David Marsh, who led the Tigers to their fifth men's NCAA title last month and third straight national crown, was in northern California last week meeting with Stanford officials about what is expected to be a vacancy when former U.S. Olympic head coach Richard Quick retires. Quick was a former head coach at AU and Marsh was one of his top swimmers.
Marsh has also been contacted by other colleges that are interested in hiring a new head coach, however, that has been an annual occurrence for many years. Only once did he seriously consider a move and that was when the University of Florida offered him an extremely lucrative deal to rebuild the Gator program, however, he decided to stay at AU and has developed what has become the top all-around collegiate swimming program with the men's and women's teams combining to win six of the last eight national titles.
"I thought it was a very productive meeting with Jay on Tuesday," Marsh told Inside the Auburn Tigers. "We had a lot of good and productive discussion about the future of the program."
Marsh, a former All-American competitor for the Tigers, said he hopes that he will be able to coach the rest of his career at Auburn. "It has always been my goal to stay at Auburn," he said. "I love Auburn. It is a special place to me."
AU interim president Ed Richardson and Jacobs both say that keeping the coach in Auburn is a high priority for the university.
Marsh, who has coached Auburn to three NCAA women's titles and nine straight SEC men's championships after taking over a program in 1990-91 that had lost its competitiveness on the national level, is expected to be offered a long-term contract to stay at AU. Marsh confirmed that was discussed on Tuesday.
The coach met with Jacobs for 1 1/2 hours and then met with assistant athletic director Meredith Jenkins plus university attorneys Lee Armstrong and Nancy Davis, along with Jacobs, for 3 1/2 hours. The discussions with the attorneys concerned a contract for the coach of more than five years, similar to the lengths of ones recently set up for football coach Tommy Tuberville, men's basketball coach Jeff Lebo and women's basketball coach Nell Fortner.
Last week, after returning from Stanford, Marsh said he hoped to meet with Jacobs to get a commitment to keep both the men's and women's swimming teams competitive on an annual basis to challenge for SEC and national championships.
Marsh (front, left) watches a relay race at the 2005 NCAA Men's Swimming and Diving Championship the Tigers won in Minneapolis, the site of AU's first national title for Marsh in 1997.
One of the projects to keep AU competititive that has been discussed for years is the addition of an outdoor pool for the program because the top collegiate swimmers want to train outdoors because that is where many key national and international meets, including the Olympic Trials and the Olympics, are being contested. Stanford swimmers have two outdoor Olympic standard training pools plus a separate outdoor pool for their divers. That subject was discussed on Tuesday and Marsh said a variety of other topics on ways to make the program run more smoothly were discussed, but declined to mention specifics.
On Friday, Richardson praised Marsh and his teams at a Toomer's Corner ceremony honoring the men's latest national championship, the eighth for Auburn, all under Marsh's guidance. "There is tremendous support for him in this community and I support him," said the president, who added, "We are going to do everything within our power to keep him here."
Richardson noted that is impressed with how the eight-time national coach of the year runs his program. "He has a 100 percent graduation rate. He runs a first-class program in terms of their behavior. They have great coaches who set high standards. The students have high GPAs. If you want to pick a model program to show what intercollegiate athletics is all about, I would pick the swimming and diving team."
Richardson pointed out that he watched the swimmers help raise $200,000 earlier this month for a cystic fibrosis research campaign with a swimathon. "You just saw a commitment to the community that you don't see in every program," he said.
Last weekend the swimmers did a community service project to help a local school in addition to helping with a fundraiser for former AU All-American Dave Denniston, who is doing rehab after being paralyzed from the waist down in a sledding accident.
"Keeping David at Auburn is my top priority," Jacobs said. "He has been here for 15 years and he has to make a career decision. I would like for him to be a career coach at Auburn and that is what Dr. Richardson would like. He has to make a decision of where he is in his life and what Stanford would do for him or not. It is not about money, which speaks to his character."
Marsh said he is upbeat about the possibilities for more success with the Auburn program. He noted that the men's team will have a good chance to make a run at a fourth straight NCAA title and that a very strong signee class should bolster the women's program that was the national runnerup to SEC rival Georgia.