Speculation: Front-runners for Auburn Head Coaching Position

With Brett Hawke resigning after a decade as head coach, the Auburn Tigers have one of the most intriguing job openings in recent memory – and the buzz is that the frontrunners could be current head coaches at other programs.

Sure, every fan, alumnus, and swimmer in the country is certain that their coach would never leave their program; it’s the best place to be! But, for paychecks that are $200,000+ per year, with a rumored six-figure swim camp business on top of that, any coach who says they aren’t at least having a conversation with their family about taking a job like Auburn isn’t telling the whole story. We’ll run through some of the names we’ve heard whispered as potential candidates to take on the War Eagle battlecry.

Guys making big salaries elsewhere at the end of their careers with schools they’ve spent generations at, like Jack Bauerle at Georgia and Eddie Reese at Texas, are probably off the table. But almost nobody else should be automatically ruled-out just because they really like where they’re at.

Because salaries of employees at public universities are matters of public record, we’re also able to make compensation comparisons. Though it’s unlikely any of these coaches are solely motivated by money, it would be naive to assume money doesn’t play some role in career choices in any field. Auburn’s draw is massive – Hawke earned $226,640 for the 2016-2017 school year, per Auburn’s public records, and we understand that there’s another six figure swim camp check on top of that. That kind of salary makes this job a big step up for almost any coach in the country.

David Marsh, head coach at UC-San Diego

David Marsh is an obvious candidate. He’s an Auburn alum, having swum there in the late-1970s. He coached Auburn from 1990 to 2007, winning twelve NCAA titles between men and women, including a storied five-year run at the end of his tenure. He’s a multi-time Olympic coach and one of the most respected names in coaching. Marsh spent about a decade coaching at the club level (and building a pro hub out of SwimMAC in Charlotte, North Carolina) before jumping back into the college fray with the University of California – San Diego just last year.

It would be an awfully quick turnaround to bolt for Auburn less than a year after taking the UCSD job, but Marsh has familiarity with the Auburn athletic department, a track record of college success, experience with pro swimmers (helpful with Auburn’s sizable professional training contingent) and club experience (useful with Auburn’s swim camps).

It’s also worth noting that the Auburn salary would be a big step up for Marsh. This year’s salaries aren’t yet available on California’s public records, but Marsh’s predecessor at UCSD earned only $83,000 in his final season. It certainly took more than that to lure Marsh to San Diego, but it also seems unlikely the school is paying Marsh more than $300,000 a year, which would be in the ballpark of his earning potential at Auburn, in a state with much, much lower cost of living.

Dave Durden, head coach at University of California

Dave Durden is the type of coach we talked about in the preface to this list. On the surface, he should have no reason to leave Berkeley. He’s been highly-successful at Cal and is well-compensated – his salary of $254,554 as listed in California’s public records is more than Hawke’s base ($226,000), though it doesn’t include the additional swim camp money that puts Hawke’s earnings well above $300,000, from what we understand.

Durden is currently only the men’s head coach at Cal. It’s possible a co-ed combined program like Auburn is a draw for him, but it’s also possible it’s a deterrent. He doesn’t run swim camps at Cal, which could work the same way – it’s a nice financial bonus and a decent recruiting tool, but also a commitment of time and energy.

It’s worth noting Durden got his start coaching with Marsh at Auburn in the early 2000s before taking on the head coaching role at Maryland. It’s worth recalling that Maryland post, because the University cut its swimming program shortly after Durden left. It’s hard to say if that specter has any impact on Durden, whose current school is hiring a new athletic director and just announced it would be reducing roster spots for men’s sports by the year 2021. Durden says that shouldn’t affect the swim and dive program at Cal, but an athletic department suggesting it’s having trouble sustaining all of its sports is a somewhat-ominous sign even to the most secure swim coach.

Todd Desorbo, head coach at University of Virginia

Todd Desorbo just started with Virginia, and seems to have a whole head of steam built up after spirited postseasons by his men’s and women’s teams. But Auburn still has to be a big draw for Desorbo, considered one of the hottest sprint coaches in the country now rumored to be in the mix for one of the NCAA’s most storied sprint schools.

Virginia currently has some constraints on international recruiting centered around the TOEFL, or Test of English as a Foreign Language. Virginia requires a score of 90 on that test for international students – an extremely high mark compared to other universities. (For example, Auburn only requires a 79, same as Texas. Cal requires a 78, NC State an 80, UCLA an 87, etc.). While that certainly hasn’t hampered the recruiting Desorbo is already doing in the swimming-rich state of Virginia, it’s also not ideal for a coach to effectively cut off one entire recruiting segment. Desorbo saw firsthand the impact internationals can have during his time at NC State, and there’s no doubt Auburn already has a strong international pipeline, particularly to Brazil.

