Longtime University of Illinois Swimming and Diving Coach Sue Novitsky is retiring from the Fighting Illini pool deck after 22 seasons as head coach and 28 years as part of the Illini program.
“It has been a tremendous honor to have been able to work with so many outstanding student-athletes, coaches and staff members during my time on deck at Illinois, and I thank you for all of your work,” Novitsky said. “I am grateful for the opportunity that was given to me and I will cherish all of the memories that I will be taking with me from 28 years wearing Orange & Blue. I wish the University of Illinois Swimming & Diving program all the best for the future and thank everyone that has been a part of the program during that entire time.”
“For the last 28 years, including 22 as the head coach, Coach Sue Novitsky has provided tremendous leadership and service to hundreds of Fighting Illini swimming and diving student-athletes,” said UI Director of Athletics Josh Whitman. “She retires as the winningest coach in our program’s history, cementing her place in our record books. Beyond the pool, her legacy will live in the generations of young women who have benefited from her wise counsel and mentorship.
“Under Sue’s leadership, our swimming and diving student-athletes performed exceptionally in the classroom and were always very active on campus and in the community. Amongst her head coaching colleagues, Sue brought needed perspective, humor, and experience. She was the first to volunteer for various DIA initiatives, and I will always remember her enthusiastic participation in our annual Jock Jams event. We celebrate Sue in her retirement and wish her nothing but the best in her new adventures.”
Novitsky was hired prior to the 2000-01 season as the fifth head coach in the program’s history. She joined the staff as a volunteer assistant for the 1994-95 season and was promoted to assistant coach in the fall of 1997. In her 22 years as head coach, the Illini posted a record of 114-120-2, good for the most wins in program history. She oversaw the development of First-Team All-Big Ten honorees Anna Christiansen (2001) and Barbie Viney (2006) and, in addition, sent 16 individual swimmers to the NCAA Championships, as well as relay teams in both 2002 and 2006.
During Novitsky’s time as coach, the Fighting Illini set program-best times in all 23 swimming events and also 1-meter, 3-meter and platform diving. In her first season, Jessica Aveyard repeated as an All-American in the 200 backstroke. Aveyard went on to represent the United States at the FINA World Swimming Championships in 2001, reaching the semifinals in the 200 backstroke. Ilkay Dikman, a 2000 Olympian, competed for Turkey in the 200 breaststroke and also at the 2004 Olympics in the 100 and 200 breaststroke.
Each of Novitsky’s 22 teams earned either a Superior Ranking or Excellent Ranking for team grade point average by the College Swimming and Diving Coaches Association of America.
A national search will begin immediately to identify Coach Novitsky’s successor.