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The Streak Ends but the Excellence Continues

By on February 26th, 2013 in Other Sports 5 Comments »

Auburn sprinter Marcelo Chierighini successfully defended his 100 freestyle title at the SEC Championships. (Photo by Janna Schulze)

In the last couple of days I have read some message board comments lamenting how Auburn’s Swimming and Diving Team is now going down hill after the men’s second place finish to Fla. Saturday night in the SEC Championships.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

In 11 of the last 12 seasons, Auburn and Florida have finished first and second in Swimming and Diving in the South Eastern Conference … with the Gators chasing the Tigers each year. This year they finally caught Auburn.

However, the overall title was not gained by winning individual championships, that honor still belongs to the Tigers. Auburn won five of six major titles. In addition junior Marcelo Chierighini was declared the SEC Swimmer of the Year.

The Gators got by Auburn by scoring points with finishers who didn’t win titles. Points are awarded in descending order from the top to the bottom, and the Gators had more third and fourth tier athletes to finish events – thereby swelling their points total.

It was still an awesome performance by the Tigers and one of the stronger finishes in the history of SEC championships. Even though the spectacular streak of 16 consecutive championships came to an end, the Auburn men won 10 of the 21 individual events including four relays during the five-day meet.

It marked the most event victories for the Tigers at an SEC meet since winning 10 titles at the 2010 SEC Championships.

The leaders for Auburn were Chierighini and senior Kyle Owens, who won the 200 backstroke and personally accounted for 91 team points, the most of any swimmer at the SEC Championships.

Head Coach Brett Hawke said, “It has been an incredible streak which I was a part of as an athlete or coach for nine years, so I understand how hard it has been to maintain. It’s disappointing, but I am very encouraged at how fast we swam this meet.”

Hawke added, “This meet will fuel us moving forward, and we will continue to work tirelessly to represent Auburn at the highest level. We have a month to improve and hopefully we can build off our fast times this meet to swim even faster at the NCAAs.”

Yes the streak has ended but the excellence continues.

War Eagle!


  1. Im4Auburn says:

    The Men winning almost half of the events is a great accomplishment. And the women finished No.3 in the league. This program is in good hands with the coaches we have. They’ve proven they know how to produce and maintain a top program.

  2. el757 says:

    I respectfully disagree. I swam club with/against many of the current/former Tigers and when I came to Auburn I became a big fan of Auburn swimming & diving and have continued to follow the team since I graduated. I respectfully submit that I do not think it is possible to say that Auburn swimming & diving has NOT declined.

    First, I would like to point out that your argument about the individual bright-spots in Auburn’s team is somewhat irrelevant since you win championships by a team effort. The NCAA’s are scored in a very similar manner and it is reasonable to think that Auburn’s lack of depth could prove troubling there as well. This is a point you acknowledge but I feel that you do not give appropriate weight to it. It is akin to arguing that Auburn football has not declined because we are still getting players drafted to the NFL. That is not the goal of a football team. Having individuals who win is not the goal of a swimming and diving team. The goal in both football and swimming and diving is to win team championships and by that matrix the decline of Auburn is evident.

    Here is a list of the men’s championships for the last 15 years:
    1997 – AUBURN
    1998 – Stanford
    1999 – AUBURN
    2000 – Texas
    2001 – Texas
    2002 – Texas
    2003 – AUBURN
    2004 – AUBURN
    2005 – AUBURN
    2006 – AUBURN
    2007 – AUBURN
    2008 – Arizona
    2009 – AUBURN
    2010 – Texas
    2011 – California
    2012 – California

    Here’s a list of the women’s for the same period of time:
    1997 – Southern Cal
    1998 – Stanford
    1999 – Georgia
    2000 – Georgia
    2001 – Georgia
    2002 – AUBURN
    2003 – AUBURN
    2004 – AUBURN
    2005 – Georgia
    2006 – AUBURN
    2007 – AUBURN
    2008 – Arizona
    2009 – California
    2010 – Florida
    2011 – California
    2012 – California

    Eight total men’s and five total women’s championships, including four years where we won both the men’s and women’s championships. The men haven’t won in three years and the women haven’t won in five. The decline is easy to see. Further evidence of the decline is the representation of Auburn at the US Olympic Trials and the Olympics themselves. While Auburn still has a showing that most universities (heck, even most countries) would die to have, Auburn no longer claims the dominance on the international stage that it once possessed. I used to love watching the Olympics because half the field of some events (e.g. women’s backstroke) would be Auburn swimmers that I knew. I simply do not think it is possible to argue that Auburn swimming and diving has not declined.

