Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Former Alabama swimming and diving coach inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame

Courtesy of UA Athletics
Dennis Pursley, head coach of Alabama’s swimming and diving teams from 2012 to 2019.

This October, the International Swimming Hall of Fame will induct former Alabama swimming and diving head coach Dennis Pursley as its Honor Coach for the Class of 2024.

Pursley’s success at Alabama began not just as a coach, but as a swimmer. He earned All-SEC honors and brought home the 1969 SEC 200 breaststroke title for the Crimson Tide. After graduating with his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, he returned to coach the team from 2012 to his retirement in 2019.

Under his guidance, the men’s team placed within the top 10 at the NCAA Championships four times and finished within the top 15 in six of his seven years. 

The women’s team also found success with Pursley at the helm, placing six straight times at the NCAA Championships and setting school records in 17 events.

During his time at Alabama, the swimming and diving program brought home two NCAA individual titles and two NCAA relay titles. 

His swimmers amassed three SEC Championship Swimmer of the Meet awards, 12 SEC individual titles and six SEC relay titles during his tenure. He also guided Kristian Gkolomeev in 2015 and Robert Howard in 2019 to SEC Swimmer of the Year honors. 

“We can’t begin to thank Coach Pursley enough for all he has done to advance our program in his seven years,” Greg Byrne, director of Alabama athletics, said in a press release in 2019 regarding the coach’s retirement. “Alabama swimming and diving excelled under his leadership both in competition and the classroom.”

Pursley’s success transcended the collegiate level. In the first decade of his career, his athletes shattered swimming records. During this period he tallied seven world records, 12 American records and 20 U.S. national titles.

His excellence was brought to the national stage with his appearances at the Olympics and the World Championships. 

In 1989, he became the first National Team Director of USA Swimming, a position he held for 14 years. Under his guidance, his male and female swimmers took home the most medals in all three Olympic games he oversaw. The Dursley-led teams had a combined 33 medals, including 14 gold medals.

The honor that will be bestowed upon the Alabama legend will be one of many he has collected throughout a colorful career. 

He has received several major awards and recognitions, including the US Olympic Committee Chairman’s Coaching Award, a spot in the American Swimming Coaches Association Hall of Fame, the American Swimming Coaches Association “Coach of The Year” in 1980 and a recognition in 2003 as one of the “25 Most Influential People in the History of USA Swimming.”

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