May 24, 2012
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON – Bill Tramel wasn’t going to take just any head coaching job. Gosh knows he could have.
Tramel, named Marshall University’s new swimming and diving coach on Wednesday, has been walking NCAA Division I pool decks for two decades since his 1992 graduation from Missouri. He’s been waiting to find a program where he could really have an influence.
The Thundering Herd is that.
To say that Tramel, 43, has been a big-time assistant coach would be an understatement. He’s coached at Mizzou, South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina and, for the last eight seasons, Minnesota. He’s coached men and women. He’s coached 54 All-America selections.
By Wednesday, he had reached out to contact some of the returning Marshall team members for 2012-13. If those women didn’t get the message about what kind of program Tramel wants – and expects – to have, they soon will.
“My expectation is to run a program in first-class fashion, with student-athletes treated the right way,” Tramel said from Minneapolis in a phone conversation. “We’re going to work hard, and we’re going to be positive, but I’m coming there to win.
“I’m not coming to Marshall to babysit. We’re going to compete for the conference championship. That will be our first goal.”
It’s a building job Tramel relishes, heading toward his new Frederick A. Fitch Natatorium office in the Cam Henderson Center. The Herd had seven 2011-12 dual meet wins, but finished a distant fifth among six teams (ahead of Tulane) in the Conference USA women’s championships.
Tramel, the Golden Gophers’ associate head coach the past two seasons, has been part of a nationally contending program – and he coached the 2011-12 Gopher women to a Big Ten Conference title (and 11th place NCAA Championships finish) in his only season with that program.
Minnesota’s men finished no worse than 11th in five straight NCAA Championships (2005-09). He’s recruited some of UM’s top talent, nationally and internationally and is regarded as one of the top distance coaches in college swimming.
At Marshall, his first head coaching job, Tramel said he saw an opportunity he hadn’t seen in other potential head coaching jobs he had considered.
“I’ve been very selective about it,” Tramel said when asked why, after 20 years in the sport, he is finally in charge of a program. “One of the things I really looked for it a commitment from the athletic department to have the tools to get the job done.
“Marshall has that. The program is fully-funded (14 grant-in-aid equivalencies, the maximum the NCAA allows for Division I women). You need that commitment if you’re going to try and play big. I had looked at some other places, but I thought Marshall was the best fit for me, and there was no question about the commitment from (Athletic Director) Mike Hamrick.”
Tramel, born and raised in St. Louis and “a huge Blues hockey fan,” said he really doesn’t see much difference in being a head coach and a longtime assistant, in one fashion.
“It’s coaching; it’s sports, it isn’t too, too different at all,” Tramel said. “I don’t have any children (he’s single) and when you’re coaching, you have these young people, and what you want to do is help them develop as people and athletes, watching them grow.
“It’s about improving. When I was at South Carolina (1992-94), we made a huge jump back into the top 20 (in the NCAA meet). At Georgia (’94-95), we went from 15th to No. 6. At North Carolina (nine seasons), they already were pretty good, but we still improved and won (ACC) championships.
“It’s about taking different athletes at different levels, but the goal is the same, to improve as athletes, to improve the program.”
Tramel starts at Marshall on June 1, and said the “hardest thing right now is when you leave somewhere you’ve been for a while, saying goodbye to friends and colleagues.
“One thing I bring as a coach, and I want to bring to Marshall, is passion and excitement. If, like they say sometimes, the athletes take on the personality of the coach, that’s what you’ll see from us.
“I’m heading there for a new chapter with a lot of excitement.”