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Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024
The Observer

Barnes resigns as head coach, effective immediately

Brian Barnes, head coach of the women’s swimming and diving team, resigned suddenly Tuesday afternoon after six years at the helm of the program.

Barnes, who coached eight All-Americans and one NCAA champion for Notre Dame, said in a press release he was leaving in order to spend more time with his family and would spend at least one year away from collegiate swimming.

Former Irish coach Brian Barnes, right, watches his team compete against Iowa at the Shamrock Invitational on Jan. 31.
Observer File Photo
Former Irish coach Brian Barnes, right, watches his team compete against Iowa at the Shamrock Invitational on Jan. 31.
“I’ve loved every minute that I’ve been involved with women’s swimming and diving at Notre Dame,” Barnes said in the press release. “I’ve simply come to a point where my family needs to become the top priority for me. I need to focus more of my time and attention on my two children and realistically I cannot do that and make the commitment I would need to make with the swimming and diving program.”

Barnes’s wife, Alyssa, passed away in April 2012 after a multi-year battle with cancer. Their children, Jack and Caroline, are both younger than 10. Director of Athletics Jack Swarbrick issued a statement supporting Barnes’s decision.

“I completely support Brian’s decision at this time to step away from his coaching duties at Notre Dame to focus on his family,” Swarbrick said in the press release. “I would like to thank him for his dedication to the women’s swimming and diving program over the last six years. He did a remarkable job taking the program to new heights the last few seasons, including the program’s first ever individual national champion. I think we all know the last few years have been very challenging for Brian on a personal basis, following his wife Alyssa’s death after her long fight with cancer. Ultimately, this move is in the best interests of Brian, Jack and Caroline.”

Barnes leaves Notre Dame on the heels of one of the most successful seasons in program history. Senior Emma Reaney led the Irish to a sixth-place finish at the ACC championships and a 16th-place showing at the NCAA championships, tied for the program’s best finish in 15 years. Along the way, she won an NCAA title in the 200-yard breaststroke and set a new American record in the event.

Barnes also led the Irish to three ACC individual titles, 42 combined Big East individual and relay titles and two Big East team titles. He was also recognized as the Big East Swimming Coach of the Year three times, and 18 school records were broken in his time as coach.

In 2011, after his wife was diagnosed, Barnes also established the Coaches vs. Cancer Fighting Irish Swim Clinic, which has raised more than 45,000 dollars for local families battling cancer. The fourth edition of the clinic is scheduled to take place Sept. 20.

Swarbrick did not name an interim coach in the press release. Former assistant coach Kate Kovenock resigned from her position to become the head coach at Brown on Aug. 27.

The Irish begin their season Oct. 3 with a dual meet against Michigan State at home.