College Swimming

College Recruiting and Humility

College Recruiting and Humility

One of the most fascinating conversations I had with Dirk Marshall this past weekend was about college recruiting and humility. Humility is an admirable trait, although modesty is often mistaken for it. But does it have any place in the world of college recruiting, where you are explicitly trying to convince young people to choose your school over all other options?

What's Going on In West Chester?

It's been four months since Jamie Rudisill announced that he was going to retire after 29 years at West Chester University. There are times when a coach "steps down" and you have to sift through coded language from an athletic director to find out that the breakup was not mutual.

This was not one of those times. Here is the quote from West Chester AD Dr. Edward Matejkovic:

"I am not sure that the string of championships that he has engineered can be duplicated".

Rudisill has been successful at West Chester in many ways through sheer will and ingenuity. As the article notes, the learn to swim program that Rudisill developed at West Chester teaches 4000 (!!!!) kids a year. 

So it's a bit curious four months later that there has been no public anything in regards to replacing Rudisill at West Chester. None of the possible scenarios are really good for the West Chester Swimming and Diving program.

Scenario 1: Internal Hiring Process

The lack of even a job posting seeking candidates for Rudisill's position could mean that they are searching for his replacement internally. Perhaps Scott Elliot (see edit below) who has done such a tremendous job as age group coach for Golden Ram Aquatics (as well as helping with the college team) could be sliding up. (EDIT: After finishing this, I got confirmation from multiple sources that Scott Elliot has just passed away from Cancer.)

But if that was the idea, they have done the team no favors with four months of no news. Furthermore, an internal hire's whole advantage is that you can do it quickly and move on without all the inefficiency of a new hire. This is the worst of both worlds

Scenario 2: There's a new AD

One of the things that can slow up hiring processes is if there are key decision making personnel missing in the athletic department. In West Chester's case, the previously mentioned Dr. Edward Matejkovic also retired this Spring. 

West Chester put an interim tag on Terry Beattie (who was already at the school) and he remains in that role months later. So it could be that West Chester is basically paralyzed, waiting to either have a new AD so they can hire new coaches, or for their current interim have that tag lifted so they can proceed.

Scenario 3: There is no hiring plan

None of these scenarios are exclusive of one another. Perhaps there is so much disorder that there is simply no plan for West Chester for how they will replace Rudisill. Which is a shame because the market is only shrinking for possible replacements they could get, and much of what Rudisill accomplished will need to continue running smoothly to ensure future success.

EDIT: After finishing this post, I got information from multiple sources that Jamie Rudisill's retirement would not be "official" until August, and that current assistant coach Steve Mazurek will be taking over. Mazurek is a West Chester alumn and no stranger to the team after serving as an assistant coach there for nine years.

If you have any information on what's going on at West Chester University, write me!

The Tipping Point of College Hiring

We have crossed the threshold of July, which means that in the annual game of musical chairs that is college swimming hiring, things are changing from a hirers to a job seekers market.

Although to be fair, when you look at the compensation for many of these college jobs (low) and the quality of people applying for them (high), it's fair to say that it is always a good market for those hiring. This is not to mention the ever-shrinking market of available jobs as programs face the cutting axe. 

Still, the best time to be hiring for an open position in college swimming is the spring. The spring is when coaches who are already established where they are think about making a change. The spring is a safe time to throw your name out there and see what happens.

The spring is also a time when there is little time pressure. Recruiting in many places is at its most relaxed point. The next season is well in the distance.

The warm and fuzzy happy hiring period lasts into July, when all of a sudden the pressure of a missing piece ramps up. 

As the summer progresses, chairs get filled. The pool of available, experienced candidates that want to change jobs shrinks. This is especially true the farther down you are on the college food chain. If Cal or Texas were looking for a head coach, they would get very good applicants in the middle of winter.

But for many other teams, the dwindling applicant pool and the pressure of a missing piece in recruiting or on the pool deck can really start to tip the balances in favor of those who apply.

The college hiring game of musical chairs lasts for months, sometimes with seemingly no end as open positions appear under often strange, poorly explained circumstances into September, October and even later.

The late period can be really great for "foot in the door" types who just want to get in but have found themselves rebuffed by the insider nature of college coaching. This is your opportunity to make your case and get someone to take a chance on you.

Want help with your college coaching job search? Write me. 



The Retirement That Launched A Hundred Resumes

In the world of swimming, there aren't that many "good jobs". That is not to say there aren't many jobs that are rewarding and fun. I'm talking about salaried, stable jobs that pay well.

The Head Men's Swimming coach of THE Ohio State University is a good job. Thanks to public accountability laws, anyone can look up what they paid out to have Bill Wadley coach the team this past year. 

Wadley is retiring, and there is a reasonably large amount of coaches who are qualified or think they are qualified for the job. There are also a ton of coaches that think they could do it better than Bill Wadley.

