On paper, the beginning of the Yale men’s swimming and diving team’s competitive season was much like last year’s, with a scrimmage meet against Johns Hopkins on Saturday. But this year the Bulldogs competed without their head coach, as Tim Wise has been on administrative leave since August, and no timeline is available for his return.
In Wise’s place for the past three months has been assistant swimming coach Kevin Norman. The Yale Athletics administrators contacted Norman at the end of August to inform him that Wise was on administrative leave and that Norman would be acting as interim head coach until further notice, Norman said. No other information is available at this time about the reason or nature of Wise’s leave, Director of Athletics Tom Beckett and Associate Athletics Director and Sports Publicity Director Steve Conn said.
“There is also a lot that I don’t know,” Norman said. “There is definitely some uncertainty around the topic of his leave. As to when he’s coming back, I really don’t know.”
According to the staff workplace policies available on Yale’s website, an administrative leave — which is different from other leaves such as personal and disability — is “initiated by the University in special circumstances in which it is desirable to continue temporarily a staff member’s association with the University for the period of the leave.” These leaves normally do not include pay or a guarantee of eventual re-employment, according to the website.
Wise, who has served on Yale’s coaching staff since 1998, left before any athletes had moved back to campus in August. Norman said his focus since then has been on making sure that the athletes are ready for a successful season despite any adverse conditions.
Up until Oct. 1, the team’s practices were led by captain Brian Hogan ’16. By an Ivy League rule, the team cannot have formal swim practices before that date. After Oct. 1, the coaching staff began to lead practices, Hogan said.
“Our biggest concern was initially the uncertainty surrounding the situation,” Hogan said. “But in a credit to [Norman] and the rest of the senior class, leadership is as strong on this team as it has ever been.”
Hogan added that he has been impressed by the respect that his teammates have shown Norman during his time as interim head coach.
“It’s my sixth year here, and I am very comfortable with the position I am in,” Norman said. “It’s not the best situation to be in, but I do feel comfortable in this role.”
Norman added that while the workload for his job has increased significantly, since he is now wearing “two hats,” he has not been having trouble with the position.
The team’s performance also has not been affected by the situation, Norman said. He praised the swimmers’ times during their first scrimmage meet against Johns Hopkins on Saturday, despite this being a time of the season where the athletes are usually very fatigued from high-intensity training.
“We’re all in great shape and have been putting up times that we could be proud of much later in the season,” Hogan said. “To do it this early is very encouraging.”
Norman added that opponents on Yale’s schedule this season may see Yale as an easy target because of the team’s coaching situation, but that the Yale swimmers have been using this as motivation for their performance.
Jacob Limaldi ’19 said that the team morale is extremely high this season, adding that the coaches alongside senior swimmers are doing a good job of making the team work together cohesively and with a common goal.
All the information given to the coaches by the administration has been passed down to athletes, Norman said. He commended Hogan and other senior swimmers on the job they have been doing in keeping the team together and staying focused.
“I think that when you face something like this, the value of team chemistry is that much more important,” Norman said. “I feel like this is not the best situation, but at the same time, for team chemistry, I think this is the closest I have ever seen the team.”
Wise finished his fifth season as head coach in 2014–15, when his swimmers finished third at the Ivy League Championships — Yale’s best performance in the conference during Wise’s tenure. For the 12 years prior he had served as an assistant under former Yale head coach Frank Keefe, who retired in 2010.
The Yale men’s swimming and diving program was started in 1898.