Just days before UMBC kicked off their 2020-2021 intercollegiate swimming & diving season over the weekend, the school named Matt Donovan as its new head coach.
Donovan comes to UMBC from Long Island University, where he was the head women’s swimming coach since the fall of 2016, and became the head men’s coach when the school added the sport in the spring of 2020.
He replaces the former head coach Chad Cradock who split with the program in December 2020 and took his own life earlier this year. The school has rejected SwimSwam’s open record requests regarding Cradock’s departure and has declined to elaborate on the reasons for it.
Donovan takes over a UMBC program that has won 12 of 13 America East Conference Championships in men’s swimming & diving, including the last 3 since the conference reinstated the sport for the 2017-2018 season.
The women’s team won the America East Championship in 2019 and placed 2nd, behind New Hampshire, in 2020.
“Matt brings the experience, work ethic, and integrity that this program will need to continue its growth into national prominence,” UMBC athletics director Brian Barrio said. “He is a great fit for our UMBC community and I’m excited to connect a leader like Matt with the superb student-athletes we have at UMBC.”
The UMBC Retrievers opened their season last weekend at the two-day George Mason Invitational in Fairfax, Virginia. That was a non-scored meet, but UMBC did pick up a handful of wins at the event.
The America East doesn’t have a 2021 championship on its schedule, while Donovan’s former team LIU is marching toward the NEC Championship that begins on March 30 in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. The school has not responded to SwimSwam’s question about who will lead LIU for the remainder of their season.
Donovan’s Background, Courtesy: UMBC Athletics:
At LIU, Donovan started with seven women’s competitors in the fall of 2016 and opened the 2020-21 campaign with 29. The program produced eight individual Northeast Conference champions from 2016-20, including the league’s Most Outstanding Swimmer in 2019-20, and broke two long-standing conference records. Despite the fact that the Sharks had no divers competing, they finished fifth amongst the nine league teams competing in the championships. The Sharks also won the overall Team Sportsmanship Award as voted upon by their peers in the NEC.
Earlier that season, Donovan was named Coach of the Meet at the ECAC Championships, as he led the Sharks to a second-place finish.
Under Donovan’s lead, LIU women’s swimming produced dozens of school records, and NEC and ECAC individual and relay championships in five seasons, but the most impressive has been the team’s performance in the classroom. In every single semester under Donovan, the Sharks have earned CSCAA Academic Honors. In the fall of 2019, LIU had the fourth highest GPA in Division I women’s swimming.
From 2015-19, Donovan served as the head counselor of the Salo Swim Camp and as a volunteer with the Trojan Athletic Club at the University of Southern California. He worked under United States Olympic coaches Dr. David Salo and Catherine Vogt and helped prepare the Chinese National Team for the 2018 Asian Championships.
“Matt is an excellent choice to lead UMBC as they continue their recent successes,” said Salo. “Coach Donovan was an integral part of my camp program at (USC) for many years. “He is bright and inquisitive and thoroughly understands the dynamics of a competitively successful team. I am proud that he will take the reins at UMBC.”
Donovan, who has extensive coaching experience at both the collegiate and club level, spent two seasons as an assistant on both the men’s and women’s side at the University of Connecticut. In his two seasons with the Huskies, he coached 37 All-Conference honorees, saw the team finish second at the American Athletic Conference Championships in 2015, and win both the 2015 and 2016 Copa Coqui Invitational in Puerto Rico.
The head swim coach of the Somerset Valley (N.J.) YMCA Swim Team, Donovan spent 15 years with the team, overseeing the growth of the program from 46 swimmers to well over 500 participants when he left in 2014. Donovan saw great success while with Somerset Valley, leading the team to the New Jersey State Championship in 2006, and every year from 2010 to 2014. He was tabbed as the New Jersey All-Star team coach in 2003 and 2004.
On the national level, Donovan was awarded the 2013 YMCA National Coach of the Meet honor for the Long Course Championships held in Atlanta, Georgia. He has coached two National Camps (2010, 2011) at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs and assisted at the USA Zone Select Camp in Baltimore in 2012.
A decorated swimmer in his own right, Donovan was a two-time captain of the Keene State (N.H.) College squad, qualified for the conference championship each season, made ECAC’s twice, and helped break multiple team relay records. He received his bachelor’s degree in social sciences from KSC and went on to earn a master’s in education from the University of Phoenix in 2004. USA Swimming had had him as a guest presenter twice for their webinar series that can be found on usaswimming.org. He is also a guest author for the United States Masters Swimming on-line magazine, and competes in Master’s Swimming to this day.