The Swimming Scientist has a new laboratory, and he’s ready to begin testing and creating.

Coley Stickels recently moved from Indiana to become Alabama’s coach. It’s a natural step for the 1996 Omaha Creighton Prep graduate who has trained and coached NCAA champions and Olympic gold medalists.

It was Tom Beck, Stickels’ coach at Prep, who dubbed one of his star pupils the Scientist. Back when Beck was helping Stickels set state records in the 50- and 100-yard freestyles, Stickels was constantly studying ways to improve.

“When he was a swimmer, he was always very passionate and intense,” Beck said. “It doesn’t surprise me that has risen to this level. Coley is a very cerebral guy, and he really wants to know how things work, why things work.”

In April, Stickels got a call from Athletic Director Greg Byrne to interview for the Crimson Tide opening. He headed to Tuscaloosa, and Stickels said Byrne offered him the job the next day. Just like that, Stickels and his wife, Lindsay, were packing boxes for another move.

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Stickels had spent the past two seasons as Indiana’s associate head sprint coach. Before that, he was coach of the Canyons Aquatic Club in Santa Clarita, California, where his swimmers set five American records and one world record along with myriad national age group and high school records.

Whether it’s working in a physiology lab with six Ph.D.s at Indiana or setting up a makeshift weight room in his garage in California, Stickels is always looking for a scientific edge in and out of the water.

“I’m really passionate about using new, creative ideas for strength,” Stickels said. “Scientists can get close to a lot of things, and weight people don’t observe people in pool, so I took it upon myself to be knowledgeable in that field.

“I set up a gym in my garage for the 2016 Games, and anyone who wanted to come over and use it was welcome. There were gold and silver medalists, a guy who got fourth in the 100 free in Rio, and also some high school kids who qualified for Trials.”

After his time at Prep, Stickels began his collegiate career at Florida before transferring to Arizona. He was a 14-time All-American for the Wildcats and graduated in 2001.

Stickels then went to Dartmouth, where he was a graduate assistant for one year before moving to Oregon to coach at the Lake Oswego Swim Club from 2003-11. Before coaching at Canyons, Stickels was the coach of the Phoenix Swim Club, where he worked with former world record holder Roland Schoeman, who finished fifth at the 2012 London Games.

Stickels said he never planned to become a swimming coach after he graduated from college. Beck said Stickels became interested in powerlifting, sparking his interest in weight training for swimmers.

“I really didn’t even think I’d be coaching or involved in swimming in any capacity when I was out of it,” Stickels said. “For one reason or another, I kept being led back to it.”

One of Stickels’ most famous pupils at Canyons was world, U.S. Open and American record holder Abbey Weitzeil, who won gold and silver medals at Rio in 2016.

When Stickels arrived in Bloomington, he worked with Olympic gold medalist Lilly King, who also became the first woman in NCAA history to win the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke titles four consecutive years. He also helped guide the men’s team to back-to-back top-three finishes for the first time in 44 years.

Saying goodbye to the swimmers and coaches in Indiana wasn’t easy, but Stickels said they understood the opportunity he was being offered to lead one of the SEC’s top programs.

“They were happy for me,” Stickels said. “I got to say goodbye to the kids. Some were upset because some close relationships had been developed, particularly with some of the kids I had recruited. Generally, they were happy for me moving on, moving up.”

Getting acquainted with all parts of the program and the Alabama culture is something Stickels is doing on the fly, and he said all is going well.

He also is eligible soon to begin recruiting after arriving on campus. Goals have been set for the program with Byrne and others.

“The athletic department and Greg Byrne are putting a lot of emphasis into swimming,” Stickels said. “They’ve spent millions on facilities. We should be looking at a top five NCAA finish. That may not happen immediately.

“We’re working to start the climb, and we know the conference is deep and brutal. With the resources available, there’s no reason we shouldn’t be competing at that level.”