Pablo Morales saw nothing but improvement in the Nebraska swimming and diving program entering his 14th season as the head coach of the Huskers. Under his leadership, Nebraska hopes to continue to climb in its fourth season in the Big Ten Conference in 2014-15.
Nebraska completed its third season of Big Ten competition in 2013-14, finishing with a 4-2-1 record that included wins over Illinois, Northern Iowa and Nebraska-Omaha. The 2013-14 campaign was one characterized by career bests. Nearly every swimmer and diver set career bests under Morales, as the Huskers set 42 career bests at the Big Ten Championships, alone. Nebraska also sent its first diver to the NCAA Championships since 2005.
Nebraska’s increased competitiveness in the pool is a far cry from the starting point of the Husker program when Morales took over the job in 2001. In his first season at NU, the Huskers went winless in 2001-02 (0-3) with a depleted roster.
Three years later, NU raced to an 8-1 dual record in 2004-05 and became the first Husker swimming and diving team in school history to win eight consecutive meets. Most importantly, Morales led the Huskers out of the bottom of the Big 12 with a fourth-place finish in 2004 and a third-place showing in 2005. Nebraska has continued to pursue a climb in conference prominence as it has transitioned to the Big Ten.
The Huskers hope to regain the national prowess they enjoyed in the 1990s, when they captured five Big Eight and Big 12 titles from 1994 to 1999.
A 1987 graduate of Stanford University, Morales is one of the greatest male swimmers in U.S. history, winning an NCAA-record 11 individual titles. He also helped lead the Cardinal to three consecutive NCAA titles and four Pac-10 titles, while twice earning Pac-10 Swimmer-of-the-Year honors and garnering six Pac-10 titles himself.
Morales remains the all-time leading scorer at the NCAA Championships, amassing 235 points. Morales was also the recipient of the 1987 Al Masters Award, which is Stanford’s highest award for athletic performance, leadership and academic performance. He was the first male swimmer to win the award, and remains one of two to have accomplished that feat. Morales holds the Stanford record in the 200-yard butterfly (1:42.60) and held the school record in the 100-yard fly (46.25) until it was broken in 1998 by Sabir Muhammad (46.18).
While at Stanford, Morales was awarded the J.E. Sterling Award, which is presented to a student-athlete based on scholarship, leadership and community service. In addition, he served as the director of the Stanford Volunteers for Youth Program. Morales also found time to become a mainstay on the campus newspaper as the beat writer for the women’s basketball team.
A CoSIDA Academic All-America selection in 1987, Morales earned a law degree from Cornell in June of 1994, despite taking two years off from law school to train and compete at the Olympics.
An Olympic swimmer, Morales won three gold and two silver medals in the 1984 and 1992 Games, serving as a team captain for the 1992 squad. Following the 1992 Games, in which he returned to the pool after a three-year layoff to capture a gold medal in the 100-meter butterfly, Morales was named the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Sportsman of the Year. He held the U.S. Open and NCAA record in the 100-yard fly with a time of 46.26, which stood for 13 years before being broken at the 1999 NCAA Championships.
Among Morales’ greatest swimming accomplishments in the pool is holding the world record in the 100-meter butterfly with a time of 52.84 from 1986 until 1995.
Morales’ legend in the Olympic Games lives on today, as the Nebraska coach served on the bid committee for the 2008 U.S. Olympic swimming trials that took place in Omaha. Morales had the chance to see the selection process and serve a role in the decision that gave Nebraska its first Olympic event in state history.
The Swimming Trials were a resounding success, and Omaha proved to be a worthy host for the event. The attendance at the Qwest Center Omaha broke records for the largest swimming meet ever held in the United States. Nine world and 21 American records were broken in the eight-day meet, and nearly half of the competitors set personal lifetime bests in ideal swimming conditions inside the arena.
USA Swimming once again chose Omaha to be the site of the 2012 Swim Trials, as the CenturyLink Center was the focus of the entire nation in preparation for the 2012 London Games.
Before coming to Nebraska, Morales served as the head women’s swimming coach at San Jose State University. He held the reins as head coach from 1998 until being named coach at Nebraska in July of 2001. Morales rejuvenated a Spartan program that was near the bottom of the Western Athletic Conference. He was named the 2000 WAC Coach of the Year for his efforts.
While at San Jose State, Morales rebuilt a program and took the Spartans to the NCAA Championships after a 14-year absence. During his tenure, Morales produced six academic All-WAC swimmers. At the 2001 WAC Championships, five Spartans set school records under Morales’ supervision, and three met NCAA qualification times. Seven others swam times that placed among the top three in school history.
Before his stint at SJSU, Morales served as an assistant coach at his alma mater, Stanford, during the 1997-98 season, helping lead the squad to the NCAA team title.
