Legendary swimming, diving coach Pete Hovland to retire after 44 seasons


Photo Courtesy of Oakland University Athletics

Coach Peter Hovland was inducted into Michigan’s sports hall of fame in 2016.

In 1979, a 24-year-old Pete Hovland joined the Oakland University men’s swimming and diving team as a mentor. Forty-four years ago, when Hovland first joined the program, Oakland was a small Division II school with minimal resources. 

Hovland, who is now 68 years old, is set to retire in May after one of the most illustrious careers in the history of collegiate sports. His career numbers are so ridiculously outstanding that they almost seem erroneous.

But alas, the numbers are, in fact, accurate. Hovland was just that dominant. 

He spent two seasons as a mentor/assistant coach when he first arrived at Oakland, before he took over as the head coach in 1981. From then on, one of the most impressive coaching runs of all time commenced. 

Over the next 42 seasons, Hovland won the conference title all 42 times. Not once in his tenure as head coach of the men’s swimming and diving team did Hovland fail to win the league. 

Apparently, though, winning the league year after year in the men’s ranks wasn’t enough for Hovland, as he took over as head coach of the women’s program in 2001.

Typically, it would be hard for a coach to manage two different teams, and a little bit of a drop off would be expected — but Hovland just didn’t stop winning.

Since taking over the women’s program in 2001, Hovland has won the league title every season.

From 2001 to the most recent 2022 season, Hovland never missed out on a conference championship on either the men’s or women’s side. 

“I would like to thank my swimming and diving family first and foremost. Without them, my life would never be the same,” Hovland said in a statement. “Thank you for believing in me over the past 44 years. Thank you for helping me build our championship culture and for allowing me to steer you down this wonderful path together. Thank you to those that have allowed [my wife] and I to remain in your lives and become even closer with you and your families today.”

Hovland and his wife, Laurie, have had numerous conversations over the years about what life will be like after retirement, and now, those days are just around the corner.

“In recent conversations with close friends, colleagues and my wife about when it was time to retire, they all said, ‘you’ll just know,'” Hovland said in the statement.

“Well, they were right, I now know what they meant,” Hovland said. “It’s time for change. It’s time for me to pass the torch. Time for my wife, Laurie, and I to step away in order to do some of the many things we’ve talked about doing over the years. Time to spend more time with valued friends. Time to fly-fish a few more rivers and streams. It’s time for change in leadership here at OU.”

Steve Waterfield, the director of athletics at Oakland, also gave a statement.

“A true coaching legend, Pete is among the greatest intercollegiate swimming coaches of all-time,” Waterfield said.

Waterfield’s statement is undoubtedly accurate. In fact, the same statement — minus the “swimming,” — would still be accurate.