Louisville has long been synonymous with basketball thanks to players like Wes Unseld, Darrell Griffith and Pervis Ellison. One could even make the argument that UofL is a football school, boasting legends including Johnny Unitas, Teddy Bridgewater and Lamar Jackson.
While UofL swimming may not have the same deep history, the program’s trajectory is indeed on a similar path. In the past four years alone, UofL has crowned three NCAA champions in the pool — Joao De Lucca, Kelsi Worrell and Mallory Comerford.
The team also features young up-and-comers, like Nick Albiero, son of head coach Arthur Albiero. Much like UofL’s team, the father-son duo are making waves in the ACC and around the world. This past year, Nick represented the USA World Junior Team, where he earned a silver medal. His dad was selected to lead the U.S. as head coach at the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships in August in Tokyo.
The rise of UofL swimming can be traced back to about 15 years ago, when Arthur Albiero moved his young family to Louisville, a city he had not stepped foot in prior. Arthur himself
was a college swimmer, winning the Division II NCAA title in the 200 individual medley for Oakland University, where he met his wife, Amy, who also swam.
After college, the Albieros headed to Kenyon College in Ohio, where Arthur was hired as a graduate assistant under swimming giant Jim Steen. Under Steen, Kenyon College won 31 consecutive NCAA DIII national championships. No other program in any sport or division has come close to this feat.
“I called it the Jim Steen accelerated learning program. At that time, I wasn’t sure if coaching would be a career, but I knew I invested a lot of time and energy into the sport and it would be silly to put it in a box and put it away,” Arthur said.
He spent three years learning the ins and outs of Steen’s program before moving on as an assistant coach at the University of Alabama.
“I knew if I was going to coach, I wanted to coach DI. That’s where the best of the best are. The biggest shock was for me to go from Kenyon to Alabama. There’s something powerful to be said about a winning culture. You can’t quantify it, but you can see it and
you can feel it and you certainly know if you don’t have it. Alabama did not have it,” Arthur said.
By his fourth year in Tuscaloosa, the culture started to change. Three swimmers went onto the Olympics. After that fourth year, an opportunity to coach at Louisville came up. At the time, UofL’s program had less than four full scholarships on the men’s side (the limit is 14), one assistant coach and the six-lane, dated Crawford Pool. Arthur was excited about the idea of building something from the ground up.
With Arthur Albiero at the helm, UofL has gone from the bottom of Conference USA to the top of the Big East to the top of the ACC. This year, both the men’s and women’s teams finished in the top 10 in the country. Arthur was named ACC Coach of the Year. Nick was named ACC Freshman of the Year.
“I did not see that coming. I knew he was going to get better and I knew he was going to have a great experience based on his personality. He delivered exactly what we talked
about,” Arthur said.
Nick, who followed big brother Estefan’s footsteps to swim for UofL, said he also was surprised. Though he likes to keep his swimming goals private, he said his main focus is to keep getting a little bit better every day.
“My focus is simply enjoying the process, having fun, working hard, and whatever happens in the future happens,” Nick said.