Morales also served as a graduate assistant at Cornell while pursuing his law degree. While at Cornell, Morales prepared and coached daily workouts for swimmers and assisted in recruiting. Morales has assisted in coaching with the San Jose Aquatics club group, as well as serving as head coach of the Stanford Masters Swim Team.
For Morales, the opportunity to coach at Nebraska was a welcome challenge.
“As a coach, taking over the responsibilities at Nebraska represents a great opportunity to take a program with success and use the resources that only Nebraska can offer, the support from the athletic department, the University, the Lincoln area and the state, to take the program to a higher level,” Morales said after he was hired. “Our goal is to take this program to the elite national level.”
A powerful motivator, Morales hopes to keep his swimmers on the top of their games in and out of the pool, as Nebraska has established itself among the nation’s best in academic support and athletics. Over the past six seasons, nearly 80 percent of Morales’ student-athletes have been named to the conference or Nebraska Scholar-Athlete Honor Roll each semester.
“I want our swimmers to achieve their goals of faster times and lifetime bests,” Morales said. “I want them to have the best season that they have ever had, and I also want us to establish a team atmosphere and build an excitement toward Husker swimming and diving.”
Morales said he enjoys the challenge of competing in the Big Ten, one of the premier swimming and diving conferences in the country. The Huskers are set to face three Big Ten teams in duals in 2014-15, while facing several more at the Hawkeye Invitational in December.
Former Stanford Head Coach Skip Kenny, who coached Morales at Stanford and also with Team USA, spoke highly of his former pupil.
“He’s one of the most honest people that you will meet,” Kenny said. “You will always get the truth out of him. He’s very dedicated to the sport of swimming and to his athletes.”
Kenny also recognized Morales’ charisma.
“As soon as the swimmers spend a few days or weeks with him,” Kenny said, “they will see how much he cares about them and the sport of swimming.”
Morales also received a vote of confidence that he will be able to turn Nebraska into a national title contender.
“He brings a high level of experience to build up the team,” Kenny said. “He’s been there and done that as far as swimming is concerned. I honestly believe that he is a better coach than he was a swimmer, and that is saying a lot since he was one of the best swimmers in the world. He has done things with kids that I thought I would never see. If there is a female swimmer out there that wants to be the best in the world, I’d send her to swim for Pablo.”
Morales’ experience as both an NCAA and international swimmer as well as a club and collegiate coach helps him in coaching and recruiting.
“In my experiences, I have been fortunate to have had a long career as a competitor. I was able to train with coaches who I think are some of the best in the world,” Morales said. “I have learned from them, and I have learned from myself. I believe that all of my experiences have prepared me for coaching. I have a good feel for the contours of teams that are successful. I know how they practice, train and compete.”
In July of 2012, Morales named Patrick Rowan as an assistant coach. A Nebraska native with a long-time association with the Husker program, Rowan spent five years at Missouri before returning to Lincoln. In his five seasons in Columbia, Rowan helped MU climb from 38th at the 2008 NCAA Championships to 14th in the final national standings in 2012. He also played a major role in bringing multiple top-20 recruiting classes to Missouri.
“We were very excited to have Patrick come back to Nebraska,” Morales said. “He brings extensive and successful coaching and recruiting experience at the collegiate level. Patrick has a tremendous work ethic and an unmatched passion for Nebraska. He has made an immediate impact on this program and will play a key role in helping us achieve our Big Ten Conference and NCAA goals.”
In his first season with the Huskers, Rowan immediately showed his worth, coaching the Nebraska sprinters to four school-record relay times at the 2013 Big Ten Championships. He also coached Taryn Collura to a school record in the 50-yard freestyle and a trip to the NCAA Championships in Indianapolis.
Morales named former Olympian Natasha Chikina as the head diving coach in June of 2005. Through eight seasons, she has guided Husker divers to 27 NCAA Zone appearances and the first Husker diver to the NCAA Championships since 2005.
“She brings outstanding technical expertise combined with a tremendous coaching demeanor that yields fabulous results at the Division I level,” Morales said. “She is the perfect fit to build on the success of her predecessors here at Nebraska and be part of our development into a championship-level program.”
A gifted and noted public speaker and lecturer, Morales was a contributing author to The Swim Coaching Bible, published in 2001. In April of 2007, he was chosen as the U.S. Swimming Diversity Select Camp Head Coach, a four-day camp at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. Aside from in-pool training, Morales also led motivational and educational sessions and team-building activities for boys and girls from all over the nation. These children were a part of an ethnically under-represented population that is less than 20 percent of the current USA Swimming membership.
Pablo is the son of Pedro and the late Blanca Morales, who came to the United States from Cuba in 1956. Pablo and his wife, Viviana, have four boys, Sam (16), Benjamin (13), Eli (11) and Gustavo (4).
Morales was born in Chicago and grew up in Santa Clara, Calif. He enjoys golfing in his spare time.