BY RODNEY MARGISON
Indiana University’s Ray Looze has been named the Big Ten Coach of the Year in both men’s and women’s swimming, the first person to achieve that milestone two years in a row.
Looze, 50, led the men’s team to the 2017 Big Ten Championship for the first time since 2006, and to seventh place at the NCAA Championships. The women earned a sixth consecutive second-place finish at the Big Ten Championship and were eighth at the NCAA Championships.
A San Francisco Bay-area native, Looze took the IU job and moved here 15 years ago with his wife, Kandis, and their two young daughters. “My wife said, ‘IU used to be really, really good,’” Looze remembers. “I said, ‘Well, they’re not good right now!’ She encouraged me to pursue the position.” Kandis is now co-head swimming coach at Bloomington High School North.
Looze has returned the program to the prominence it once had under legendary coach Doc Counsilman, who led the Hoosiers from 1957–90. The challenge, he says, was attracting talented athletes and coaches to a team that was in decline.
“It started with getting some kids that maybe nobody had ever heard of and developing them better than people thought,” he says, adding that his vision for the team is clear. “We’re going to win the national title; I just don’t know when. We’re hell bent on that. I’ve been saying that for 15 years, but we’re a little closer.”
IU swimmers made headlines last year when two Hoosiers earned gold medals at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro: Lilly King in the women’s 100 breaststroke and the 4×100 medley relay, and Blake Pieroni on the men’s winning 4×100 freestyle relay team.
“The kids on this team have more confidence than any kids we’ve ever had at Indiana,” says Looze. “We’ve got a nice group. We span a lot of different talent levels and roles.”
Looze says credit for his Coach of the Year awards—his fifth with the women’s team and third with the men’s—belongs to the teams. “It means you’ve got really good kids who worked really hard and bought into what you were doing. It means you’ve got a tremendous staff.”