For what it’s worth, Desorbo’s salary is also likely in the ballpark of that listed for former coach Augie Busch: $122,004 in 2016-2017.

Update: Desorbo has apparently ruled himself out of the running, tweeting that he would prefer to stay at Virginia:

Sergio Lopez, associate head coach at Auburn University

Of course, Sergio Lopez‘s name has been brought up plenty in this discussion. An associate head coach at Auburn, Lopez has previous head coaching experience at West Virginia, though he’s perhaps best-known for his time at the Bolles School in Florida – one of the most famous high schools in swimming, and the home base for Ryan Murphy, Santo Condorelli, and Joseph Schooling, as well as the club base for Caeleb Dressel, (though Dressel himself swam for a different high school).

Lopez also has a strong international reach. He was a Spanish Olympian during his swimming days and served as Singapore’s head high performance coach during the years Schooling upset Michael Phelps for Olympic 100 fly gold. Lopez would also have the added bonus of not having to relocate his family for the job, and already has a working relationship with the team after two seasons on staff with Auburn.

Braden Holloway, head coach at NC State University

Like most of these head coaches, Braden Holloway is in a position which he likely isn’t actively looking to leave. He’s built NC State into a juggernaut that can realistically challenge for an NCAA title on the men’s side, and seemed to be heading in the right direction on the women’s side before injuries racked the team this season.

On the other hand, the incredible recruiting clip Holloway has set in his time in Raleigh could probably only be accelerated by a school with the athletic profile of Auburn, and Auburn’s international pipeline could set up Holloway to bring in more talents like Andreas Vazaios or Anton Ipsen.

The big draw might be salary. Holloway’s earnings are currently listed at $144,000 yearly, though he likely also gets a bonus for NC State’s swim camps. Still, he could be making at least $100,000 more at Auburn – that’s not pocket change.

Neal Studd, head coach at Florida State University

Neal Studd has had a rapid rise into the highest ranks of coaching without bouncing through a whole lot of programs. He spent 8 years as an assistant at Florida Atlantic – his alma mater – followed by 9 at Florida Gulf Coast University. Over that time, he built FGCU into one of the premier mid-major programs in the country, which got him on the radar for Florida State’s job opening in 2016.

That relatively longevity at previous jobs suggests Studd might not be likely to uproot his family and move to Auburn after just two seasons in Tallahassee. But the Auburn job would certainly seem like a long-term destination for Studd, and would be a massive increase in both pay (Studd is listed at about $135,000 a year at FSU currently) and in school profile and recruiting potential.

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Swimnerd
3 years ago

I would list Gary Taylor over Holloway, great assistant who’s proven to deliver over the years. Another name that comes to my mind is possibly Yuri from Cal. He would be another assistant with more “hype” than Durden after showcasing his ability to produce with an assortment of riches

Swimnerd
Reply to  Jared Anderson
3 years ago

Those names were meant in the event Sergio isn’t given the nod, which I’ve personally been waiting for since his arrival in Auburn. I see the logic in naming head coaches but amongst that list many of those coaches are relatively new to their surroundings and beginning to collect great recruiting classes. Or they are leading current top 5 programs with great money for where they are located on top of working with phenomenal coaching staffs. David Marsh makes sense but from the Instagram posts he’s had it seems he may be making a pro team out in San Diego soon which I see him enjoying at this stage of his career without the headache of an AD. Eventually assistant… Read more »

2 Cents
Reply to  Swimnerd
3 years ago

FSU and UK? I can see maaaaybe FSU, but c’mon…. UK??!?! How did they improve? from 8th to 7th at SECs?? They wont do anything until they get rid of a certain asst coach they already have..

Swimnerd
Reply to  2 Cents
3 years ago

Well UK also has a women’s program that has really taken off over the last 4-5 years. Not every comment has to relate to a men’s program.

swimnerd2
Reply to  Swimnerd
3 years ago

There is an AD in San Diego, who seems to be thrilled with having Marsh there as one might expect. However, UCSD has very high academic standards which the school is not willing to lower for athletes and very little money for scholarships. They have a beautiful pool complex and great weather which makes great Instagram posts for marketing, but it is very expensive to live there as a professional swimmer which I think has limited the number of professional swimmers who have come to train there for more than a month or so. I suspect the Auburn job would still be very appealing, perhaps one of the only places that could make Marsh leave SD.

superfan
Reply to  Jared Anderson
3 years ago

agree, but you are assuming they are in the mix? do you have any concrete info to come to that conclusion?

ncaaswimfan
Reply to  Swimnerd
3 years ago

FYI- Taylor’s wife is an Auburn alum.

