Indiana coach ends career on Saturday
Huber coached IU divers to more than 40 Big Ten titles
INDIANAPOLIS -- Jeff Huber walked up and down the pool deck Friday at the Indiana University Natatorium at IUPUI, intently watching each of his divers. He'd sit to focus on the competition, then stand up and applaud a dive.
It is a well developed routine by now for Huber, one of the nation's top diving coaches. When the final day of the Division I Men's Swimming and Diving Championships takes place Saturday inside the building which includes a tribute to Huber, he will end his 37-year coaching career. The last 24 years have been at Indiana.
But don't look for a fancy ceremony or a limousine pulling up in front. That just wouldn't be his style.
"I'm not retiring, I'm transitioning," Huber says. "So I don't want to think about it that way because if I do, I won't do my job."
This final week has turned into much more than a farewell party for Huber. Big Ten 1-meter champion Darian Schmidt was a finalist in both the 1- and 3-meter events, placing a career-best sixth in the 1-meter on Thursday. Emad Abdelatif made the consolation finals in both events. Big Ten women's champion Amy Cozad placed third in platform diving last week at the women's national championships.
"It's been amazing diving for him," Schmidt said. "He's the man. He's got more knowledge about the sport than anybody who has ever coached me. Just our relationship together, he's like a father to me, a second father. He just takes you under his wing, but he's also super hard on me at the same time. He just keeps pushing me every single day."
"Our men's team and our women's team this year has just been phenomenal," Huber said. "I remind myself throughout the season that I've been very lucky because it's a great group. We've had an enormous amount of fun, a lot of success. We've worked hard and we've had a good time doing it. I feel blessed. We've had such a great season in my last year."
And those are huge words of gratitude from a guy who has coached Indiana divers to more than 40 Big Ten championships and more than 75 All-America selections. Among those is Christina Loukas, the 2009 NCAA Division I Women's Diver of the Year who won the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials in 3-meter. She also was a 2012 Olympian.
It is perhaps fitting that Huber is finishing his IU coaching career at the same facility in which Loukas had her greatest triumph.
"This is the scene of a lot of great successes for us," Huber said. "One that pops up is Christina Loukas winning the Olympic Trials here in this pool. Seeing her name up on the wall and, of course, (1992 Olympic gold medalist and two-time Diver of the Year) Mark Lenzi's picture here, so yeah, absolutely."
Walk into the lobby of the IU Natatorium, and you'll notice that Huber's name and photograph is placed on a prominent wall that displays the Indiana Swimming and Diving Wall of Fame.
And all of this happened because 37 years ago, Huber felt that he owed the sport of diving something after an athletic career that included reaching the finals of the Big Ten diving championships and qualifying for the 1976 U.S. Olympic Trials.
"When I graduated from college ( Wisconsin in 1975), I thought I had gotten so much from the sport, not so much in medals and things like that, but how I had grown as a person. I just wanted to pay back the sport," Huber said. "When I was going to grad school out in California (Cal State-Fullerton), I volunteered at a community college and I coached for free just to kind of pay back the sport.
"I just didn't know that I'd still be coaching 37 years later. I am still amazed at how much the sport continues to give back to me … working with so many great athletes."
Along the way, Huber was a coach at three Olympic Games for the United States, the last time at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. He served on the USA Diving Board of Directors. Prior to beginning his 24-year run at Indiana, he was the diving coach at Nebraska, earning a master's degree in curriculum and instruction education, and a Ph.D. in educational psychology there.
His wife, Lesa, is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Applied Health Science and Department of Counseling and Educational Psychology at Indiana. Both of their children are IU grads.
Huber has agreed to remain as Indiana's diving coach until August as the Hoosiers search for a replacement. And in that time, Huber, who turned 60 years old Thursday in a birthday he kept secret from most of the divers on his own team, can expect to hear from many of his former pupils. He already has.
Emotion hits his face as he talks about those occasions.
"There's only been a couple of moments and, uh… Powerful," he said.
And don't even mention the possibility of a retirement party.
"I told everybody, I don't want any kind of retirement party or anything like that," he said. "I would like, at some point, maybe to have a reunion where everybody comes back and gets together. I've heard from a lot of people."
Huber is considered to be one of the best diving coaches in the country and also internationally, but he is quick to mention the athletes who have taught him a thing or two. Specifically, he mentions Cassidy Kahn, a senior this year who overcame a serious illness that kept her out of competition her first two years at Indiana.
"Just to see her resilience and her ability to continue to bounce back, be optimistic," Huber said.