Sept. 2, 2014
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Brian Barnes, head coach of the University of Notre Dame women’s swimming and diving program for the last six seasons, resigned Tuesday afternoon for personal and family reasons.
“I’ve loved every minute that I’ve been involved with women’s swimming and diving at Notre Dame. I’ve simply come to a point where my family needs to become the top priority for me. I need to focus more of my time and attention on my two children, and realistically I cannot do that and make the commitment I would need to make with the swimming and diving program,” said Barnes, who notified his team late this afternoon.
“I appreciate the understanding and the personal support that Jack Swarbrick and the rest of the staff have provided these last few years. My team has been great as well, and I will miss the day-to-day involvement with all of them. However, this is a decision I needed to make for my own wellbeing and that of my family.”
Father to Jack (age 7) and Caroline (5), Barnes plans to take at least a year away from collegiate coaching to spend more time at home with his two children. Brian’s wife and the mother of both children, Alyssa Jane Barnes, passed away April 18, 2012, after a multi-year battle with cancer.
“I completely support Brian’s decision at this time to step away from his coaching duties at Notre Dame to focus on his family. I would like to thank him for his dedication to the women’s swimming and diving program over the last six years,” said university vice president and director of athletics Jack Swarbrick. “He did a remarkable job taking the program to new heights the last few seasons, including the program’s first ever individual national champion. I think we all know the last few years have been very challenging for Brian on a personal basis, following his wife Alyssa’s death after her long fight with cancer. Ultimately, this move is in the best interests of Brian, Jack and Caroline.”
During his time at Notre Dame, Barnes guided the Irish to unprecedented success on the conference and national stage. Some of the highlights include the first individual national championship (junior Emma Reaney in 2014) for a Notre Dame swimmer or diver in school history (men’s or women’s), eight All-Americans, 13 honorable mention All-Americans, 24 NCAA qualifiers among 14 student-athletes, three Atlantic Coast Conference individual titles, four all-ACC honorees, one ACC Most Valuable Swimmer, one ACC Swimmer of the Year, two BIG EAST Conference team titles, 42 BIG EAST combined relay and individual titles, 164 all-BIG EAST honors, three BIG EAST Swimming Coach of the Year awards, two BIG EAST Most Outstanding Swimmer awards and two BIG EAST Most Outstanding Diver awards. Eighteen of the 23 school records have fallen during Barnes’ time with the program.
In the classroom, the Irish routinely sported a team semester GPA over 3.00, while multiple student-athletes have received elite honors. In 2013, senior Kim Holden was awarded a prestigious NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship, while Reaney was named the 2014 ACC Women’s Swimming and Diving Scholar-Athlete of the Year before becoming the first student-athlete in program history to earn Capital One first-team Academic All-America honors.
Barnes’ Irish teams also have excelled in the annual NCAA Academic Progress Rate and Graduation Success Rate figures. His women’s swimming and diving teams have earned perfect 1,000 scores in each of the last three APR surveys (issued in 2012, 2013 and 2014). His Irish also earned perfect 100 scores in each of the last three GSR releases (2011, 2012 and 2013).
Active in the community, Barnes, an Osceola, Ind., native, created and ran the first Coaches vs. Cancer Fighting Irish Swim Clinic in 2011 after Alyssa was diagnosed with cancer. The clinic saw almost 100 children ages 8-18 participate and raised more than $5,000 that went to South Bend’s RiverBend Cancer Services and the American Cancer Society.
Barnes and the rest of the Irish women’s swimming and diving team topped their performance in 2012, raising over $20,000 with the help of Olympic gold medalist Tyler McGill, who coached at the clinic, and a $10,000 donation from Notre Dame football head coach Brian Kelly’s foundation, Kelly Cares.
2013 saw Olympic gold medalist Tyler Clary appear at the third annual clinic, with the total raised topping $20,000 for the second straight year. In three years, the swim clinic raised over $45,000 for local families battling cancer. The 2014 clinic, which will see Olympic gold medalist Cullen Jones offer his expertise, is set for Sept. 20.
Prior to Notre Dame, Barnes coached some of the country’s elite swimmers at Auburn University and Indiana University as an assistant coach.
A highly-accomplished swimmer during his career at Indiana from 1992-95, Barnes was a two-time All-American and a five-time honorable mention All-American. His school record in the 400 individual medley stood for more than 15 years from 1992 until 2007. A two-time team most valuable swimmer, he served as team captain during his senior campaign.
Twice Indiana Swimming Male Swimmer of the Year (1989, 1995), Barnes was also a member of the USA Swimming National Team in 1989 and 1992. He was a U.S. Olympic Trials qualifier in 1992 and 1996.
A 1995 graduate of Indiana, Barnes earned a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and is a level-4 certified member of the American Swimming Coaches Association.
Following graduation, Barnes began coaching with the local Michiana Marlins, a USA Swimming club team that practices in the Rolfs Aquatic Center on the campus of Notre Dame. He was the assistant coach for two seasons at the University of Kansas and the head coach of the Lawrence (Kan.) Aquahawks swim club from 1998-2002 before heading to his alma mater for three seasons.