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  Neil Harper
Neil Harper

Head Coach

14 th Season

Alma Mater:
Louisiana State '90


Florida State to Replace Head Swim Coach

After 14 years as head coach Neil Harper will not be returning.


Neubacher Closes With Honorable Accolades

Junior Tom Neubacher placed 13th on Platform with a score of 342.85.


`Noles Net a Pair of Honorable Mentions

The 200 medley relay and Pavel Sankovich swim to All-American honorable mention accolades.


Neubacher Claims All-American Honors

Junior Tom Neubacher placed seventh in 1-meter diving at the 2013 NCAA Championships.


`Noles Ready to Make a Run at the NCAA Championships

The Florida State men's swimming and diving team is ready to make a run during the NCAA Championships this weekend.

Three Time ACC Coach of the Year (2004, 2006, 2007)

Entering his 14th season as head coach of the Seminoles, Neil Harper has proven he knows how to build one of the elite programs in the ACC in the country. With 89 ACC Champions, 61 NCAA All-American honors and one National Champion in that time span, Harper's Florida State squads are continually at the top of the ACC standings. In 2012, the women placed third and the men were fourth.

At the end of the 2011-12 season, Harper sent nine swimmers to the NCAA Championships, highlighted by a 16th place finish for the men's team, five- All America honors, three postseason ACC awards, 14 All-ACC performances and added six new swimming school records.

The Seminoles produced a swimming ACC Champion on the men's side for 12th time out of 13 years with Harper at the helm in both Mateo De Angulo and the sprint free relay teams captured ACC titles.

De Angulo earned the ACC Swimmer of the Year and ACC Swimmer of the Meet honors with a double gold performance in the distance races. The Cali, Colombia native finished out his career as a Seminole with a seventh place finish at the NCAA Championship in the 1650 free. De Angulo qualified for the 2012 Olympic Games, becoming the first FSU Olympian since the 2004 Athens games.

The men's sprint relays smashed records and grabbed two gold medals at the ACC Championships. The team of Paul Murray, Trice Bailey, David Sanders and Mark Weber took seventh place at the NCAA Championships.

Freshman Juan Sequera captured ACC Freshman of the Year with a double ACC bronze performance en route to an NCAA appearance.

On the women's side, McKayla Lightbourn swam to a new school record in the 100 back at 54.27 and Elizabeth Pepper crushed the school record in the 200 fly at 1:56.82 en route to an NCAA appearance.

Being an Olympic Year in 2012, a total of 19 past, present and future Seminoles were represented at the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials. The week in Omaha was highlighted by the semifinal appearance in the 200 back of Josh Friedel, who took 12th in his first ever trials appearance.

During the 2010-11 season, both men's and women's teams finished in third place at the ACC Championships with Harper guiding a total of four to the NCAA Championships. Three of those athletes walked away with All-America honors and two found themselves on the podium.

The team's lone ACC Champion, senior Rob Holderness finished out his NCAA career with a seventh place finish in the 200 breast with a time of 1:54.86, capturing All-American status in the event.

On the ladies side, junior Stephanie Sarandros competed at the NCAA Championship in the 200 back. She would go on to finish 28th.

Harper was able to contribute to the overall athletic department success. The 2010-11 season marked the second year in a row that Florida State was represented at the NCAA Championships in all of its sports.

The 2009 season was a year of milestones for Harper. In his 10th season at the helm, Harper reached the 200 win plateau on January 17, 2009 against Clemson. It was also a year in which his athletes had record-breaking success in the pool. In December, Florida State's contingent at the USA Short Course National Championships broke five conference records and seven school records. The team's results were a harbinger for things to come as Seminole swimmers and divers broke 24 school records in 2009. Harper also directed the men to a second-place finish at the ACC Championships and another Top 20 showing at the NCAA Championships.

On the women's side, Harper's squad put together a fourth-place showing at ACC's. Harper has always put his teams up against the toughest competition and 2009 was no different as FSU raced against nine teams ranked in the CSCAA top 25.

Despite the elite level of competition Florida State athletes won ACC Performer of the Week honors six times and Andy Hodgson earned a National Collegiate Swimmer of the Week accolade as well.

Florida State athletes are a regular sight on top of the medal stand at the ACC Championships under Harper's tutelage. Florida State women earned their first conference title in 2006 and Harper garnered two consecutive ACC Coach of the Year awards (2006,2007), his second and third such honors in four years.

Over the last 11 years, the women's team has won 45 individual and relay titles while the men have amassed 37. The 16 combined championships in 2007 were the most during Harper's tenure. Only Florida State and Virginia have produced an individual men's champion in each of the last eight years and the Seminoles are the only ones with at least one gold medal winner since 1992.

