July 5, 2012
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON – Bill Tramel is out there trying to sell his new program, his first as a head coach. So, he went on national TV to do it … well, sort of.
The Marshall swimming coach of six weeks is just back from nine days at the U.S. Olympic Trials at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Neb. While there, being the veteran big-time assistant coach that he was until his Herd hiring, Tramel was standing poolside with Andy Grevers, the older brother of Olympic gold medalist and record-setting Matt Grevers.
When Grevers swam the second-fastest 100-meter backstroke in history last week to more than qualify for the London Games, he got out of the pool and ran over to hug his brother … and on camera on national television on NBC, in his Marshall golf shirt, was Tramel.
“Of course, a Marshall shirt,” he said Thursday.
It’s the kind of exposure you can’t buy.
“It was a total fluke,” Tramel said. “It wasn’t anything I did. I’m a swim nut, a swimming fan, and I was just trying to get the best vantage point I could, so I’m standing next to Andy watching the event, and Matt comes over the hugs him. That was pretty cool … but what’s big is having swimming in prime time, on NBC, with the ratings it got … winning the ratings, 5.5 million viewers.
“And this was the Trials, not even the Olympics yet. Bob Costas is there … In the past, our sport had only modest interest. It’s tremendous to see what’s developing.”
What interested Tramel even more in Omaha was the reception he got from the people who will be most important to the Thundering Herd program.
“The biggest thing we accomplished out there was meeting with club coaches to introduce our program, to get the word out that Marshall is here to play in swimming. The Olympic Trials, for us, there aren’t many high school age recruitable athletes there except for about five of the top programs.
“July 1 was the first day we could go out to recruit and we’re into that now. But getting to meet with club coaches, those that have the athletes who can help us improve, was important, and I have to say the responses we received were overwhelmingly positive.”
Tramel said the Herd ‘is working on a few things, a transfer or two we’re speaking with, that we have a chance to get, but who knows how those things work out?’
The schedule for the upcoming season, which opens with the Marshall-hosted West Virginia State Games on Oct. 12-13 at Fitch Natatorium, is 80 percent complete, he said. An assistant swim coach remains in the hiring pipeline. Diving coach Jim Zagaria remains on board, too, Tramel said.
“The reality is that there’s a lot of stuff we need to do to get this to where we want it to be, where we need it to be,” he added.
Tramel, 43, said that after two decades as an assistant at programs like Georgia, North Carolina and Minnesota, that he was warmed by the greetings he received from follow collegiate coaches over Tramel moving up in their ranks, to run a program.
‘The most positive thing was the reception from coaches when I’d walk onto the pool deck at the Olympic Trials, fellow coaches who might be friends or just acquaintances who congratulated me, stopped to talk,” he said. “I guess it kind of justifies that I’ve been doing things the right way all of these years, that these coaches respect the way I conduct myself.
“The other part (since he took the Marshall job) that struck me is the realization that we’ve got a lot of work to do, a lot of work to do, to get to the level we should be here. I look at all the other teams of those coaches I saw at the Trials … we’re not there, not even close.
“But we can get there. The biggest thing is recruiting, recruiting, recruiting. We need some talent in here. It’s a simple as that, and we’re working hard at it.”
Getting Olympic Trials shirt time for the Herd on NBC can’t hurt, either.