Thanks for this & looking forward to future posts. One suggestion: there are multiple water polo dudes on MGoBlog so you might also include H2O polo also and cover all Aquatics. Men is only a club while the ladies get varsity status, but the women's team has been pretty dominant recently with their goalie the #1 keeper on the US Olympic team in Beijing. Hopefully your posts will get some spirit going in the stands at Canham for meets this season.
The History of Michigan Swimming
Michigan Men’s Swimming: A History
After going on a rampage last month and writing ridiculously long posts about swimming related topics, Brian has asked me to try and raise some awareness for the Swim Team through weekly posts. And so I begin on this journey, hoping to foster interest in the sport and create a rabid fan base that packs 110,000 into Canham Natatorium (knowing full well that the fire marshal will be called).
Unbeknownst to many, the Michigan Men’s swimming and diving program is one of the most respected and prestigious varsity sports that the University has to offer. Since it’s inception in 1921, the program has racked up an astonishing 18 National Titles, while only employing 9 different coaches. The 86 seasons of Men’s swimming have produced many outstanding and unparalleled accomplishments, from NCAA individual and team championships to Olympic medalists and world record holders. Of the 9 coaches that have been employed by the University, 6 have coached for less than 5 years. While those 6 briefly tenured coaches certainly did leave their mark on the program, there were 3 coaches who oversaw 75 years of Michigan Swimming History. The fact that those 3 coaches succeeded at such a prominent level for an average of 25 years each, is simply astounding. Now, I don’t want to go too much in detail on the coaches here for hopes of keeping this post a respectable length however, for those interested, expect a full post on Michigan Swimming’s Coaching History to be out soon.
While success at Michigan is synonymous with the storied football program, Michigan swimming is the epitome of domination, never finishing less than fourth in the conference (excluding the first year of “conferences” when Michigan finished 6th). Over its history, the Men’s team has achieved a record of 613-118-6 for an 83.6% winning percentage. In addition to this overall record, Michigan has gone 404-57-4 in Conference for an 87.3% clip. Now take a second to comprehend that. Michigan has won more than 80% of its meets. If you had bet money on Michigan winning the conference every year, you would have been right nearly 40% of the time, an astounding number especially given the consummate depth of the Big Ten. Michigan has, on average, won a national championship every five years, although most of this success was achieved during the Matt Mann coaching era (this includes unofficial national titles which Michigan won prior to the inception of the NCAA Championship Meet), resulting in 18 national titles, a record that no other varsity sport can claim. (Note: In addition, Michigan is the only school that can boast three coaches who have won NCAA championships in Swimming)
In an era where rankings mean everything, to both player and fans alike, the swim team’s unmatched success has gone unnoticed by the majority of the alumni, except for the brief moments during which the team walks across the football field to honor their accomplishments (a tradition that I was able to take part in before the Illinois game). The swim team’s worst NCAA performance was 25th with the second worst performance being 17th. The team has finished in the top 5 an astounding 48 times. Now all you football fans out there, think about that. How excited would you be if the worst the football program ever finished was 25th? What if that was a year that they went 9-0 overall and won the Big Ten? That is how successful Michigan swimming is; success that unfortunately and unrightfully goes all but unnoticed, buried beneath a magnanimous group of high-profile, high-revenue programs.
Much of the allure of the more high-profile sports (football, basketball, hockey) has been generated through the emergence of hated rivals. The Michigan-Ohio State football rivalry pushed both programs into the main stream, with the rivalry growing to be arguably the best in all of sports. The Swimming program is not without its own notable adversaries. Unlike many of the traditional varsity sports, though, Michigan’s main rival has been Indiana, who we have managed a respectable 41-29-2 (58.3%) record against. Another of our main rivals, one you might recognize, is Ohio State, who finished 2nd in the NCAA Championships five of the eleven times Michigan won. Despite their reputable history, the record that they compiled while competing against Michigan was anything but illustrious. To date, Michigan has compiled a 63-11-2 (84.2%) record against Ohio State. While they may have been good, we were better.
