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Former swim captain takes interim position

October 1, 2010

The men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams are under new direction after former head coach Bill Henderson resigned in late July.

Ryan Hawke, former captain and four-time letter earner for the Falcon swim team, took over as the interim head coach on Sept. 1.

The swim- ming and diving team experienced a very tumultuous season. In June of 2009, the pool broke down because of a filtration problem, which would cost the University around $12,000 to fix.

The cost to fix the pool, along with the yearly maintenance, led to several discussions with UW-River Falls Chancellor Dean Van Galen, the previous Athletic Director Rick Bowen and previous Head Coach Bill Henderson as to whether the swimming and diving programs would be able to continue as UWRF sports.

Meanwhile, in the midst of meetings and the omnipotent threat of the sports being cut, the season was in full swing. The River Falls High School offered to the share their pool with the teams, which is still the case for this year.

The fate of the swim team was up to Van Galen, who did agree to keep the two sports. According to the assistant swimming and diving coach, Tom Fritchen,” the Chancellor stated that the team is safe for at least 5 years.”

All the time and stress that was associated with petitioning to keep the two sports reduced the amount of time Henderson had with the teams.

Instead of concentrating 100 percent on the team and building strong swimmers, he was forced to work towards the survival of the team that shouldn’t have even been a discussion.

“Bill was a coach that lived and breathed swimming, and he’s been coaching water sports longer than I’ve been alive. He loved the team, but in the end, the lack of support was just too much,” said Fritchen.

According to Falcon Athletics archives, a press release dated June 8, 2010 stated Henderson was proud to be the head coach and was excited about what would have been his ninth season as head coach.

However, in a brief statement on the Falcon athletic’s website, dated July 20, it was stated that Henderson had resigned his position at the University. This spurred UWRF to begin an immediate search for an interim head coach for the 2010-2011 season.

“The typical process for hiring a faculty member at UWRF involves a long and systematic process which can take as long as 6-9 months,” said Budget Director Kristen Hendrickson. Considering the athletic department needed the position filed by Sept. 1, there was no time to formally hire a head coach.

The department turned to local swim coaches to fill the position, and Hawke, who lives in Lakeland, Minn. and has been the assistant coach for the Falcon swim team in the past, applied for the position. Hawke was interviewed by Athletic Director Roger Ternes and Associate Director Crystal Lanning, and was offered the position.

Hawke’s contract runs from September through February, and if the teams make it to Nationals, Hawke will have an extended short-term contract. Hawke’s position is not full-time, and he is only required to coach, which allows Hawke to keep his position as head coach of the Hudson Area swim association.

The work load of being the head coach for two swim teams initially made Fritchen think that that would be too hard of a task.

“Coach Ryan is doing amazing work by writing up practices and planning the entire season,” Fritchen said.

In December or January a search and screen committee will be formed, and the department will be ready to interview prospective applicants for the head coaching position. Hawke said he wants to wait and see how this season goes before he applies for the position, but said he is open to the idea.

The season started Sept. 20 and the first meet is an alumni meet on Oct. 2 at River Falls High School.