UA taps Big-10’s Eric Hansen to take over swim program

This afternoon, the University of Arizona will formally introduce their answer to replacing the long-time face of the Wildcat swimming & diving program.

Arizona has lured Eric Hansen from his 12-year career as the University of Wisconsin head coach to fill the vacancy left by Frank Busch, the Cats’ boss for the past 22 years.

Busch announced in February that he would be leaving the Arizona program at the end of the school year to accept a position with USA Swimming as its National Team Director.

Hansen, a six-time All-American during his collegiate swimming career and a Big Ten Coach of the Year at Wisconsin, is very familiar with Busch and the Arizona program.  He actually served as an assistant under Busch at UA from 1996 to 1999, before being hired away by Wisconsin.

During that career stop-over in Tucson, the Iowa native coached six national champions, 11 All-Americans, and numerous Pac-10 champions.

He will actually get to know some of his future swimmers before he even has time to settle into his new office on the UA campus.  Five Arizona swimmers, including national champion Cory Chitwood and school record-holders Alyssa Anderson and Adam Small, will be competing in the World University Games this summer in China.  Hansen will be there waiting for them as the head coach of the American team.

Hansen will inherit a men’s team that placed fourth overall at the NCAA Championships this year, the 14th consecutive year the Arizona men have placed among the top 10 and the seventh top-four finish in the last eight seasons.  Under Busch, at least one Arizona swimmer on either the men’s or women’s team has won an individual NCAA championship in each season.

When Chitwood repeated as the NCAA champion in the 200 backstroke this year, it continued that 21-year streak.

Hansen has some big flippers to fill.  But his resume would indicate he’s probably up to the challenge.

While at Wisconsin, Hansen transformed the program into a perennial contender.  The Badgers’ women’s team finished among the top 20 on 10 separate occasions, earning the program’s highest-ever national finish, ninth place, in 2006.

He wraps up his career at Wisconsin with nearly 30 Big Ten individual titlists under his guidance, in addition to more than 50 All-Americans and a pair of Olympians in Adam Mania and Carly Piper.  Fifty-six of his athletes earned a total of 289 All-America honors.

His new gig at Arizona won’t involve program-building, like he faced at Wisconsin.  The Cats are already there.

But he will be expected to continue where Busch leaves off.  And that may turn out to be an even bigger job.

(Photo: Arizona Athletics)