It was clear the Auburn University swimming and diving program needed a life preserver thrown in its direction and the good news for the Tigers is that it has finally happened. Allen Greene heard the cries for help from Auburn’s swimming and diving alumni and other supporters of the program by making a change in leadership.
A week ago on Monday the athletic director announced that Gary Taylor was out as head coach after three very disappointing seasons in charge of the men’s and women’s teams. Four days later a replacement was on board with former Auburn All-American Ryan Wochomurka agreeing to take charge.
Wochomurka, who swam for Coach David Marsh’s Tigers from 2002-05, was part of three national championship squads as a versatile competitor in both individual events and relays.
After college he had success as an assistant men’s coach at the University of Louisville. Wochomurka next got a chance to direct his own program at the University of Houston, which has a women’s team, but not one for men. He led the Cougars to five consecutive conference championships and unprecedented success for that program at the national level.
His skills as a teacher, motivator and recruiter are much needed at his alma mater. The program had sunk so low in 2021 that neither the men’s nor women’s teams scored a point at the NCAA Championships. Prior to that neither Auburn team managed to win an event at the Southeastern Conference meets.
Combined the Auburn swimming and diving teams have won 13 national titles with the men’s total of eight more than any AU team.
For many years the swimming and diving Tigers have been admired by many, especially Auburn alumni who enjoyed following the achievements of the athletes at the national and world levels. It was normal for members of Auburn’s teams to compete in the really big meets, world championships and the Olympics, and do well at that level. It wasn’t a surprise when the program’s most talented swimmers won Olympic medals and set national and world records.
Returning to that level of success will be a major challenge for Wochomurka and the staff members he surrounds himself with in his new job. Anybody familiar with the collegiate swimming scene knows Auburn’s outstanding history in the sport, but those really in the know realize that a return to excellence isn’t going to happen overnight. However, look for the first steps in that direction to happen sooner than later because of what looks to be an outstanding hire by Auburn’s athletic director.