Tappin Tapped for New UNO Post

March 8, 2004 - New Orleans - The University of New Orleans officially announced that they are adding the sport of women's swimming to its 14-sport athletics program for the 2004-05 academic year and have named Ashley Tappin as the school's head coach.

Tappin, a United States Olympic Gold medalist in the sport and a well-respected coach in the field, will oversee the school's program that was discontinued in the early 1990s.

"She brings instant credibility to our program," UNO athletics director Jim Miller said. "Ashley had a national and international reputation as an athlete and now as an inspirational and highly motivated coach. We are very happy to have her join our staff."

Tappin, who retired from competitive swimming in 2001, is a three-time Olympic Gold Medalist.

Tappin began her swimming career at age nine in Tampa, Fla. In 1998, she relocated to New Orleans at the age of 13 and began swimming for St. Martin's High School. That year she was the youngest swimmer ever to compete in the U.S. Olympic Trials. During her career at St. Martin's, she became a 20-time Louisiana State Champion and a state record holder six times, including three that still stand.

In 1988, Tappin made her first U.S. National Team at the age of 13. She competed in the 1990 World Championships (at age 15) and won a Gold Medal in Perth, Australia. The next year, she swam in the Pan American Games in Havana, Cuba, and won three Gold Medals. At the age of 17, she was one of the youngest athletes to qualify for the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain, where she won the Gold as part of the 4x100 Freestyle Relay team.

She graduated from St. Martin's in 1993 and attended the University of Florida. As a freshman at UF, Tappin won two National Championships. In 1993, she transferred to the University of Arizona. During her years at Arizona, Tappin collected five NCAA titles.

After missing the 1996-97 seasons due to rehabilitation, Tappin returned strong in 1998 as she collected four Gold Medals at the U.S. National Championships, just one of 10 women in the history of the event to ever do so.

In 1999, she was invited to Colorado Springs, Colo., to train at the prestigious U.S. Olympic Training Center. During that time, Tappin made her second Olympic Team at age 25. She competed in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, where she captured two more Gold Medals.

Tappin retired from competitive swimming in 2001 and switched her focus to coaching. She relocated to New Orleans where one of her primary goals is to establish Louisiana swimming on a national level. In the last two years, she has enjoyed coaching swimmers ranging in all levels and abilities and placed two local girls on the Junior National Championship level.

In the summer of 1993, Tappin established a non-profit organization called "Paddle and Paint" for the purpose of educating public school kids in the sixth grade on water safety and art appreciation. The project was done in conjunction with New Orleans Saints assistant coach Joe Baker at the UNO Lakefront Arena Natatorium.

UNO, which originally began swimming during the early 1980s, discontinued the sport in Sept. 1992. The athletics department, which had initially decided to add women's soccer at some point a few years ago, decided to make this change in a move to satisfy its Title IX requirement.

"When I came aboard in January, 2003, soccer was still on the radar screen, but I made the determination that it would be more equitable from both a facilities and a recruitment perspective to implement women's swimming instead," Miller said. "We have an outstanding aquatics center already, and the state high school swimming championships will be here the next three years. We are on track to field a competitive team in the fall of 2004. Women's soccer is still a possibility down the road, but it would depend on our ability to secure an all-purpose on-campus stadium that would accommodate soccer and track and field."