PVK
3 years ago

Bob Bowman

Steve Wilson
Reply to  PVK
3 years ago

would be a terrible hire. go with Marsh or Durden if they are available

E Gamble
Reply to  PVK
3 years ago

He’s not leaving Bomer to coach at Auburn.

Human Ambition
3 years ago

Bowman in The State of Alabama?

Hswimmer
Reply to  Human Ambition
3 years ago

He was in Birmingham, AL for a short time.

gator
3 years ago

Sergio is the obvious choice. He’s coached a few pretty good sprinters ….

bobn
Reply to  gator
3 years ago

Sergio should not be considered. His time at Auburn has resulted in mediocre results. Clean start with an entirely new staff would be in order.

Swimmer A
Reply to  bobn
3 years ago

He’s been there for like two seasons, and not even as head coach. He’s got some talented people that have risen during that time: Zach Apple, Hugo Gonzalez, etc. I don’t know where you’re getting any of this.

Oldswimfan
Reply to  Swimmer A
3 years ago

Zach apple? I thought he trained with Hawke?

Please
Reply to  Swimmer A
3 years ago

I will give him Hugo, even tho he was awful at NCAA’s, but who else. All the points were pretty much scored by Hawke’s swimmers. Have not been impressed.

Reid
Reply to  Please
3 years ago

You know he was a coach before Auburn right?

NormG
Reply to  Swimmer A
3 years ago

2 seasons is enough time to get the program moving upward.
Sergio had nothing to do with Zach Apple. He did a lackluster job with Hugo at NCAA’s. Sergio gets too much press because of Cordes (who he did not develop) and because he loves to talk about how great he is on social media.

Troy
Reply to  NormG
3 years ago

Segio has developed several swimmers over the years and anyone who has worked with him or swam for him can atest he knows what it takes to get better. It hard as an associate head coach, he doesnt have the control he needs. He developed Schooling and Murphy if that doesnt say anything. Also Hugo having a bad NCAA’s doesnt mean he hasnt come leaps and bounds. Look at where he came from. His times at NCAA’s were still much better than that, although nothing compared to his SEC’s

Dan
Reply to  Troy
3 years ago

Hugo also had to get ready for Nationals to qualify for European champs, which he did.

Reply to  NormG
3 years ago

lol no.

joe
3 years ago

Find it pretty hard to believe Durden would leave Berkeley for Auburn.

Admin
Reply to  joe
3 years ago

The money could be a factor. His wife is an alum, and he coached there. The personal connection stuff is a big pull, maybe more of a pull than it should be sometimes, but it is.

Coach
Reply to  joe
3 years ago

I have to think that 250K in Auburn Alabama is like 450K in Berkley, CA. I think we’re gonna see Durden in Auburn gear in the fall.

So, the question we’re going to be asking is Who’s the next Cal coach? They hired a young, unproven Durden from Maryland last time.

SWIMNERD1234
Reply to  Coach
3 years ago

Dave won’t leave Cal after picking up Blue-chip recruit Reece Whitley for the incoming year. Dave’s wife is also a coach at a local summer rec team and has young kids in school. I can’t see him leaving Cal

Admin
Reply to  SWIMNERD1234
3 years ago

My dad moved his family for a job when he had young kids in school. I get not wanting to move over and over again, but I’m not sure one move in 18 years is going to scar his children…

Reid
Reply to  SWIMNERD1234
3 years ago

Reece Whitley is one top flight recruit; Texas has 6-7 coming in in one of the stronger high school classes in recent memory. This year was probably open and close for Cal’s foreseeable championship window.

Coach
Reply to  SWIMNERD1234
3 years ago

I will be legitimately shocked if Durden isn’t the next Auburn coach.

Brian M
Reply to  Coach
3 years ago

$250k in Auburn is more like $750k in Berkeley.

Admin
Reply to  Brian M
3 years ago

According to bankrate.com, it’s more like $388,067.58.

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  Braden Keith
3 years ago

Yeah, that’s because they’ve factored in the Vote Roy Moore signs that are still up everywhere around Auburn.

Brian M
Reply to  Braden Keith
3 years ago

Actually, if you want to get technical salary.com says you need to make $600k in the Bay Area to match the same standard of living that $250k provides in Auburn AL.

Admin
Reply to  Brian M
3 years ago

In what sense is salary.com more technical than bankrate.com?

