Swim and dive coach is a Michigan Hall of Famer

Devin Boatwright, Staff Reporter

Pete Hovland is undeniably one of the greatest coaches of all time. His accolades and accomplishments are a testament to his hard work and commitment toward the university and its swim program.

Hovland got his start at Oakland in August of 1979 as an assistant coach, where he oversaw the then small women’s team. His job was to help build and shape the women’s swim team into a powerhouse much like the men’s team.

“At that point in time there wasn’t an NCAA for women’s sports,” Hovland said. “This league was known as the AIAW (Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women) for the first couple of years. When the NCAA finally got into women’s athletics the program took off at a much faster rate then the men’s because there were so many opportunities and scholarships to be had now.”

The women’s program had tons of success, they got to the national championship even before the men’s team did again, winning it in ’90-’95 before the men were back in the national championship picture in ’94-’97.

Moving into the late 1990s the swimming program finally moved into Division I, around that time the school just finished building the O’Rena that still stands today. There were tough times, but Hovland describes it as the start of a “renaissance” for the school and the swimming program alike.

“After ‘97 that two year probationary period was a very trying time for all of us,” Hovland said. “We were using outhouses and storage sheds for locker rooms, it was unbelievable. But for the greater good to see this facility being made and at the same time making the jump into Division I it was the renaissance of, ‘okay this is how it works and this is where we’re going.'”

Hovland has been coaching for 41 years now. Over time he’s learned and has made changes in himself which has helped garner the success of the swimming program.

“I definitely think I have grown and matured over the years,” said Hovland. “As a young coach sometimes you’re set in your ways, pretty demanding and tough. I feel more tolerant and understanding now. I think I’m more engaging with my athletes now than was before. I’ve learned that its a partnership and to get the best out of your athletes you need to know what’s going on in their heads, and how there feeling and what they’re thinking. It really correlates with whether or not they’re going to be successful near the end of the season.”

Hovland, along with his several national and conference titles has been inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame, the Hollie L. Lepley Hall of Fame, and the City of Chico Sports Hall of Fame in Chico, Calif. He believes being inducted was the pinnacle of his long career.

“That recognition was a very humbling experience for me.” said Hovland, “A college swim team and coach being recognized alongside professional team like the (Detroit) Tigers, Red Wings, Pistons and Lions was amazing. My mom, who is 93, was able to come and see me get inducted along with some friends from California. I think it’s just a testament to the athletes we’ve had, the administration, and the university.

With a winning record of 245-99, 39 consecutive conference championships, four NCAA Division II National Championships, 54 individual national champions, 38 relay national champions, 24 conference coach of the year awards and 23 straight conference titles, he and the swimming program exemplify excellence. Only time will tell how much more Hovland achieves in his legendary tenure.