Regardless, the proof of whether or not that will be true will come when a new coach steps in. Is Ohio State a sleeping giant with NCAA Championship potential? Or are there factors people miss that lead them to overestimate what is possible in Columbus?

Here is the case for Ohio State as a sleeping giant:

Ohio State has a great facility (10 lane 50m pool, shared with the Women's team, superb diving facilities) and great resources in general (wealthy athletic program). They have history (11 NCAA titles, although quite a long time ago). There are very few schools that have a similar combination.

So what will coaches have to overcome to awaken the Buckeyes? Well, for one, the fact that the team is in Ohio. I don't say that as a dig on a state, but more as the fact that Ohio State does not have the same in-state recruiting advantage you get in Texas, California or Florida.

Ohio is also cold, which will mean that there will be a chicken and egg situation with foreign recruiting. Foreign recruits gravitate towards warmer climates, unless you establish a really strong international reputation. So, kudos to Bob Bowman for coaching at Arizona State.

Finally, football success is often overvalued in judging the athletic potential of a school. In swimming, the pecking order within conferences leans harder towards academic rankings. Ohio State trails Michigan, Penn State, and Wisconsin in the US News and World Report rankings, although only slightly so. 

Still, if you do the same salary search that turned up Wadley's compensation on some other top ten NCAA programs, there are many coaches of programs ahead of the Buckeyes who would be in line for a nice raise if hired. Whoever it is, you can count on their fellow coaches to be ruthless if the team doesn't surge in the NCAA. 

Want to make your team better whatever the environment? Contact me!


Why College Swimming Always Improves Yet Loses

College swimming gets faster every year. While you may be able to find some events in this years NCAA Championships across all three divisions and genders that didn't take a leap forward this year, you will find many that have. The improvement is so dramatic that I wouldn't believe if the times weren't sitting right there.

Take this day three results of the 2003 NCAA Championship, David Marsh' first at Auburn just fourteen years ago. Look at the winning times! Some would be borderline for qualifying for the meet now, we have already seen a d2 swimmer and  expect to see a d3 swimmerl blow away 2003 BRENDAN HANSEN in the breaststrokes. 

These championships represent some of the best things about our sport, as well as it's unique strengths. Whereas there is a huge gap in play between the NCAA Divisions in some other sports, swimming remains competitive. 

Yet simultaneous to this amazing display, there are programs fighting for their lives. When I began coaching and writing about swimming, one of the first people to reach out to me was someone who was extremely passionate about the sport. He said his dream was to coach his alma mater. We exchanged e-mails for a while and lost touch.

A few years later, he realized that dream, and I was always happy when I got reminded of what he was doing. Then, this winter, I read this. That person, Joel Blesh, was unceremoniously cut from the job at his alma mater that he was so passionate about.

What was his crime? Doing the right thing, sticking up and fighting for the survival of his team. Chances are Blesh is not alone, that while we're all celebrating the amazing fastness of Katie Ledecky, Caeleb Dressel and others this next week that behind closes doors college swim teams are fighting for survival. What follows will be a grim spring tradition of programs hanging in the balance.

I don't want to be a party pooper. I will enjoy these meets. In fact, I write because I need to throw some cold water on my own face to stop from being overly optimistic at times like these. I have, at several junctures, imagined that the circumstances beyond a swimming programs control would actually benefit us. They never do.

When I began my coaching career at Penn, I was shocked to immediately find out that the school fundraised a significant part of their operating budget on a yearly basis. At my next stop Georgia Tech, the late 2000s financial crisis and some drunk college kids was used as justification to unceremoniously defund all scholarship money that we hadn't already endowed. 

But if the economic crisis was the reason for the cut, surely as the stock market turned around the scholarships would come back? No. Georgia Tech only regained their "full funding" through donors. 

When colleges were allowed to expand their scholarships to cover cost of living expenses, and momentum started to build towards actually paying athletes in revenue sports, I allowed myself to fantasize that this would be good for swimming. If schools actually had to compensate revenue athletes, then finally their "advantage" would end?

Wrong. If schools began to see a significant bite into their profits from "revenue" sports, they would for sure look down the line to programs like swimming to cut financial weight. And that sucks. It is not fair. But such is the tension: NCAA Swimming is awesome, but unless we throw our own resources behind ensuring it remains funded, it will be taken from us.

So while you are watching your favorite team these next couple weeks (or already did last week), consider cutting a check for their endowment. Or ask if they accept venmo, it's 2017 after all. 





Curious Eagles: The Impossible to Define Boston College Team

Curious Eagles: The Impossible to Define Boston College Team

With the holidays came the quiet resignation of Boston College's 45 year Head Swimming and Diving Coach Tom Groden. Coaches have been openly salivating at the prospect of taking over Groden's program since before I even swam in college. Over time, just as the article indicates that BC's swimming future is clouded, so is the prospect for any new or interim coach to make a meaningful difference in the team's performance.