Mitch Ivey started college at Stanford, but transferred to Long Beach State and graduated from there in 1972. In his Olympic début in 1968, Ivey took the silver medal in the 200 metre backstroke behind Roland Matthes of East Germany; in 1972, Matthes repeated his victory as Ivey dropped to third place. At the 1972 Olympics, Ivey also placed fourth in the 100 back and swam in the heats of the medley relay. Representing the Santa Clara SC, he won three AAU titles, winning the 100 metre back outdoors in 1969 and 1972, adding the 200 back in 1972.
Ivey later became a swim coach and in 1974 took over as coach of the famed Santa Clara Swim Club. He also served as a US Olympic coach. In the early 1980s he coached at the Concord Pleasant Hill Swim Club in California, and while there he had a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old swimmer at the club. She later recounted these events in 2011 and in 2013 Ivey was given a lifetime coaching ban by USA Swimming.