Scott Stubblefield
Reply to  Braden Keith
3 years ago

It is ridiculous what housing cost is in / around BERKELEY. Having paid rent, foood, insurance, travel expenses, and housing cost / utilities in Berkeley for 4 years I can you for certain my dollar in Texas (and I suspect Alabama) goes 3 times further here in Texas than in California. I believe salary.com is closer to the truth

Snarky
Reply to  Scott Stubblefield
3 years ago

You don’t need a place to live in Berkeley. Tent up in People’sPark!

Brutus
Reply to  Scott Stubblefield
3 years ago

Absolutely. There are some kickbutt mobile homes all around Auburn. Heck the new swim coach could have a city mobile home and a lake front mobile home have bunch of chickens, pigs and emu!

Brian M
Reply to  Braden Keith
3 years ago

Bankrate measures Berkeley along with Hayward and Oakland…that is the flaw. Median home values in Berkeley are double what they are in the other two areas for starters. It doesn’t take alot of analysis to see that there is no possible way it is only 55% more expensive to live in Berkeley vs Auburn. I also do not see where bankrate takes into account state income tax (which is triple in the tax bracket we are talking about). Sales tax is a wash. I guess you could technically move into Oakland and be more in line with the $388k number…be my guest. I wouldn’t recommend it though, especially for someone from out of the area.

OLLIEPOP
3 years ago

Either Sergio or an assistant coach from a top 5 D1 school. I don’t see any head coaches listed here taking up the mantle but who knows!

#STATEment
3 years ago

Why would Holloway want to leave a team on the verge of winning a national championship to start over and rebuild a team with lesser athletics and academics?

ArtVanDeLegh10
Reply to  #STATEment
3 years ago

Money

ct swim fan
Reply to  ArtVanDeLegh10
3 years ago

Sometimes, in spite of what some people on here think, money isn’t everything.

ArtVanDeLegh10
Reply to  ct swim fan
3 years ago

I didn’t say money is everything. I simply answered the question as to why he might want to leave NC State for a lesser program. And as much as we may not want to believe money plays a role, it does. Coaches apply and interview at other schools all the time for no other reason than to leverage getting more money at their current jobs. Sometimes money matters.

Huh
Reply to  ct swim fan
3 years ago

Lol from a CT resident purportedly??? Money is everything in Ct considering COLA

lollio
Reply to  #STATEment
3 years ago

dolla dolla bills yall

wolffudgepacker
Reply to  #STATEment
3 years ago

Lesser athletics?

Agent Smith
Reply to  Jared Anderson
3 years ago

Mr. Anderson, Swimswam readers don’t read articles. They barely read headlines. We all go straight for the comments section.

#STATEment
Reply to  Agent Smith
3 years ago

Maybe if he wanted some extra $$$ and the lure of getting in almost anyone due to the lower academic standards maybe. maybe.

FabFourNoMore
3 years ago

I think Tyler Fenwick would be a great candidate.

Buckeyeboy
Reply to  FabFourNoMore
3 years ago

If you want all of your athletes to be milers or open water swimmers. Then yes, hire away.

ThorGodOfThunder
Reply to  Buckeyeboy
3 years ago

Didn’t he have multiple swimmers qualify for NCAA’s in the 200 Fly, 200 Back, 500, Mile and 400IM? I believe a few of them wound up as all americans?

John Kaine
Reply to  ThorGodOfThunder
3 years ago

This narrative is getting pretty old. Fenwick has had success everywhere he’s been. Germantown, Mission Viejo, Tennessee and now UVA. His crew was pretty badass this year and that’s coming from an NC State parent!

Susan Cremer
Reply to  Buckeyeboy
3 years ago

The kid can coach!

Wahooalum2012
Reply to  Buckeyeboy
3 years ago

I’m a UVA alum who was about done with the program. It has been completely reenergized thanks to the new staff. Their passion and energy has brought us all back. Tyler has spearheaded a huge alumni campaign, he handles the social media and I’m sure can recruit with the best of them. His group decimated our record board and top 10 lists this year. Some legendary swimmers came down. Yes, the mile and 500 were strong but he had 3 men under the school record in the 400IM and lights out swimmers in the 200’s of stroke. When he came in I questioned the decision. He’s proved a lot of people wrong. The kids love him and he’s demonstrated that… Read more »

USA
Reply to  Buckeyeboy
3 years ago

Considering Auburn is a sprinting powerhouse (especially in the past)

PrincessDianne
Reply to  FabFourNoMore
3 years ago

and he’s a cutie pie 🙂

WWESTCSTMOM
Reply to  PrincessDianne
3 years ago

Agree Dianne! Total hottie! Have you met him? What a sweetheart! Looks like he’s off the market. I’ll bet there’s no lack of broken hearts!!! ?

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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