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 Ledecky. Suguiyama 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 Nelson, a 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.”