USA Swimming announces Tim Hinchey as new chief

Pat Forde
College football and basketball columnist
Tim Hinchey, left, joins USA Swimming after six-plus years in the front office of the Colorado Rapids. (AP)

USA Swimming will announce Tim Hinchey as its new chief executive officer Thursday, bringing aboard a business outsider but a lifetime swimming insider.

Hinchey, who will replace the late Chuck Wielgus, arrives after six years as president of Major League Soccer’s Colorado Rapids franchise. He was named the MLS Executive of the Year in 2016 after overseeing explosive growth off the pitch and improved success on it. Hinchey previously worked with the English Football League and had front-office stints with the Charlotte Bobcats, New Orleans Hornets and Sacramento Kings of the National Basketball Association and the Los Angeles Kings of the National Hockey League.

Beyond an extensive marketing and administrative background in other sports, Hinchey’s first and abiding love is swimming. He started as a summer rec-league swimmer 40 years ago, swam collegiately at UC-Irvine and remains an active masters swimmer today.

“This is the only job I could envision leaving the Rapids for, because of my passion for swimming,” Hinchey told Yahoo Sports.

Hinchey is so gung-ho about the sport that he and his Greenwood Athletic Club Masters teammates practice three days a week outdoors – all year. In Colorado, that’s serious dedication.

“It’s a hardy group,” Hinchey said. “When you have to shovel the driveway in February to drive to swim in the outdoor pool, you’re pretty committed. We walk through a perfectly gorgeous eight-lane [indoor] pool to get to the outdoor pool.”

Hinchey will start as USA Swimming CEO in July and will attend the FINA World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, at the end of that month. His July calendar also includes competing in an open-water swim in Galway Bay off the coast of Ireland.

Hinchey’s task as CEO of USA Swimming will be to maintain the sport’s position of prominence – and arguably pre-eminence – in the American Olympic sports landscape. Wielgus, who died of cancer in April, leveraged the Michael Phelps phenomenon to produce unprecedented levels of prosperity and popularity, highlighted by moving the U.S. Olympic Trials to the 14,000-seat Quest Center in Omaha, Nebraska. Wilegus also paved the way for increased marketing and revenue opportunities for American professional swimmers, elongating the careers of many of the sport’s top athletes.

But with Phelps’ career over (for now) and Ryan Lochte’s star diminished due to both age and controversy, it is a time of transition – particularly on the men’s side. The challenge will be sustaining mainstream commercial investment and fan interest in swimming.

“I’ve got amazing shoes to fill,” Hinchey said. “Not just the work done by Chuck, but by all of the USA Swimming staff, starting with [assistant executive director] Mike Unger and everyone within the organization.

“My work will mainly be on the commercial side, growing relationships and finding new revenue and marketing opportunities. But we’ve also got to find those next stars and develop elite athletes that keep us on top of the world.”

Toward that end, USA Swimming will next move to name its national team director. Longtime director Frank Busch announced in February that he will retire Sept. 1.

A small group of top candidates for that job have been identified, sources told Yahoo Sports, and a replacement should be named this summer.

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