach at Florida ($165,000 in salary, including a car allowance and academic incentive) than Moody did to coach both genders at South Carolina ($130,000 according to public records).

This move will restore some faith in the future of the South Carolina program after university president Bob Caslen said in December that a budget deficit might result in cutting sports.

The big difference is that at South Carolina, Poppell will have the opportunity to lead both the men’s and women’s programs. At Florida, Poppell was hired prior to the start of the 2018-2019 season, when the program was split by gender following the retirement of Gregg Troy. Longtime Florida assistant Anthony Nesty took over the men’s program.

In just 3 seasons, Poppell breathed new life into the Florida women’s program. In 2017, the Florida women were scoreless at the NCAA Championships for the first time ever. In 2021, the team finished in 17th place with 84.5 points.

In 2018, the year before Poppell took over, the Florida women placed 7th at SECs. In 2019, they rose all the way to 2nd, a position they repeated in 2020 and 2021.

Now he jumps to a South Carolina program that will be in need of a similar revival. The Gamecocks women placed 11th at the 2021 SEC Championships out of 12 teams, while the men finished 10th out of 10 teams.

The South Carolina women haven’t placed better than 9th at the SEC Championships since the conference expanded in the 2012-2013 season. The South Carolina men haven’t been higher than 7th since 2000, including a number of last-place finishes.

Poppell arrived at Florida in 2016 as an associate head coach.

The Gators have the #6 recruit in the class of 2021 Micayla Cronk and the #17 recruit in the class of 2021 Brooke Zettell scheduled to join the team this fall. Their 2022 class is even better, with #5 Zoe Dixon, #12 Hayden Miller, and #20 Scarlet Martin all committed.

Prior to taking the job at UF, Poppell served as the head coach of Gulliver Preparatory School and Gulliver Swim Club in south Florida for the past 4 seasons. Poppell began his coaching career in 1993 as an age group coach at Bolles under Troy.

After working his way up from his age group coaching position, Poppell was the head coach of the Bolles School from 2002-06. There, he led the Bulldogs to a pair of National Championship titles. In 2004, he was recognized as the NHSCA Girls’ National High School Coach of the Year. During his time as Head Coach, he coached 4 swimmers to the top 25 in the world rankings.

At Gulliver Prep, Poppell led the girls to back-to-back state titles, with their first-ever state championship at the 2014 FHSAA 2A High School State Championship Meet. He coached several swimmers to Olympic Trials and World Championships Trials, as well as 3 finalists at U.S. Summer Junior Nationals.

Poppell came to Gainesville with prior experience as an NCAA coach, having worked as the head coach of the University of Arkansas from 2006-12. During his tenure with the Razorbacks, he led them to a 5th place finish at the SEC Championship meet in 2009, the highest finish in program history. In 2009 and 2010, he coached Yi-Ting Siow to 4th place in the 200 breast, the highest finish ever achieved by an Arkansas swimmer.

Internationally, Poppell was a U.S. National Team Coach from 2005-09. He was the Head Women’s Coach for Team USA at the World Maccabiah Games in Israel. Poppell coached 2 swimmers at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and 3 swimmers at the 2009 World Championships in Rome.

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Aquajosh
1 year ago

Between Nesty, Steve, Whitney, and graduate assistants, they are more than capable of running a combined program, but I think they’ve now seen the benefits of separating them, and they’ll be looking for a new head women’s coach.

My dream hire would be for the AD at Florida to give Lars Jorgensen an offer he couldn’t refuse, but If I were UF, I’d try and lure Tracy Slusser away from Stanford (that paycheck will go WAAAY further in Gainesville than Palo Alto), or Tanica Jamison, who has been at TAMU for what seems like forever.

samulih
1 year ago

First thought, why, but then again type a people see opportunity to use this as jump to something bigger, retirements coming in few year and all….. or he just loves ‘cocks.

Fly 100
1 year ago

Next stop ? UGA

???
1 year ago

I hope the swimmers knew about this beforehand….

Kitajima Fan
Reply to  ???
1 year ago

They didn’t. I have a friend on the team who was completely blindsided.

Coach
Reply to  Kitajima Fan
1 year ago

That’s absolutely awful. It can be very difficult to lose a coach.

anotherd1coach
Reply to  Coach
1 year ago

They ‘lost’ the coach weeks ago.

If they didn’t know about this, that’s a failure by the department leadership’s fault. I knew about this before swimswam posted and I’m not even on the team.

John
Reply to  ???
1 year ago

UF would not let him tell the swimmers until it became public.

Dylan
1 year ago

I understand not everyone would have made this choice but I don’t know why everyone is acting so surprised. You get a chance to lead your own Power 5 program, building something from nothing, makes sense. Good luck coach

Last edited 1 year ago by Dylan
Swim85
Reply to  Dylan
1 year ago

But he was leading his own power 5 program and built something from non scoring UF team.

Dylan
Reply to  Swim85
1 year ago

Good point. Some people just like the challenge and he might really want to coach men as well.

Greg
Reply to  Swim85
1 year ago

Separate programs usually result in one program taking a back seat to the other (practice times, competition scheduling dates, ancillary staff access and support, etc.). Jeff now gets to be in charge of everything. While UF supports athletics as well as any and has far outperformed USC, I see this as a professional advancement for Jeff. Congrats from a former South Carolina swimmer, captain and coach. GO COCKS!

Texas A&M Swim Fan
1 year ago

Looks as if South Carolina is wanting to get “serious” about improving their swimming program. Good for them! My opinion only: It’s gonna take a while to turn it all around there though!

ayo
1 year ago

Good pick for the gamecocks! Excited for the future!!

PappaSnurf
1 year ago

Makes no sense.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. 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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