Ned Skinner has been the head coach of the Virginia Tech men’s and women’s swimming and diving programs since 1998, but the 2013-14 season may have been the most memorable of his career.
The Tech men’s team, using superior diving talent and overall team depth, claimed the program’s first ACC title when the Hokies edged NC State on the final day at the ACC Championship. It marked the Tech’s first overall swimming and diving championship since 2000 when the school resided in the Atlantic 10 Conference.
If that weren’t enough, the men’s team finished in 20th place at the NCAA Championships, while the women’s team, who claimed fifth at the ACC meet, came in 24th at the NCAAs. Three men and two women earned All-America honors, while six men and two women earned All-ACC nods in 2014. Skinner was named the ACC Men’s Coach of the Year for the second time in his career after guiding the men’s team to a school-record 13 victories.
The 2013-14 season was just the latest step in the Tech programs’ upward trajectory. The Hokies had finished in the upper half of the league’s standings each year since Tech joined the ACC starting with the 2004-05 season. In Tech’s inaugural season in the ACC, the men’s team finished in fifth place, while the women’s team came in seventh at the ACC Championship.
The rise, though, started shortly after the opening of the beautiful Christiansburg Aquatic Center, the Hokies’ home pool, in 2010. In the 2009-10 season, the Tech women finished in fifth at the ACC Championship, while the men came in fourth. Behind four NCAA qualifiers, the women’s team finished in 24th at the NCAA meet.
The following year, 2010-11, the women again finished in fifth place at the ACC meet and the men in fourth. That year, the men’s team finished in 28th spot at the NCAA Championships behind three NCAA qualifiers, while Erika Hajnal competed in the 1650 freestyle, the 400 IM and the 500-yard freestyle for the third straight year and earned All-America honors.
The Tech men climbed to a then program-best second place at the ACC Championship during the 2011-12 season, while the women moved up a spot to fourth place from the previous year. Ten swimmers and divers qualified for the NCAA Championships and both squads finished a program-best 18th at the NCAA meet. Skinner garnered his first ACC honor following the season, as he was named the 2012 ACC Men’s Coach of the Year. The men finished the 2011-12 season with 13 All-ACC and six All-America performances.
During the 2012-13 campaign, both squads notched second-place finishes in the ACC, as well as sending its biggest roster on both sides to the NCAA Championships. The women had five champions, six All-ACC selections and senior Heather Savage concluded her career by resetting her conference and school records in the 100 butterfly. She became a two-time All-American.
On the men’s side, Tech finished the 2012 ACC Championships with 15 medals and broke 15 school records en route to the runner-up spot. The H2Okies sent a 10-man roster to the NCAAs, and they brought home 18 All-America honors and an All-America nod.
During the 2008-09 campaign, both the men's and women's teams combined to set what were then 30 new school records. The men had a 7-1 record, while the women finished 6-1. Skinner and his staff sent six swimmers and one diver to the NCAA Championship, earning All-America honorable mentions in the 400 free relay, the 50 free, 1650 free and one- and three-meter diving events. Hajnal became the Hokies' first All-American in the distance events, while shattering four school records at the time. She represented Hungary at the 25th Universidad World University Games in Serbia over that summer and had two top-10 finishes.
The Hokies also excelled within the ACC in 2008-09, losing only to in-state rival Virginia over the course of the season. Tech took the top spot in the women's 50 and 100 free at the championships, as Sara Smith won gold medals in both events. The Hokies also won silver medals in five events (three of them relays) and finished third in six events.
In 2007-08, both teams set school records for wins in a season, with the men winning 12 and the women winning 14 – the women’s record still stands. In the ACC, the Hokie men closed out 2008 with a fifth-place finish and the women registered a fourth-place finish for the third straight season. The teams combined to break 14 individual and five relay school records, with the women setting two ACC records in the process.
Prior to Skinner’s arrival at Tech, the swimming and diving programs combined had one All-American – Margaret Soulen in 1989. Since then, Skinner has coached 11 All-Americans, starting with Gus Calado, a first-team All-American in 2004. Other All-Americans during Skinner’s tenure include (Jessica Botzum – twice a two-time All-American; Smith, Hajnal, Katarina Filova, Logan Shinholser, Kaylea Arnett, Ryan Hawkins, Logan Kline, Heather Savage and T.J. Shinholser). Several other swimmers at Tech have been named honorable mention All-Americans as well.
Skinner has also coached 13 individual ACC champions who have combined to win 32 gold medals (13 men, 19 women). He also coached eight relay teams to gold medals (five on the men’s side, three on the women’s side).
Prior to Tech’s entrance into the ACC, the Hokies competed in the BIG EAST. In 2001, the Hokies’ first year in the league, Skinner led the women to a second-place finish, while the men placed third. In 2003, the men placed second in the conference, with the women claiming fourth place. After the program’s successful showing in 2003, Skinner was named the BIG EAST Men's Coach of the Year. Both Tech squads finished third at the 2004 BIG EAST championships. Skinner was named Co-Coach of the Year for the men.
Each of the first two years as head coach of the Hokie swimming and diving squads, Skinner was named the Atlantic 10 Women's Coach of the Year, and led the women to two Atlantic 10 championships, and the men to their first conference title in 2000.
Skinner began his career with the Hokies after serving four years as the director of competitive swimming at the College of William & Mary. In his last season, he coached the Tribe women to a second-place finish at the ECACs, while the men came in fourth out of 40 teams, and Skinner was named ECAC Coach of the Year. The women's team finished in the top 12 at the ECAC event during each of Skinner's four seasons. During Skinner's tenure, both the men's and women's squads were named Academic All-America teams four straight years.
Before his stint at William & Mary, Skinner was the head coach and aquatics director at Central Connecticut State University for four seasons.
A 1989 graduate of Louisiana State University, Skinner was captain of the 1988 squad that captured the SEC championship. He graduated from LSU with a bachelor of arts in advertising and a split minor in marketing and economics.
Skinner earned his master of science in athletic administration at Ohio University while serving the swim team as a graduate assistant and helping guide the women's team to the 1990 MAC title.
On the non-collegiate level, Skinner founded, directed and coached the Central Connecticut Aquatics team, a 75-member team of children ages 7 to 17. He also served as the head swim coach for the Kingsmill Swim Team in Williamsburg. Today, Skinner spends his offseasons directing the Maroon & Orange Swim Camp, two one-week swim camps held at the Christiansburg Aquatic Center. He founded the camp in 2001.
Skinner is married to the former Allison Cox, a lawyer and alumna of Virginia Tech, who currently works in the chambers of the United States District Judge David A. Faber. They have a 9-year-old daughter, Samantha, and a 6-year-old son, Jack. A native of Worthington, Ohio, Skinner received his doctorate in education curriculum and instruction from Virginia Tech in May of 2004.