Wisconsin To Name Cal Assistant Yuri Suguiyama New Head Coach

The first major coaching domino in what should be an eventful 2018 offseason has fallen: Wisconsin is expected to name Cal associate head coach Yuri Suguiyama as the new head of the Badger swim & dive program, sources tell SwimSwam.

Suguiyama has been a name frequently mentioned in connection with head coaching openings the past few years. He’s been an assistant on staff with the California men for the past six seasons, helping the Bears win a national title in 2014 and earning runner-up finishes in each of his other five seasons, including this past year.

He’s perhaps best-known, though for his work pre-Cal – Suguiyama got his start coaching at Nation’s Capital Swim Club, where his top student was a young distance swimmer named Katie LedeckySuguiyama coached Ledecky onto the U.S. Olympic team in 2012 when Ledecky was just 15 years old, and the teen sensation went on to win Olympic gold, her first in a star-studded career.

Suguiyama was at Nation’s Capital for six years, followed by six at Cal. In that time, he’s been a part of Team USA coaching staffs for the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships, the 2015 World University Games and the 2016 Rio Olympics. (Wisconsin’s press release says Suguiyama was “named special assistant to the national team director for Team USA” in Rio). He was also the head coach of Team USA at the 2016 Short Course World Championships.

Suguiyama primarily worked with distance and middle-distance swimmers at Cal, and that’s also where Ledecky excelled under Suguiyama.

Update: Cal head coach Dave Durden passed along official comment on Suguiyama’s departure from the program:

“I spoke with our athletes this morning about this wonderful opportunity for both Yuri and Abby as he continues his advancement in the professional coaching circles,” Durden says. “Yuri has done a fantastic job with our program over the last six seasons, and has made a lasting impact in our athletes’ career both athletically and personally.  I am excited for both Yuri and Abby as this is both rewarding and challenging as he leaves our environment to head to the University of Wisconsin!”

Suguiyama will take over a Wisconsin program that was 17th on the women’s side at NCAAs last year, 5th in the Big Ten for women and 6th in the Big Ten for men. The Badgers have exciting rising junior Beata Nelsona home-grown prospect who won Big Ten titles in both the 100 and 200 backstrokes and was an NCAA finalist in both backstrokes and the 200 IM this past season.

This should be a particularly interesting offseason for coaching hires. Wisconsin was one of the bigger program openings along with Auburn, and now the Badger job is off the table and Suguiyama off the potential candidates list. Other Division I programs with openings are Virginia Tech, Northwestern, TCU, Holy Cross, Delaware, Georgia Southern and Stony Brook.


Quotes from Wisconsin’s press release confirming the hire:

“We’re excited to bring Yuri to Madison,” UW Director of Athletics Barry Alvarez said. “His track record as a coach speaks for itself, but he will also bring great energy to our program. His passion for the sport and the athletes he’s coaching will only make us better.”

“I am both excited and humbled to join the University of Wisconsin as the head coach of the men’s and women’s swimming and diving programs,” Suguiyama said. “It has been a dream of mine to lead a program, and there’s no better place to do so than at a school that has so much to offer, like Wisconsin.

“I want to thank Coach Alvarez and senior associate athletic director Marija Pientka for this opportunity. I’m looking forward to building upon the program’s tradition by getting to know our current team, putting together an awesome staff and recruiting student-athletes of high character who are good fits for Wisconsin both academically and athletically. I can’t wait to get started.”

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Boom –Yuri finally gets a HC position. Will be interesting to see if Cal loses BOTH men’s coaches this year.


Can someone fill me in on why there is speculation the Durden will leave Cal? I honestly don’t see why he would do it. Is the pay raise that significant?

The pay raise, combined with decreased cost of living, is definitely that significant. Durden was formerly a coach at Auburn, and his wife swam there, so there’s lots of strong ties.

That speculation comes with two assumptions that I think are being misread:

1) that the new Auburn AD will continue to pay for the job what the old one did
2) that swim coaches are indifferent to where they live. There’s a reason that the cost of living in Alabama is lower than in Berkeley…depends on what the individual values.


Isn’t Cal an endowed program? One of many reasons to stay where he is.

It is. Cal “Aquatics” (M&W swimming and diving and water polo) has about a $20 million endowment. They’ll be safe in the face of pending athletics cuts at Cal


I don’t know DD, but I think he should seriously consider the Auburn job. California has imposed a travel ban to the state of Texas, and Austin is hosting the 2019 men’s NCAAs. I know that lots of people think that the NCAA will move the meet, but the travel ban list is getting long. Miss one championship and the recruiting of elite swimmers will be over. California and their political agenda just may get in the way of recruiting and training the best athletes going forward. He could wait for the Texas job, but waiting is always a crap shoot.


The travel ban fiasco will get sorted out soon, at least as it relates to NCAA sports and academic travel. Nobody, not even Californians, will support these kinds of restrictions. They won’t last. I really don’t think Durden has to be overly concerned about it.

