William Carey University in Hattiesburg, Mississippi has announced the addition of varsity swimming and competitive cheer program for the 2024-2025 season. William Carey, an NAIA program, will become just the 3rd collegiate swimming & diving program in the state of Mississippi, and the first NAIA program in the state.
The school also announced the hiring of Robert Gonzalez as the program’s first head swimming coach. Gonzalez is a Mississippi native and one of the state’s most successful high school coaches.
“I am very excited to accept the position as head swim coach at William Carey University,” said Gonzalez. “As someone who has lived in Mississippi for almost my entire life, to see the sport of swimming expanding to another collegiate program inside our state is something very personal to me. Swimming has been a huge part of my life and I am thrilled to see it grow inside Mississippi. It’s important for it to be seen at the collegiate level and to allow our high school student-athletes to know the opportunity is there to continue the sport they love and have the opportunity to earn a degree at a tremendous school. There will be successes and failures, ups and downs, and challenges galore, but I look forward to meeting them with everything I have. I thank the administration for allowing me to have the opportunity and look forward to working with them collaboratively to make this a successful program.”
Gonzalez has served as the coach at Columbus High School, Starkville High School, Rosa Fort High School, and Oxford High School. In 2020, he was named the Mississippi High School Athletics Association Swim Coach of the Year and was a finalist for NFHS National Coach of the Year. He led Oxford High to 11 Top-3 Finishes at the high school State Championship meet, including three straight runner-up finishes.
He has also worked as the head coach for Shockwave Aquatics and the Delta Aquatic Club.
The swim team will be located on this Tradition Campus.
Carey athletics currently fields 18 intercollegiate varsity sports, two junior varsity sports, and one co-ed club sport. WCU is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and competes in the Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC).
The SSAC doesn’t sponsor its own swimming & diving championship, but it does partner with the Sun Conference to host the Sun Conference Swimming Championships. That conference is the best in the NAIA, including 2023 NAIA National Champions Keiser, runners-up SCAD, and the 3rd-place finishers St. Thomas University.
WCU is a private university affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention and the Mississippi Baptist Convention. While the main campus is in Hattiesburg, a second campus, called the “Tradition” campus, is located near Gulfport and Biloxi on the gulf coast – about 75 miles away.
Tuition for fall 2023 costs $450 per credit hour for most undergraduates, and its growing enrollment included 5,641 undergraduates in fall 2022.
The Mississippi Swimming LSC had 1,063 members in 2021, making it the 7th-smallest LSC. Membership numbers fell dramatically from 2020 to 2021 in Mississippi, dropping by 17.1$ versus 2020. Every LSC had a net-loss of members in 2021, which has been largely blamed on the pandemic, and no 2022 numbers have been released yet to see if that rebounded.