UK diving coach loses battle with cancer

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Mike Lyden, Kentucky’s diving coach, died Friday after a lengthy illness at the age of 51. A graduate of Western Michigan University, Lyden had been with the Kentucky swimming and diving program since 1993.

“We are all saddened with the passing of our friend and colleague Mike Lyden,” said Mitch Barnhart, Kentucky’s Director of Athletics. “Beyond his expertise in coaching, Mike embodied courage every day. He coached and led his athletes right through his final days, until the very end. He was a loving father and husband who also loved the Wildcats. There will be a void in our program left with his passing.”

During Lyden’s tenure 12 Wildcats earned 49 All-America selections. In 2006, he led Taryn Ignacio to the school’s first national championship in program history when she set school and then-NCAA records on the platform. Lyden coached Kentucky’s first diving All-American, Tina Johnson, who earned All-America platform honors in 1994, and the Cats’ first single-season three time All-American, Clayton Moss, in 2002 and 2003. In 2005 the Wildcat women divers swept the SEC championships, winning all three boards, an unprecedented achievement.

Lyden was honored as the 1996 NCAA Women’s Diving Coach of the Year after leading two divers to All-America status on two boards. He was also named the SEC Diving Coach of the Year nine times in his career, including three consecutive seasons form 2005-07 at Kentucky.

“Today is obviously a very sad day for all of Kentucky, the University of Kentucky athletic department, the entire Kentucky swimming and diving program and most notably the Lyden family,” said Gary Conelly, Kentucky’s swimming coach. “He was a wonderful man, and my deepest sympathies go out to Mike’s wife, Emily, and their three children.”

“His fighting spirit as he battled cancer over the last couple of years embodied who Mike was as a competitor,” Conelly said. “He loved competition and challenges, and never backed down when it became tough. I have made a lot of mistakes as a coach, but the best decision I ever made was hiring the best diving coach in the country in Mike Lyden.”

Before arriving at UK, Lyden spent nine seasons at Eastern Michigan where he was the Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year nine times. He then traveled to LSU where he received SEC Women’s Coach of the Year honors four times consecutively and was the 1992 SEC Men’s Coach of the Year. During Lyden’s tenure at LSU his divers won an incredible 15 of 24 possible SEC titles.

Along with his collegiate coaching, Lyden coached various Kentucky diving clubs and led seven age group divers to 18 national championships. The Junior World Diving Championships chose Lyden as a coach in the summer of 2002 held in Aachen, Germany. At that event he coached one member to a seventh-place finish in the one-meter and three-meter boards. In addition, Lyden served as the National Team Coach in 1988-90, 1992, 1994-96, 1998-2000, and directed divers in competitions in Italy, Austria, Mexico, Canada, Spain, China, France, and Holland.

At the 2005 Junior Nationals, Lyden coached his daughter, Jessica, who captured her first national championship by winning the one-meter. Jessica finished third in the three-meter event. She went on to win the one-meter at the Pan American Junior Championships in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

In addition to coaching, Lyden was a member of the U.S. Diving Rules Committee, the U.S. Olympic International Diving Committee and a member of U.S. Diving.

Lyden is survived by his wife, Emily, and his three children, Jessica, Jack and Brittany.

Funeral arrangements are pending; and the UK Athletic Department is also planning a memorial event. Details will be provided as they become available.