“…one California lawmaker has introduced Assembly Bill 2389 to change that and allow California colleges to use taxpayer money for athletic and academic trips to the banned states.”

Sum Ting Wong

Banned States in the United States .

2 Cents

I believe it also was under the term “unnecessary travel” which as it applies to college athletics makes an exception for NCAA competition or at least championship competition, hence why the NCAA has not taken away the championships from Austin yet. Also, I believe there was a grandfather clause in there if anything was already scheduled, like the NCAA scheduling NCAA events years in advance. There is still some question as to whether that would apply to duel meets though or conference competitions that might be in those states… although I dont believe any CA schools are in the same conference as any TX schools… but I could be wrong.

Swimmer A

I don’t think the travel ban is playing into Dave Durden’s decision making. It’s just wishful thinking.

Muddy Canary

What a huge get for the Badgers, expect him to do great work. Will have a stud to work with right away in Beata, too.


Again, I do not, in any way shape or form say that Yuri is not the right person for the job, because he is obviously in a great place and has done some good coaching. I don’t want haters thinking that he cannot do the job, because I have no idea!! But what makes him the person that so many programs fought for to be the next best coach in the country? Is it because Meehan has done so well at Stanford after working with Durden? I truly hope he is the best for UW!! But curious about this passion for Yuri.


He has a track record of success and people who know him best, swear by him. He’s a very highly regarded assistant coach at a major school, and that type of profile is typically where the next crop of great head coaches come from. It doesn’t mean he is a guaranteed success. But pretty much all of the indicators suggest he’ll do well at Wisconsin.


This is pretty awesome for Him!
I am interested as to why people think DD would want to make the switch to Auburn. It seems like he has built a really strong team and really strong post grad team at Cal.


When you factor in cost of living, Auburn’s $$ go A LOT further than Cal’s. He’d be able to have much more leeway on getting recruits – including foreign athletes – into the university. … A LOT further


Has he had a problem getting foreign athletes at Cal? I realize he is super young but I just feel like he is going to do what Reese has done at texas. Is he in his 50s yet?


so the pros are going to leave the bay, for alabama. nathan, ryan murphy?


No shot Nathan Adrian moves to Alabama

Stan Crump

That is very interesting, because in the “olden” days, Cal had lots of great international athletes.

(G)olden Bear

Graham Smith, Par Arvidsson, Paolo Revelli, Pelle Holmertz, PA Magnusson, Adrian Moorhouse, Tommy Werner, Stefan Persson, Paul Kingsman, Thomas Lejdstrom, Mikael Soderlund…

Stan Crump

Yes! Captain Caveman!


What about Rolandis Gimbuitus, all 6’10 of him.

(G)olden Bear

And Mike Cavic…


Mike was born in Anaheim, CA and raised in Tustin, CA. I met his Dad a few times, he was a nice man and both parents were from Serbia. He was a lot more American than anything else, but took advantage of his Serbian lineage for swimming. . He had an older brother that played basketball at the Univ. of San Francisco. Great athletic genes in that family!

Fact checker

Cavic is a Southern California guy….swam at Irvine Nova with Salo…dual citizen


How do you write that list and miss Damir Dugonjic?

Brad Flood

My good friend Bart Kizerowski and a number of other Polish Olympians.


And Duje Draganja


$$$$. Resources. Athletic Dept. support. Coached there previously. Wife is an alum.


Alabama or the Bay? Swim outside in California or indoors at Auburn? (Although, do they have an outdoor pool too? I thought I remember them sculling gatorades outside.) More $$$, mo’ problems. Pretty sure Cal’s men’s team is endowed. Cathy has been onboard with the Cal Bears since Dave got there. She even gave me a Cal swimming t-shirt in Iowa City.


Well, your rent is a lot cheaper in Alabama. The Bay area rents suck.


DD hasn’t gotten a raise in several years, Cal’s athletic department is 18+ million in the hole, and there doesn’t seem to be many signs that Cal plans to appreciate what they currently have with their swimming program.


Like, by building a new facility from scratch? Or updating the old one in addition to that?


That pool came from “The Big Three” Not a huge upvote from the AD.

Scott Stubblefield

Do they even swim in the new pool. I am certainly out of the loop now but every dual meet I saw clips of was at the old pool

Competitive swimmer

New pool opens in fall of 2019

Stan Crump

A parade of expensive football coaches has hurt the “Olympic” sport salaries.


Oh, and how he has to hire and train another assistant coach.

Tony R

Cal often takes a big hit against the competition at NCAAs in diving. I imagine it has to be tough to recruit divers to train outdoors for a winter sport in Northern CA. Might he have better luck at an indoor facility in AL?


Cal just got a diving platform last year so their recruiting should continue to get better.


Too cold in Jan/ Feb for diving outside especially when the wind kicks up on a 10mt tower


Not that coaching women is a bad thing, but coaching a combine team at Auburn is significantly more responsibility. While you have significant staff, you have twice as many athletes to get to know and recruit. That’s another factor to consider.


Maybe he likes humidity.

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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