As for the rest of our big ten rivals:
Indiana: 41-29-2 (58.3%)
Iowa: 28-2-0 (93.3%)
Minnesota: 36-2-0 (94.7%)
Northwestern: 38-4-0 (90.5%)
Ohio State: 63-11-2 (84.2%)
Penn State: 6-0-0 (100%)
Purdue: 54-0-0 (100%)
Wisconsin: 43-4-0 (91.5%)
*(Our last meet against Illinois was in 1989 before their team was cut from the budget)
Now those are some good numbers, against quality opponents. I say this only because I intentionally left out Michigan State until this point. If you’re a Sparty you might want to look away, you probably won’t take kindly to this part:
Michigan State: 79-5-0 (94%)
The first meet between the two instate rivals was held during Michigan’s inaugural year and from that point on Michigan achieved a dominance that Mike Hart would have been proud of. In doing research on State’s swim team (I wanted to have stats to back up my statement of their ineptitude) I was unable to locate a team history. I think that is a statement in and of itself that MSU hadn’t even compiled a history for a team that has been competing since 1922. The following is slightly biased and is targeted towards a very recent timeframe (due to my affiliation with Michigan sports and my age), however, Michigan State swimming has managed to flounder, despite the popularity of swimming in the Midwest. To put it simply, despite a lot of fast swimmers coming out of Michigan, there have only been handfuls that have attended State… over 86 years. Some of this is due to inferior facilities which can severely damper a recruits interest, although Michigan’s doesn’t rival the modern aspect that some, such as Tennessee have recently achieved. More importantly, if you are a fast swimmer you go to Michigan. It’s as simple as that.
Now that I’ve gone on my Sparty rant, I have realized how long this post is getting. For that reason I will cut it short, with a few ideas fresh in my mind for future posts (Coaches, Olympic tradition/famous swimmers & divers, Recruiting, and a Current update of the swim team). If there’s anything in particular you guys want me to write about just let me know. I understand that Swimming and Diving is not one of the sports that everyone follows, however I hope that by sharing my enthusiasm for the sport and our program in my continued posts, I may be able make fans out of you.
Yeah, I'm around the pool a lot so I know a bit about the women's water polo team, but I don't know as much about the Men's team. If anyone from the Men's Water Polo team wants to give me any info or write small updates to put in my posts just email Brian and he'll get you my contact info.
As of right now, I'm still on a probationary period, at least in terms of full fledged support among the athletic department. Brian has told me that after I compile a few posts he'll bring them to the right people and then hopefully get me a little more access than I have created for myself. Hopefully this continues to move in a positive direction and then I'd be more than happy to cover all aquatics. Again, if anyone with interest wants to help out just let me know.
Wow, I didn't know Michigan has such a strong swimming program. I knew they were good, but I didn't know to what extent. That is impressive. I will pay more attention to swimming in the future. Thanks for the post.
Well done! Very informative and well written. I look forward to future posts.
I would be really interested in an in-depth look at the diving program in particular. In general I feel that the diving half of Swimming and Diving is often neglected--perhaps understandably--in favor of swimming.
I totally agree with you, it is a very under-appreciated aspect. However, I don't really have too much knowledge on diving in general, hopefully when I get a little access I'll be able to speak to the divers and get their take and hear their stories.
I love seeing the other sports covered, so I look forward to your future posts. You asked for some advice/ideas, so here goes:
1.) The Worlds just finished and, IIRC, two Wolverines (meaning kids still on the team) medaled. Tell us about them. These are world class athletes in Ann Arbor that are virtually anonymous. Most MGoBlog readers would be interested in hearing their stories.
2.) Dont be afraid to hype the season. I dont know what their schedule is for 09-10, but I am sure they have some red letter meets. Give us the storylines and why we should watch.
