Purdue head men’s swimming & diving coach Dan Ross announced his pending retirement on Tuesday, which means that for the first time since the 1980s, this job is open.
Whoever takes over will take on a program with a great facility in a powerhouse swimming state, at a school with a big academic reputation, and in a Big Ten Conference that has some room for advancement right now. That means a big opportunity – especially if Purdue is willing to open up the pocket books a little (public records show Ross’ 2021 salary at $101,683.86).
The Boilermakers finished 6th at the 2023 Big Ten Championships out of 8 teams.
Let’s wildly speculate about who might take over this job.
Hat tip to all of the readers who sent me ideas on Twitter.
John Klinge, head women’s swimming & diving coach, Purdue – The most obvious candidate is already on deck in West Lafayette. John Klinge has been the women’s team’s head coach since 2008, and the two programs have been more-or-less at a similar level of success in that time period. Klinge also has experience working with men – before Purdue, he was an associate head coach for the Ohio State men. It would certainly be the affordable option for Purdue’s brass. While most of the Big Ten had separate programs when Ross was hired, now, every other school that sponsors both men’s and women’s teams have a combined head coaching position. Plus, he already has experience working with the program’s most successful head coach, diving coach Adam Soldati, and that’s something Purdue can’t afford to disrupt.
J. Agnew, Head Swimming & Diving Coach, Ball State – A few people threw this name out to me, and while it seems like the trend lately for Power 5 jobs has been pulling assistants from Power 5 programs, this one makes a lot of sense. Agnew, in his 5th season at Ball State, is already a known-quantity in Indiana, and he recruits the state well for a mid-major. He took over a program that was struggling and gave them their first MAC dual meet win in years. Agnew also spent 11 years as an assistant at…Purdue immediately before taking over at Ball State, so it seems like he’d have Ross’ stamp of approval. Mike Bobinski, Purdue’s athletics director, was hired in 2016, so he and Agnew overlapped for a couple of seasons and should have at least a passing familiarity with each other. His pay at Ball State is competitive at the mid-major level, but even matching Ross’ salary would still be a big step up, so have to imagine he’s interested. With Ball State earning a lot of academic accolades in the last five seasons, this seems to check a lot of boxes.
Corey Chitwood, Associate Head Coach, Indiana – Chitwood was one of the hot-rising names in the assistant coaching world before some personal hiccups at Arizona (unrelated to athletes) slowed that momentum. But Chitwood has felt like a D1 head coach since he was an undergrad – he’s just got that kind of a demeanor to him. An in-state hire from a rival Big Ten school that’s having a lot of success might appeal to Purdue. The challenge hear for Purdue is that Chitwood is making about as much at Indiana as an associate as Ross was making at Purdue as head coach, so Purdue would probably have to come up with some more salary to make this happen.
Blaire (Bachman) Anderson, Associate Head Coach, Virginia – Obviously, being an associate head coach at the best women’s NCAA program in the country gets you a look almost anywhere. But Bachman does have a year at Indiana under her belt that makes her a fit for this job, specifically. Her next job is going to be a head coaching job, so
Coley Stickels, Pro Group Coach, Texas Ford Aquatics – Stickels’ tenure ended early after 18 months at Alabama for reasons that vary depending on who you ask. Regardless of where we land on that, parting ways with a college program mid-season will be a red flag for an AD. Still, Stickels, a former Indiana assistant, knows the state well and can make swimmers fast. Sometimes, the temptation to overlook red flags can be strong for a coach with a known track record for developing talent at the level of Stickels’. We also know he wants to get back into college coaching, though his pro group at Texas Ford is growing. Purdue’s deputy AD Tiffini Grimes was the SWA and sport administrator for swimming at Alabama, so she probably would have an opinion on this hire one way or another. I do think this would be another expensive hire.
Adam Soldati, Head Diving Coach, Purdue – Someone threw this out there, and I don’t think it’s likely…but it’s kind of a plausible idea, right? The head swimming & diving coach is usually a swim coach, because swimmers make up most of the team. But Soldati has had tons of success at Purdue, producing Olympic medalists, NCAA Champions, Big Ten Champions. He’s got the goods. What if there’s a different model, where the head diving coach can create the standards for athletic achievement and be paired with a good associate head coach to lead the swimmers? The Purdue men only have two divers on their roster this year, so what might have been possible at one point feels a bridge too far right now, but it is fun to think about.
Jack Brown? Experience with recruiting in the midwest at Mizzou and he was brought in for an interview at Pitt last year so it seems he is looking for a HC position? Pretty sure his wife dove at Stanford — so he is probably a pretty good diving supporter.
They should go for Vlad Polyakov. Great coach and great guy.
What about Brandt Nigro? Been at army for a little, probably ready to take on a power 5 head role
He’s certainly doing really great things at Army.
I think Brandt is a candidate for any Power 5 job that might open this summer, including this one.
Purdue should be running Chris Plumbs door down if they care about success
Chris Plumb makes about 40k more than what they were paying Dan Ross.
If Purdue wants to stretch its budget to 150k+, it opens up a lot of options to them. My suspicion is that they don’t, especially when their budget for 2022-2023 was to break even versus a $14 million-$15 million surplus the year before.
Don’t discount the additional $40 million coming to Big Ten schools with the new tv deal. Yes, most will stay with revenue sports, but Purdue has the minimum number of varsity sports already, so all programs will be enhanced to some degree.
By 2026 🤷♂️.
But yeah, that’s fair. It seems like on scale, throwing an extra 50k at a swim coach is no big deal, but I dunno…still feels like all signs point to combining.
Agreed, most likely combining given the structure of big programs today. New AD hasn’t been shy about investing and tends to pick up and comers.
Have there been many head club coaches who “make the jump” to head college? Feel like this type program looking for athletes to develop to compete in Big10s could use an approach more like that.
Recently it’s become rarer than it used to be. Compliance is so tight these days, and the college culture is so different from club, that ADs seem to prefer coaches with some college experience as an assistant before they jump straight to the head coaching role.
When you see it, it tends to be someone who maybe had college coaching experience, went to club, and returns to college. Rich Murphy is a great example of this. His first stint as a college head coach, off 6 years of club, didn’t go so hot at Houston. He went back to club for another couple of years, and then popped up at Tennessee again where things are going really well.
We see… Read more »
just about anyone will improve that program. Great facilities, awesome school, world class diving program, top-notch in-state talent. What a set-up. Under achieving for at least a decade.