FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long announced on Wednesday the hiring of Neil Harper as head coach of the University of Arkansas swimming and diving program. Harper, who led the University of Nevada to a 20th-place finish at the 2016 NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships, becomes the eighth head coach in Arkansas program history.
“Throughout his career, Neil has distinguished himself, first as a student-athlete in the Southeastern Conference and then as a head coach at several prominent Division I institutions,” Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long said. “His wide range of experience competing and coaching at the highest levels of the sport has given him invaluable insight into what it takes to be successful both in the SEC and NCAA. Neil has proven not only to be one of the best coaches in the nation, he has helped guide student-athletes to success and achievement in the classroom. We are pleased to welcome Neil, his wife Paige and their two daughters Katherine and Kelly to the Razorback Family.”
A native of London, Harper comes to Fayetteville with 23 years of collegiate coaching experience. He holds a combined .784 (181-50) winning percentage and 181 career wins in 17 years as a women’s head coach.
During his coaching career, Harper has worked with 168 student-athletes, both individual and relay swimmers, who have produced NCAA All-America honors.
“This is an amazing opportunity for me and my family,” Harper said. The University of Arkansas provides a great venue for the best student-athletes in the country to come challenge themselves both athletically and academically. The facilities and services afforded to Razorback student-athletes are second to none, and I am excited and honored to be part of the Razorback Tradition and Family.”
During the 2015-16 season, Harper led Nevada to the highest finish of a non-Power Five team at the NCAA Championships. He guided the Wolf Pack to a 7-0 overall record in the regular season and won the first Mountain West title in program history during his first season.
His coaching accomplishments at Nevada include sophomore Sharae Zheng earning College Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) Diver of the Year and Jian Li You being selected as CSCAA Diving Coach of the Year. In addition, the Wolf Pack swimming and diving teams exceeded the benchmark for Academic Progress Rate (APR) scores during the last two years.
Prior to Nevada, Harper served as the program director and head coach of the Aiken Augusta Swim League in Augusta, Georgia (2013-15), head coach at Florida State (1999-2013), head women’s coach at Ohio State (1997-99), assistant coach at Florida State (1994-97) and assistant coach at his alma mater LSU (1988-94).
Harper’s coaching experience extends internationally. He coached five of his swimmers at the 2004 Olympics in Greece, as well as the World Championships in Spain and Japan, and the Commonwealth Games. He also coached the South African Olympic team in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia.
At Aiken Augusta Swim League, Harper directed and coached the entire program, which consisted of 270 swimmers, 16 coaches and three sites. Ten of his swimmers qualified for USA Swimming Junior Nationals.
In 14 seasons as Florida State’s head men’s and women’s swimming coach, Harper’s student-athletes tallied 175 All-ACC selections and 98 individual and relay conference titles. He posted a 159-38 (.807) record with the women’s team and went 112-45 (.713) with the men’s team. The Seminole women reached double-digit win totals in nine seasons under Harper, including a program record 17-3 campaign in 2008. His winning percentage and total wins with the Seminole women rank first in program history. In the classroom, his women’s team earned NCAA All-Academic Team honors seven consecutive years with an overall team GPA above 3.2 from 2007-13. In addition, Harper was named ACC Coach of the Year in 2004, 2006 and 2007.
Harper’s head coaching career began with Ohio State in 1997, where he spent two seasons as the Buckeyes’ head women’s coach. He posted a 15-12 mark and helped qualify six student-athletes to the NCAA Championships. In the classroom, Ohio State excelled as well as both of his teams earned NCAA All-Academic selections. Within the conference, the Buckeyes received more than 20 Academic All-Big Ten Conference honors.
Before his arrival in Columbus, Ohio, Harper served as the top assistant at Florida State from 1994-97. One of his main duties was to coordinate the Seminoles’ recruiting efforts. During that time, Florida State produced numerous All-Americans, including the Seminoles’ first NCAA champion. Harper was also in charge of the team’s strength and conditioning, while working with the stroke and individual medley swimmers. In addition, he helped produce the program’s first female All-Americans in six years.
Upon graduation from LSU, Harper began his collegiate coaching career as an assistant coach for the Tigers from 1988-94. He helped the Tiger swimmers earn 21 NCAA All-America honors and seven SEC titles. During the 1991 season, both the men and women posted one of their best finishes at the NCAA Championship as both came away with a 14th place showing.
As a student-athlete at LSU, Harper was a seven-time All-American, four-time SEC Champion and team captain in 1988. He also competed in the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Games on the British National Team where he was a member of the 400-meter Medley Relay team that finished sixth at the 1984 games and fourth in the 1988 games.
Harper and his wife, Paige, who was also an All-American and SEC champion swimmer at LSU, have two daughters, Katherine and Kelly.
|HARPER'S COACHING RESUME|
|2016-Present||Head Coach||University of Arkansas|
|2015-16||Head Coach||University of Nevada|
|2013-15||Head Coach||Aiken-Augusta Swim League (Club)|
|1999-13||Head Coach||Florida State University|
|1997-99||Head Women's Coach||Ohio State University|
|1994-97||Assistant Coach||Florida State University|
|1988-94||Assistant Coach||Louisiana State University|
|INTERNATIONAL COACHING EXPERIENCE|
|2004||Swaziland Olympic Team||Athens, Greece|
|Stephen Parry||Bronze (200 Fly)|
|2003||Swaziland World Championship Team||Barcelona, Spain|
|2001||Swaziland World Championships Team||Fukuoka, Japan|
|2000||South African Olympic Team||Sydney, Australia|
|2004, 2006, 2007||ACC Coach of the Year|
|1986, 1987, 1988||Seven-Time All-American at LSU|
|1988||Senior and Team Captain on LSU's only SEC Team Title|
|1984, 1988||Two-Time Olympian with Great Britain|