Sean Schimmel became the seventh head coach of the Arkansas swimming and diving program in July of 2012, bringing with him a decorated past of coaching success in the pool and in the classroom. Schimmel made an immediate impact in the three core areas of Arkansas swimming and diving: competition, academics and community service.
In Schimmel’s third season with the program, the Razorbacks broke eight schools records and had 26 top five all-time records. Schimmel led the Razorbacks to the NCAA Championships for his third consecutive year, qualifying seven swimmers, competing in 10 individual events and four relays, tying for the most events in program history. At SEC Championships, the 800 free relay downed the school record and placed the highest in program history.
Academics is an area of emphasis for Schimmel. The Arkansas women’s swimming and diving team placed second in the nation in the College Swim Coaches Association with a 3.67 grade point average. The Razorbacks were the only Southeastern Conference team in the top 10. Ten swimmers and divers were named to the CSCAA Scholar America Team and the team had 17 SEC Winter Honor Roll Students, the highest of any Arkansas athletic program. In the spring, the program had a total of 10 team members achieve a 4.0 GPA.
In his second season at the helm of the program, Schimmel and the Razorbacks shattered eight school records and set a new set a new record of 14 straight dual-meet wins from Oct. 26, 2012 to Nov. 9, 2013. The previous record of 13 was set from the 1990-91 season to 1991-92. Schimmel led the Razorbacks to the NCAA Championships for his second consecutive year, qualifying seven swimmers, a career-high number of women and swimmers participated in a record 13 different events for Schimmel.
Under Schimmel, Arkansas women’s swimming and diving team placed 12th in the College Swim Coaches Association Spring Scholar All-America Team Awards with a 3.5 team grade point average.
At the 2014 SEC Swimming and Diving Championships, the Razorbacks marked 40 personal records, swam 42 NCAA ‘B’ cut times, earned five NCAA zone-qualifying scores in diving, broke eight school records and clocked 10 record-breaking swims. The team also accrued its first NCAA ‘A’ qualification time in the 400-yard freestyle relay.
Schimmel led the Razorbacks to a record-breaking 2012-13 season culminating in a 26th-place finish at the NCAA Championships, which was the highest finish for the Razorbacks since 1990. Along with producing the seventh-best NCAA finish in program history, Arkansas also took a record seven student-athletes to the championships, which was also the largest class in Schimmel’s coaching career.
Schimmel oversaw the Razorbacks as they earned the title of CSCAA’s 2013 Scholar All-America Team for achieving a team GPA higher than 3.0. The team boasted the ninth-highest team GPA in Division I women’s swimming and diving and was the only team with a top 10 GPA to also score points at the 2013 NCAA Championships. In addition to the team award, three women were named CSCAA 2013 Individual Scholar All-American and five were named honorable mention Scholar All-American.
Community service is an area of emphasis for Schimmel. He encourages and challenges his team to continually make an impact on the community. This impact could be best-illustrated by the swimming and diving team being awarded the 2012-13 Lee Spencer Cup. The Lee Spencer Cup is earned by accruing points in areas of academics, athletics, leadership, community service and spirit. The team made community service a significant focus, contributing time to many local causes including Relay For Life, Miracle League, Sweat Hawgs and Book Hawgs.
Schimmel embarked on a mission to improve the Razorback relays, and at the end of his first season Arkansas competed in all five relays at the NCAA Championships for the first time in school history. The 2012-13 squad also teamed up to break every relay record in the books.
Under Schimmel’s direction, the Razorbacks produced two All-Americans as sophomore Nikki Daniels placed fourth nationally in the 100 breaststroke and sophomore Lauren Jordan nabbed a ninth-place finish in the 1,650 freestyle.
Schimmel also led Arkansas to its best dual-meet record in school history, tying the 2009 record of 10-1. Arkansas strung together several big wins and upsets, the biggest a win over No. 12 Penn State on Senior Day which resulted in a season-best ranking of 18th by the CSCAA.
Continuing the record-breaking season the 2012-13 Razorbacks broke 11 different school records a total of 19 times, even breaking two 23-year-old records.
Schimmel capped his first season with a number of additional academic awards. Ten freshmen were named to the 2012-13 SEC First-Year Academic Honor Roll, the most in any sport program at Arkansas. Four women were named to the University of Arkansas Chancellor’s List for maintaining a perfect 4.0 GPA in the spring semester. Eight women were named to the University of Arkansas Dean’s List for maintaining a 3.5 GPA or higher. Not exclusive to the spring, the Razorbacks were named a CSCAA All-Academic Team for maintaining a GPA above 3.0 in the fall semester. Arkansas was one of only three SEC programs to be ranked in the top 20 team GPAs for fall semester 2012.
Schimmel came to the Razorbacks from the University of Maryland where he led the men’s and women’s swimming and diving program for four seasons. It wasn’t long into his tenure with Maryland that it was evident the program was on the upswing as Terrapin swimmers tallied 25 school records, 14 on the men’s and 11 on the women’s side, in Schimmel’s first year.
In the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons, he guided the Terrapins to top-25 finishes in the NCAA Championships on the women’s side. Much like he has begun with Arkansas, Schimmel went 37-8 in dual-meet action, and Maryland swimmers also totaled 19 All-America nods in his four seasons with the Terrapins.
The Terrapins were no stranger to academic success under Schimmel’s tutelage, as Maryland was named a CSCAA Scholar All-America team for four consecutive seasons. In the 2011-12 season, seven Terrapins received Academic All-ACC honors, with 27 total honors in his four seasons.
Prior to his time at Maryland, he was the associate head coach at LSU from 2007-09 and served as the top assistant at Harvard from 1999-2006. During his time at LSU and Harvard, Schimmel coached a total of 53 All-Americans over the span of 10 years.
At LSU, the men’s and women’s teams earned dual-meet rankings among the top 20 in the nation in 2008. The teams combined to break 18 school records during his time in Baton Rouge.
At Harvard he helped capture four Ivy League championships with the Crimson. He also helped Harvard to a 61-4 dual-meet record. Harvard was ranked 17th as a team in the 2002 NCAA Championships. During his time at Harvard, Schimmel had a number of student-athletes qualify for the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Trials.
He joined the Harvard staff after becoming the head coach at La Canada Flintridge YMCA in California, where he coached several men and women to the YMCA National Championships. While working with the YMCA, he managed a staff of three coaches and a 115-member swim team.
Schimmel had an impressive collegiate swimming career as a power in the butterfly and freestyle events for the University of Southern California from 1987-91. As a swimmer, Schimmel competed in the 1988 Olympic Trials in the 100- and 200-meter butterfly events. In 1992, he graduated from Southern California with a bachelor’s degree in communications.
A prep All-American at Ridgewood (N.J.) High School, Schimmel previously held the state record in the 200-yard butterfly (1:47.39). After competing for the New Jersey Wave swim club under head coach Frank McElroy, he also served as the team’s assistant coach from 1991-92.
Schimmel is married to the former Tricia Starr, and the couple has two daughters, Peyton Lilly and Dillan Rose.