    The better question is whether that is even a fair question to ask. Is it possible for a program to sustain that level of excellence? I honestly don’t know. However, I have been told by multiple people that Jay Jacobs deliberately ran off David Marsh and refused to allow him to come back after his stint with the US national team was over. (Athletes and administration officials have both told me that. It seems to be undisputed.) Coach Marsh had/has an ego the size of Texas and Jacobs didn’t bow to it. Can’t say I really fault Jacobs for that, but the end result was losing undoubtedly the best swimming coach in the world.

    Furthermore, and this is entirely subjective, but I have been told by current and former swimmers that they do not have a lot of respect for the current women’s coaching staff. They feel that Jacobs hired based on considerations besides coaching ability (sound familiar?) and that it now shows in the performance of the team.

    Finally, although I like Jacobs and have tremendous respect for him as a person, this is part of a broad pattern where every Auburn athletic program (with the possible exception of gymnastics) has declined under his leadership. Track & field has gone from a powerhouse to an “also ran,” swimming and diving absolutely has declined (though as mentioned above that may be unfair), basketball is dismal, football was atrocious and even equestrian which at one time was THE dominant team has now slipped to just a contender.

    I don’t mean to make this thread about Jacobs but I see swimming and diving in a broader context of the Auburn athletic department and as such it is further proof to me of the decline in swimming and diving and the cause of that decline.

    Thank you for the interesting and informative post. I respectfully look forward to your reply.

    • WoodrowAU95 says:

      I tend to agree with your point of view. I’d like to see how the guys/girls do at the NCAA’s, but I think we are starting to see a slip here, too.

      Great program, but are we starting to fall behind or “return to the pack” in yet another sport?

    • AubTigerman AubTigerman says:

      Wow, thanks El757 for a well thought out and well put rebuttal.
      It is more worthy of a “Fan post” than a comment.

      But to your comparison of, “It is akin to arguing that Auburn football has not declined because we are still getting players drafted to the NFL.” — To me saying the men’s Swimming and Diving Team is headed down hill because they came in second in the SEC for the first time in 17 years would be more akin to saying that if Ga. had beat Bama in the SEC Championship game that Bama would’ve been headed down as a program because they failed to win another SEC football championship.

      I don’t see it that way. But then again I have often been accused of being too much of a homer who tends to see everything through orange and blue lens. To that I plead guilty.

      However, you definitely appear to be more knowledgeable about Swimming and Diving and therefore I would defer to you on your experience and the stats you provided. It’s hard to argue against facts.

      But when any legend (like Dave Marsh) leaves a program, there is usually a let down. While I will agree that the Tigers need more depth; for Auburn to win a National Championship and 5 SEC Championships after his departure does not indicate a time for panic.

      As regards Jacobs running off Marsh. I have heard the rumors before. All I can do is take both men at their word.

      Marsh had this to say when he left:
      “This is a unique, first-ever position that was created by the United States Olympic Committee, USA Swimming and the Mecklenburg Aquatic Club and is a outstanding opportunity for me to assist in the development of future American Olympians,”

      “I am an Auburn man and it will be extremely difficult to leave the department, university and community, however, I feel this decision was made at this time in the best interest of my family as well as my career. Jay Jacobs has the department headed in the right direction and is committed to maintaining the level of excellence of the swimming and diving program.”

      Jacobs said,:
      “David Marsh has established a tradition of excellence at Auburn that is unparalleled. We have done everything possible to keep Coach Marsh at Auburn, but he has been given an opportunity to pursue a dream of helping develop America’s Olympic hopefuls. We are saddened to see Coach Marsh go, but we realize this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

      Thanks for your input and for adding to the discussion.
      War Eagle!

  3. holdattiger holdattiger says:

    Either way, I count more Auburn championships than any other team. They are always in the top and that is better than being in the bottom.