While Pitt's hiring of Kevin Stallings as the team's next men's basketball coach has dominated the news around these parts, the athletic department had another key hire to make for the swimming and diving program that's sort of gone under the radar.
Former coach Chuck Knoles retired recently and that left athletics director Scott Barnes with a hire to make. On Tuesday, he filled that vacancy with the hiring of John Hargis.
Like the hiring of soccer coach Jay Vidovich, Barnes went for another pretty well-known guy in the swimming and diving community. Forget coaching, but Hargis was an incredible swimmer himself. He was not only a 12-time All-American, but also a 1996 Olympic gold medalist as part of a relay team, and part of Auburn's 1997 national championship team.
Hargis later went on to become the head coach at Penn State. While there, he coached 21 different All-Americans (74 different All-American performances), according to his Penn State bio, and the Nittany Lions were in the Top 25 during his tenure. He resigned there in 2013 to take the men's associate head coach job at his alma mater, Auburn. Auburn has been one of the top swimming and diving programs in the nation and last season, his men's program was ranked sixth at the end of the year.
Pitt's swimming and diving program has had some success in the past, but not on the level that Hargis has been around. The Panthers' program just had its first national champion performer this year, let alone any kind of major team success.
To get Hargis away from the Tigers looks like an impressive grab for Barnes. Not only was Auburn his Alma mater, but he and the program's head coach, Brett Hawke, were very good friends and actually teammates in college. This is another Olympic sports hire that, on the surface, seems to be an impressive get on the national scale. At the end of the day, Barnes will be judged (as he should be) more on the success of Pitt's revenue sports. But hires like these should make the school more competitive across the board and hopefully, the Panthers can start having more success in the non-revenue sports.
Finally, if you're looking for a Pitt tie-in here, his wife is also a Pitt grad.