The 2016-17 season marked Bill Nicholson's 15th as head coach of the VMI swimming and diving programs. His tenure is the second-longest in the history of the men's program, which dates back to 1937, and he is the longest-running head coach to work at the Institute since Mike Bozeman retired from the track program following the 2007-2008 season.
The main story of this past season was the announcement, in which Nicholson played a critical role, that VMI swimming and diving would leave the Coastal Collegiate Sports Association (CCSA) and join the America East Conference in time for the 2017-18 season. It will be the fifth conference in which the Keydet S&D programs have competed.
The 2015-16 year saw Nicholson's teams turn their focus to the ECAC Championships, where the VMI men finished 15th as a squad, ahead of such schools as La Salle and Pitt. The VMI women, meanwhile, continued to show consistent improvement under Nicholson as they posted 11 new school records, including four by sophomore McKenzie Raber, who qualified for ECAC's in four different events.
In his time at the Institute, Nicholson has seen his Keydets claim 12 individual/team relay conference championships, including seven at the 2006 NEC Championships when the team won the first of back to back NEC titles. Also in 2006, Nicholson saw saw Brenden Geoghagen claim Most Outstanding Diver honors, after the senior claimed both the one-meter and three-meter events.
His team's work in the pool, however, only tells half the story. For six consecutive semesters, his men's team received recognition as part of the College Swimming Coaches Association of America National Honor Roll. Teams must post a cumulative 2.80 GPA to qualify for the honor.
In addition to his team's academic excellence, Nicholson
coached Tom Petykowski '05, who was VMI's valedictorian and an All-Conference diver in 2005 and was named First Team Academic All-American by ESPN The Magazine. Petykowski was one of 15 honorees nationwide that were chosen to the At-Large team that consisted of NCAA Division I playing members in gymnastics, golf, rifle, tennis, ice hockey, volleyball, fencing, lacrosse, swimming & diving, skiing and wrestling. He still stands as one of six Keydets to ever earn National First Team honors, and is the first to do so in a sport other than football or basketball.
Nicholson (40) took over the VMI swimming and diving program on August 5, 2002. Previously, he spent the 2001-02 season coaching the USS Condors Swim Club in Pleasantville, N.Y., where he coached both the boys and girls programs.
Nicholson spent the previous three years (1998-2001) as the men's and women's head swimming coach at Plattsburgh (N.Y.) State University. In his time at Plattsburgh, his teams broke 15 school records. The programs featured just 12 athletes when Nicholson took over, a number that grew to 35 by the time he departed. He improved the Cardinals men's team's performance at the State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) from a ninth place finish (16 points) in his first season to a sixth place finish (330 points) in his final season.
From 1995 to 1998, Nicholson served as the assistant coach for his alma mater, SUNY New Paltz. He worked with the breast and individual medley swimmers primarily during his stint. He helped three swimmers qualify for the Division III NCAA Championships and the men's team's finished in the top four of the SUNYAC each year.
As a collegiate swimmer, Nicholson qualified for the Division III NCAA Championships three times and captured eight school records. He won the SUNYAC title in the 400 medley relay in his junior year and was named the team's most valuable swimmer as a senior. In addition, Nicholson won the Coaches Award for Hardest Worker three years and won the team's Scholar-Athlete Award each of the four seasons he competed.
Nicholson graduated from SUNY New Paltz in 1995 and added his Masters from California University of Pennsylvania in 2014, a degree majoring in Sports Management with a concentration in Intercollegiate Athletic Administration.
A native of Horseheads, N.Y., Nicholson swam four years at Horseheads High School and graduated in 1991. He and his wife, Emma, reside in Fishersville with their daughter, Emily and son, Ben.