After 27 years at NU, I decided to take on an exciting challenge: starting a new D2 program from scratch. I also have run US club and camps.
McKendree University director of athletics Chuck Brueggemann tapped former NCAA Division I and Big Ten head coach Jimmy Tierney to lead the McKendree men’s and women’s swimming and diving programs. Tierney brings a wealth of experience and success to the Bearcats’ newest sports after serving as the head coach for the women’s swimming and diving team at Northwestern University for the last 21 years.
“Jimmy Tierney is the perfect choice to form the foundation for the McKendree men’s and women’s swimming and diving programs,” said Brueggemann. “He is well-known among the NCAA coaching community and has proven ability in managing all aspects of a program from a budgeting, scheduling and recruiting aspect. Not only that, Jimmy has coached his squads to both individual and team success at the conference and national levels in NCAA Division I. His coaching style reflects the type of person that he is, and in turn he is able to get the most out of his student-athletes. Through his efforts, I believe McKendree will have an immediate impact in Great Lakes Valley Conference and NCAA Division II competition, and cannot wait until Jimmy starts the process of building the Bearcats’ swimming and diving program.”
Tierney began his time at Northwestern in 1988 as an assistant coach for both the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams. In 1994, he was named as the head coach for the Wildcats’ women’s program. During his 21-year tenure as head coach at Northwestern, Tierney had a hand in coaching 74 individual NCAA All-America honorees. He guided 26 Big Ten champions along with 39 All Big Ten honorees.
Over those 21 seasons, Tierney led Northwestern to five different top-12 finishes and a total of seven top-20 efforts at the NCAA Division I Championships. In dual meet competition, the Wildcats posted a record of 126-94-1 with Tierney at the helm. He was named the 2000 and 2008 Big Ten Swimming Coach by his fellow coaches.
In addition to his coaching responsibilities, Tierney oversaw team fund raising through several initiatives at Northwestern. He was instrumental in founding and serving as head coach for the Northwestern Aquatic Swim Association in 1988. Tierney created age group and master’s programs at Northwestern and coached both programs while adding staff to help run the day-to-day practices. Tierney also started the Wildcat Swim Camp in 1988 and served as camp director from its inception. In this role, Tierney handled many duties including the managing of daily operations (including budget, insurance and other aspects), establishing a camp website for registrations, and creating and updating the camp’s handbook.
“Jimmy has shown an expert touch in crafting successful ventures in the area of fund raising that benefitted not only his institution, but local youth as well,” said Brueggemann. “The owners of the McKendree Metro Rec Plex were interested in partnering with someone who could not only create a top-level youth program but build our college team to a nationally recognized program. Jimmy brings that experience and success, and I know this will be an exciting venture for all involved.”
Tierney’s coaching experience is not limited to the collegiate level. He has coached with USA Club Swimming for many years and has been part of several international competitions. Tierney was the head women’s coach for the US Junior Team that competed in Rome in 2001. In addition, he was a women’s assistant coach for USA Swimming at the 1999 World University Games in Mallorca in 1999 and also the 2007 World University Games held in Bangkok.
Tierney has served six three-year terms on the board of directors for the American Swim Coaches Association (ASCA), and currently serves as the vice-president for the organization.
“I am looking forward to the challenge of building the McKendree University swimming and diving programs from the ground up,” said Tierney. “This is a new and different challenge in the fact we are starting from scratch, but I cannot wait to connect with the student-athletes who want to be part of something special and exciting. McKendree is a hidden gem here in southern Illinois, and this area has all sorts of potential in building a top-notch swimming and diving program. The McKendree Metro Rec Plex will only help us in attracting some of the best talent not only in the region, but in the nation and internationally as well. Our immediate goal is to connect with the swim clubs in the region and build on the opportunities afforded us in the surrounding states. I’m excited to get out and spread the word about McKendree swimming and diving. I believe we have to potential to become a force at the NCAA Division II level, and I look forward to making that happen.”
Tierney is no stranger to the southern Illinois region. He began his coaching career with a two-year stint as an assistant coach at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, where he completed work for his master’s degree in 1988. A native of Louisville, Ky., Tierney earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Louisville.
He was a member of the nationally successful Lakeside Swim Team in Louisville, KY and then followed his competitive career with 6 years as an assistant coach there where Lakeside dominated Kentucky Swimming during his time on staff.