As to be expected, the Seminoles have been rewriting the school's record books under Harper. Every record on the men's side has been broken during his tenure in Tallahassee including an amazing 17 records in 2009 alone. On the women's side all 22 school marks have fallen during Harper's time at FSU, including 15 marks that were reset or broken in the last three years.

Not only are more of the Florida State records held by Harper`s student-athletes than any other head coach's in history, but the all-time top ten contains more of his athletes than all of the former head coach's in the program's history combined. Within the women's lists, 114 of the 130 best times in Seminole lore have been set during Harper's ten years, including either the number one or two spots in every event. The men's team has put its name down 98

Harper's 84-38 (.713) mark on the men's side is second in school history and his winning percentage is first among active ACC coaches. Since the 2001-02 season, the women have won at least nine meets in all but one season and have only one loss outside the Top 25. The men have produced at least nine wins per season in all but two seasons during that same time frame with only five losses beyond the Top 25.

Florida State swimmers and divers excel in the classroom just as well as they do in the pool. Since 2000, the Seminoles have had at least 20 student-athletes on the ACC Academic Honor Roll each year, including a program-high 40 in 2007.

Previous Coaching Experience

In May of 1999, Harper returned to Tallahassee to take over the men's and women's swimming and diving teams after two years as the women's head coach at Ohio State. In two seasons with the Buckeyes, Harper's team posted a 15-12 mark while qualifying six athletes for the NCAA Championships. In the classroom, Ohio State excelled as well as both of his teams received NCAA All-Academic selections. Within the conference, the Buckeyes received more than 20 Academic All-Big Ten Conference honors during his two seasons.

From 1994-97, Harper served as the top assistant at Florida State under Don Gibb. One of his main duties was to coordinate the Seminoles' recruiting efforts. His work with the recruiting speaks for itself as during that time Florida State produced numerous All-Americans, including FSU's first NCAA champion, Parry, in the 200 butterfly. As a top aide, Harper was also in charge of the team's strength and conditioning, while working with the stroke and individual medley swimmers. His work in the pool produced the school's first female All-Americans in six years as former assistant coach Anne Blachford (200 IM), Helen Jepson (200 fly) and Samantha White (100 breast) all enjoyed NCAA success.

A 1990 graduate of Louisiana State University, Harper served as an assistant at his alma mater following graduation up until his first appointment with the Seminoles. During his coaching stint in Baton Rouge, he helped the Tiger swimmers earn 21 NCAA All-America honors and seven Southeastern Conference titles. During the 1991 season, both the men and women posted one of their best finishes at the NCAA meet as both came away with a 14th-place showing.

International Experience

Harper's acumen in the pool extends internationally as he has coached at the biggest international competitions in the last 12 years. During the summer of 2004, he was on deck for his fourth Olympic Games as he traveled to Athens, Greece to coach Wickus Nienaber, the head man for the Swaziland contingency. Nienaber was just one of five of Harper's former Seminoles competing in the Olympics as Chris Vythoulkas swam for the Bahamas, Golda Marcus carried the El Salvador flag and Julio Santos represented Ecuador.

The biggest thrill for Harper at the 2004 Olympics was watching one of his former student-athletes reach the medal stand. Stephen Parry - a stand out for the Seminoles while Harper coached him as an assistant - brought home the bronze medal in the 200-meter butterfly.

In 2000, Harper was a member of the South African Olympic coaching staff in Sydney, Australia coaching Olympic medal hopefuls and Olympic finalists Brendon Dedekind and Brett Petersen.

In 2001, he traveled to Fukuoka, Japan to coach Nienaber in the FINA World Championships. The following summer he mentored Nienaber at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester, England, where he was joined by former Seminole All-American's Parry and Petersen, as well as Vythoulkas. In 2003, he returned to the FINA World Championships in Barcelona, Spain to coach Nienaber.

Swimming Experience

As a competitor, Harper is one of the top swimmers in LSU history. He first made his name in the SEC when he won the 100-yard backstroke at the 1986 SEC Championship meet. Throughout his career, Harper collected four SEC titles while earning seven NCAA All-America awards. During his final year, LSU won it's only SEC Team Championship and finished sixth at the NCAA championships, the highest finish in school history. He still ranks on the Tigers' all-time top ten performers in four different events.

The London native represented Great Britain in the 1984 and 1988 Olympics in the 100 and 200-meter backstroke as well as a member of the 400-meter medley relay with sixth and fourth-place finishes respectively.


The 45-year-old Harper is married to the former Paige Busch from Orlando, Florida, who was also an All-American and SEC champion in the 100-yard breaststroke at LSU. The couple have two daughters, Katherine (16) and Kelly (14).

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