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Cal Men’s Swim head coach Dave Durden signs 3-year extension; Women’s Water Polo seeded 3rd in NCAA championship

It’s a very well deserved raise for Durden to remain as the head coach of Cal Men’s Swimming

2016 Golden Goggle Awards
Dave Durden will be staying in Berkeley to continue to grow his swimming empire
Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Dave Durden signs extension to remain as Cal Men’s Swimming head coach

Arguably the top head coach in all of Cal Athletics right now, Dave Durden will be staying in Berkeley after signing a 3-year contract extension over the weekend, rumored with a fairly significant raise. With the head coaching job open in Auburn, where Durden had served as an assistant earlier in his career as well as it is the alma mater of his wife, some (online) people had speculated that Auburn (with both a ton more money and a lower cost of living) will make a significant run at Durden this offseason. This extension puts those rumors to rest (and Auburn immediately poached the head coach from NC State, a top 5 program, instead).

Durden has build a swimming empire at Cal during his 11 season (and counting) tenure. Golden Bears have finished either 1st or 2nd for the past 9 years at the NCAA national championships with the team titles in 2011, 2012, and 2014. Actually, if one does not count the diving points, Cal swimming would have won the team title 7-8 of those 9 years. Of course, the hope is that the brand new Legends Aquatics Complex facility on campus will lead to a top tier diving program (now that platform divers no longer needs to travel down to Stanford to practice) soon to close that gap between Cal and Texas.

Even more impressively, Durden has tutored a bunch of Calympian athletes. Back in the 2016 US Olympic Swimming Trial, Durden was the most successful coach as he got 6 Cal athletes - combination of then students and graduates that stay to train in Berkeley in the Cal Pro group, to make the Rio 2016 Olympics Team. The group of Nathan Adrian, Anthony Ervin, Tom Shields, Ryan Murphy, Josh Prenot, and Jacob Pebley managed to win 11 medals, including 8 golds. Everyone except for Pebley (who finished a close 5th in the 200-meter backstroke) earned a medal. Ryan Murphy also set a new world record. That Olympic magic has also created a pipeline for the top high school talents to come to Berkeley - Andrew Seliskar, Ryan Hoffer, and Reece Whitley are some of the recent consensus No.1 recruits to come to Berkeley and are likely future Calympians.

In addition to the men, Durden also trained Calympian Natatlie Coughlin toward the end of her career, as well as Missy Franklin’s last year or so in Berkeley (in her announcement about her move to the Georgia program to train, Franklin credited Durden to motivate her to not retire from swimming). It would not be a surprise if Durden becomes the head coach of Team USA for the Tokyo 2020 games.

On the deck during the big meets, Durden’s voice is the one that just about everyone can hear shouting encouragements to his swimmers. Cal Aquatics fans no doubt hope that Durden will stay in Berkeley long term and eventually be our next Eddie Reese, the long time and still current head coach of the Texas Longhorns program. Since the whole Cal Athletics financial woes does not appear to affect the crown jewels of the non-revenue programs in Cal Aquatics, I think that dream is fairly realistic (it is not a hard sell to get Olympic athletes to live up in the Berkeley hill for years after graduation).

Durden will have to find a new assistant coach for the next school year though.

Long time assistant coach Yuri Suguiyama is making the move to Wisconsin to be the head coach of their coed swimming program. Suguiyama is credited by the swimming community for her work with Katie Ledecky back in her club days (when she was already breaking records and making the Olympics). While it is far from the strength of the Cal program, Bears’ distance swimming has steadily improved in the past few years under Suguiyama’s tutelage. Both Durden and Sugiyama were a part of the team USA coaching staff for the Rio 2016 Olympics.

Cal Women’s Water Polo is the 3rd seed in the NCAA Tournament

After finishing 3rd (lost to Stanford in the semifinal, beating UCLA in the 3rd place match) in the MPSF tournament over the weekend, Cal Women’s Water Polo got the expected news that they will be the 3rd seed in the NCAA national championship to be played next weekend from the Uytengsu Aquatics Center on the campus of the University of Southern California (same site as the men’s tournament this past fall).

In the 10-team NCAA bracket, the bottom 4 teams have to play an extra play-in match. Bears will open in the quarterfinals against Michigan Wolverines on Friday, May 11th, at 5:15 pm PT before a potential Big Splash rematch with rival Stanford in the semifinal match (on Saturday, May 12th at 5 pm PT). Host and top seed USC and the only other real contender in 4th seed UCLA are on the other half of the bracket. UC San Diego, Wagner, UC Irvine, and Pomona-Pitzer are the other four teams in the field. The winner of UC Irvine and Pomona-Pitzer will play Stanford in the quarterfinals. The national championship match is scheduled for May 13th at 3 pm PT. All of the NCAA tournament will be broadcasted live on the website.

Golden Bears (19-5, 3-1 in Pac-12) have gone 0-2 vs. USC, 1-2 vs. Stanford, and 2-1 vs. UCLA in 2018. Claiming the top spot as the all-time goal scorer in Cal history, senior Hungarian Calympian Dora Antal leads the team with 44 goals. The fairly balanced Cal attack also has sophomore Canadian national teamer Emma Wright with 43 goals, Italian junior Carla Carrega with 41 goals, Dutch freshman center Kitty Lynn Joustra with 31 goals, and senior Hungarian Calympian Anna Illes with 30 goals. Junior Madison Taggs is the main goalkeeper for the Bears in this year 2 for head coach Coralie Simmons, who was a standout play in college (UCLA) and for Team USA.

Nonetheless, after years of being a little bit behind the other three California Pac-12 schools (the only schools that have won the women’s water polo championship), Cal is one of four schools with about an even shot at the title in the more wide-open 2018. It will be an interesting tournament to see if the Golden Bears can send off their two Hungarian Calympians with the program’s first NCAA national championship.