MEDFORD - After 43 years as a college swimming coach, including the past 36 seasons at Tufts University, Nancy Bigelow will retire at the end of the 2017-18 academic year.
Hired at Tufts in 1982, Bigelow took over a Jumbo program that was on the rise and turned it into a champion. Under her guidance, the Jumbos won New England Division III championships three times (1986-87 and 1989) and were the runner-up on several other occasions. She coached and mentored hundreds of swimmers over the years, including many who achieved national success. Maureen Monahan, a 1991 Tufts graduate who was recruited to Tufts by Coach Bigelow, will be among the first class of Tufts Athletics Hall of Fame inductees on April 21.
Look for an appreciation feature article about Coach Bigelow on GoTuftsJumbos.com in the coming weeks
Bigelow stepped down as head coach of the Jumbo women's swimming program in 2015 and now serves as the associate head coach for both the men's and women's programs at Tufts. She played a lead role in the Tufts men's team winning its first-ever New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) title and finishing seventh nationally this season.
"For the past 14 years I've had the honor of working alongside Nancy," said Adam Hoyt, who was hired as men's coach in 2004 and took over as women's head coach in 2015. "Given the amount of time we've spent together, I consider Nancy extended family and will miss her greatly next year. Nancy has been one of my mentors at Tufts and I'm appreciative for everything I've learned over these past seasons while working with her. Nancy has left an impact on me and my coaching style, as well as many of our athletes' athletic and personal lives. Her values and teaching will live on through the coaches on our staff she's worked with and the many athletes she's helped develop over her career."
As head coach of the Jumbos in 2009 and 2012, Bigelow was selected as the NESCAC Coach of the Year. Both of those Tufts teams posted strong third-place finishes at the competitive conference meet. The 2012-13 Jumbo team's victory over Wheaton College at home on January 26 was the 200th of Coach Bigelow's tenure at Tufts. Her teams posted an outstanding .692 winning percentage during her 33 seasons as head coach (1982-2015). During her head coaching tenture at Tufts, Bigelow coached 44 All-Americans and 18 New England or NESCAC champions. Her teams earned College Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) All-Academic Team accolades every season from 1993-2015, while dozens of team members received CSCAA Academic All-America recognition.
Before the NESCAC Championship replaced the New England Championship on Tufts' schedule in 2000, Bigelow was a three-time New England Coach of the Year winner as well.
In 2006, she was named a Master and Distinguished Coach by the CSCAA. In 2013, she received the College Swimming Coaches Association of America's Richard E. Steadman Award. One of five major awards that the CSCAA presents, the Richard E. Steadman Award is conferred annually to a swimming or diving coach in the high school, club, or university ranks who, in the opinion of the CSCAA, has done the most to spread happiness in Coach Steadman's beloved sport of swimming and diving. Coach Bigelow was also presented the Massachusetts State Lottery and Boston College Athletics "Heights Award" in January 2008. The award recognizes the Massachusetts residents who have made significant contributions to women's athletics.
At the NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships in Indianapolis this past March, Coach Bigelow was recognized during the meet for her contributions to college swimming. She was formerly on the NCAA Swimming & Diving Rules Committee, including serving as its chair for the 2010-11 season. She was also a certified college swimming official and is a member of the College Swimming Coaches Association of America.
Prior to her arrival at Tufts, Bigelow coached at Wellesley College from 1975-80 where she oversaw the women's volleyball and women's fencing teams as well. A 1975 graduate of Penn State, she returned to her alma mater to serve as an assistant women's swim coach from 1980-82.
"I became a head coach at 22 years old and not many can say that," Bigelow said. "It's been great, and I can't say enough about the student-athletes I've coached and the people I've worked with. Tufts is a special place. But 43 years is a long time, and this just feels like the right time to do it."