CARBONDALE, Ill. (KFVS) - After 32 years, the swimming and diving coach at Southern Illinois University announced he plans to retire after the 2018-19 season.
Rick Walker joined the Salukis in 1987 and became the head coach of the men’s team in 1992 and added women’s head coach to his title in 2005.
“Rick Walker has done an outstanding job during his long tenure here at the University,” said Director of Athletics Jerry Kill. “He’s produced great swimmers, great student-athletes, his athletes have always been involved in the community and at the ballgames, and have been a reflection of him and his love for the University. We’re very appreciative of the time and efforts he’s put in and wish him nothing but luck down the road, and now it’s our job to go find his successor.”
According to SIU, Walker has coached 237 athletes to individual and relay conference titles and an additional 209 athletes to all-conference honors in his 26 seasons as head coach. Eight of his swimmers went on to compete at the Olympics.
The Kankakee, Ill. native came to southern Illinois in 1987 as an assistant for the swimming and diving program. During that time, he coached former women’s head coach Jeff Goelz and his former assistant Gustavo Leal.
The Salukis also advanced to the NCAA Championships twice during that span, finishing 18th and 27th.
Before joining SIU, he had an impressive swimming career. His college career began at Indian River Community College in Fort Pierce, Fla. where he was a seven-time All-American and set NJCAA records in the 500-free, 1000-free, 1650-free and the 4x100 and 4x200 free relays.
He then transferred to Texas A&M for his two remaining years and set school records in the 500-free, 1000-free, 1650-free and 400-IM. Those marks qualified him for the NCAA Championships.
Walker went on to graduate from Texas A&M in 1984 with a degree in recreation and parks.
In international competition, Walker competed at the 1980 Olympic Trials, but could not compete in the Olympics due to the U.S. boycott. He qualified for the 1984 Olympic Trials, but retired just before the event.
He was also a silver medalist at the Olympic Sports Festival in 1979, participated in the 1978 USA Olympic Training Camp and held a top-50 world ranking in the 1500-free in 1981.
In addition to coaching at SIU, he also coached several teams globally.