Sources tell SwimSwam that Cal Poly is bringing back longtime head swimming and diving coach Tom Milich in an interim role after his successor, Phil Yoshida, was placed on indefinite leave amid allegations of verbal and emotional abuse.
The tentative plan is for Milich to guide Cal Poly through the the 2024 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) Championships. Then after the conference meet, one source said assistant coach Jacki Hirsty is set to lead spring practices while the school searches for a permanent solution. Hirsty joined Cal Poly last fall after three seasons as an assistant coach at Division III Rhodes College in Memphis.
Meanwhile, Milich led both the Mustang men and women for 14 seasons before his retirement in 2020. Yoshida worked under Milich as an assistant all 14 years and actually preceded his former boss, having served five years under former head coach Rich Firman.
Yoshida is facing accusations that he “verbally and emotionally abused, threatened and retaliated against athletes and assistant coaches,” according to the OC Register’s Scott Reid. Yoshida was named interim head coach on April 1, 2020, before being promoted to full-time head coach a year later.
Yoshida was reportedly informed of his leave on Aug. 26, but swimmers and athletic department employees weren’t told until Sept. 6.
The OC Register wrote that Cal Poly athletic director Don Oberhelman “dismissed the allegations and at one point threatened to cut the men’s program if the male swimmers continued to complain against Yoshida.”
An investigation involving 40 interviews of current and former swimmers and their parents was reportedly delivered to Cal Poly administrators in June. Apparently the final straw was Yoshida’s retaliation against an athletic department employee, which prompted the indefinite leave of absence.
Yoshida also swam at Cal Poly for two seasons from 1999 through 2001, and from 2001-07 worked in the school’s fruit science department.
The Mustang women finished 9th out of 10 teams at the MPSF Championships last season, while the Cal Poly men were 7th out of 8 teams.
Cal Poly is scheduled to kick off the season with its annual Queen and King of the Pool pentathlon meet against Cal on Friday, September 22. Only the first two meets of the Mustangs’ schedule for this year have been released.
The school is a week away from the first classes of its fall term.
The program has a new head diving coach this season, Laurel Abernethy.