3.) Have fun
Regardless, I am sure you will do well and I look forward to your next post.
Yup, that's Madwed and Clary. I just finished up a long long post for next week on the coaches that have made the program so successful, so now I'm starting to work on a piece on the current team. I'm going to look into the schedules but mgoblue hasn't officially released anything yet, but the season usually starts in October. Thanks for the help!
i could swear i remember banners for unofficial national titles before 1921, but i could be wrong.
illinois does not have a men's program anymore, but iowa does. they have recently become state's only chance to finish in the top 10, but they have caps and goggles and everything.
if you are going to write about the history of men's swimming, i'd spend a lot less time on dual meet records--which look impressive, but are ultimately unimportant--and a lot more time on the international success of the program. particularly recently, michigan's focus on distance swimming made it tough to succeed in the sprint relay-centric NCAA world (that might change with mike bottom) but the olympic and world success of the program has been pretty impressive.
also, minnesota is probably the biggest rival now, although we will always hate indiana.
thanks for putting swimming in the mgolimelight!
Thanks for the help, I forgot about the details of Iowa so thanks for setting me straight, I've removed the note. As for the Minnesota/Indiana rivalry I agree, Indiana is starting to go down a little bit but overall I think everyone gets a little more fired up over Indiana (at least on the Men's side). On that note, Indiana may start to go down the tube slightly, a couple of their swimmers were caught by the police allegedly doing drugs with some of the recruits (I used to swim with and know a kid on the team who was involved). As a result they find themselves in a little trouble so it'll be interesting to see how that turns out. Thanks again for the help, I appreciate your input!
Good job. I have to admit I know nothing about UM swimming other than they had a decent team. You managed to get me excited about hearing more. Maybe after reading your additional posts I may even get motivated to make it out to a meet.
My husband and I are huge swimming fans! We love to catch a meet whenever we can. I would love more frequent posts about the program - especially with regard to incoming recruits and if/how things are changing under Mike Bottom. For example, will we see more emphasis on recruiting sprinters? What becomes of the distance tradition if/when Urbanchek retires for good? I know very little about the assistant coaches. What do they bring to the table? I love that someone will be covering swimming and look forward to more posts from you in the future. Thanks and Go Blue!
I have two friends that swam in high school and are D1 swimmers. One goes to MSU and the other goes to Tenn. and both are from Michigan, just thought I'd throw that out there for a little further depth into the swimming thing
A few comments about Michigan Swimming...
1) A big plus for the program came when Canham Natatorium was built in 1988. Before then, Matt Mann pool(built in the '50's) had become rather dated. There were several other facilities within the state nicer/newer than that. If you look at the records, the low point for Michigan Swimming was the 70's-mid80's, corresponding with the facilities. Things picked up with Urbanchek and Canham Nat.
2) As far as U of M diving goes, two works "Dick Kimball." He coached U of M for 44 years from 1958 to 2002. His teams won seven Big Ten Conference championships and four NCAA championships. He also coached the US Olympic Team five times (1964, 1980, 1984, 1988 and 1992) and several gold medalists along the way... Plus, how can you not like a guy with the same name as the hero in the classic movie "The Fugitive."
3) About going from Bowman to Bottom, it should help from a pure NCAA ranking standpoint. Both Urbanchek and Bowman cranked out some great National/Olympic swimmers with the distance emphasis. Not that Bottom won't, but his track record w/ sprinters should beef up the strength in the shorter NCAA distances, thus more point come Big 10 and NCAA championship time... imho.
As a retired college swimmer I can confirm that dual meets (the regular season) dont mean nearly as much as Conference and NCAA championship meets. When you get to the re-cap of last year, I would love to hear more about Clary's vast improvement last year. I try and follow U of M swimming as much as I can, but it will be nice to be able to get that information from here along with the "major" sports.
good post. i look forward to more
Great post! I honestly did not know all that. Look forward to reading more