It may seem like college sports are always going on, but July is the one month of the year when no Arizona Wildcats teams are in action. Yep, we’re as sad about that as you are.
Before you know it, the 2019-20 seasons will be under way for Arizona’s 19 men’s and women’s sports. But in the meantime, now is the perfect opportunity to assess how each of these programs are doing.
Over the next few weeks we’ll break down each team and evaluate how it is performing under its current coaching staff, looking at the state of the program before he/she arrived and comparing it to now (as well as looking into the near future).
Next up: Augie Busch’s swimming and diving teams.
How it looked before
Swim and dive has been one of Arizona’s most successful programs over the years, producing numerous individual and relay national titles and winning both the men’s and women’s NCAA championships in 2008. Legendary coach Frank Busch ran the program from 1989 to 2011, then left to run USA Swimming, with former assistants Eric Hansen (2011-13) and Rick DeMont (2013-17) taking over
Arizona’s performance at the Pac-12 and NCAA level tailed off a bit under Hansen and DeMont’s guidance. That’s when then-new athletic director Dave Heeke made his first coaching hire by bringing back a familiar face in Augie Busch, Frank’s son.
Augie had been an assistant at Arizona from 2003-11 before leaving to be the women’s coach at Houston for two seasons. In 2013 he was hired by Virginia to run both programs, and in four seasons in Charlottesville he led the Cavaliers’ women’s squad to three ACC titles and a pair of fifth-place finishes at the NCAA meet.
Where things stand now
Busch’s first two seasons have seen Arizona’s overall results improve slightly, with the men’s squad taking third at the Pac-12 championships in 2019 for the first time since 2012. And with the conference continuing to be among the strongest in the country, the Wildcats have remained a consistent top-20 finisher at NCAAs.
Both the men’s and women’s squads made the College Swimming and Diving Coaches Association All-America team in 2019 for their combined GPAs.
Busch earned $160,000 in 2018-19 to run both programs.
One big question
Will Arizona continue to lure Olympic-level swimmers? Since 1960 Arizona has had nearly 50 future or former Olympians on its roster, with Kevin Cordes winning gold as part of the 4x100-meter relay squad at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Other past notable Olympic Wildcats include Chrissy Ahmann, Amanda Beard, Beth Botsford, Simon Burnett, Peter Evans, Ryk Neethling, Lacey Nymeyer, Roland Schoeman and Amy Van Dyken.
On the current roster, diver Delaney Schnell may have the best shot of representing Arizona at the 2020 Tokyo Games. The junior is competing in the FINA World Championships July 12-20 in South Korea and the Pan American Games Aug. 1-5 in Peru.