The University of Denver (DU) Men’s Swimming and Diving Program has been one of the consistent athletic programs at the University since the varsity team’s inception in 1947. The team had the opportunity to host their first home meet on January 8, 1949. Championships and swimming olympians are among the successes of the program.
The DU Men’s Swimming and Diving Program actually began in the Denver Bath House. The program received its own space upon the completion of the DU Field House Pool in 1948. However, the lack of a pool did not hinder the ambitions of those early Pioneers. In fact, they won their first Championship before the field house was built in 1947.
AchievementsThe University of Denver Swimming and Diving Team won its first Skyline Conference Championship in 1947. Seven years later, DU won the Skyline Conference Championship again in 1954. The second title launched the Pioneers on one of the most impressive winning streaks. They took the Skyline Conference title for the next four consecutive years. Over that stretch, DU compiled a 43-0 winning record and Don Brown a two-time All-American, finished fourth at the 1955 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championship. Also during this time, the program benefited from a coach referred to as one of the best, Tom “Murph” Murphy. Murphy guided the team to six undefeated seasons and 12 conference championships. He also helped develop seven All-Americans during his 18 years as head coach. The list of DU swimmers who received All-American recognitions includes Brad Busse, Barry Rein, Chace Passanante, Clifton Louis, Eddie Lary, Eric Brushaber, Frederic Plotkin, Irwin Futemick, James Lyle, Jeff Davies, Mark Evans, Mark Ramlish, Mariano Delle Donne, Matt Harveson, Matt Plezia, Michael Bradac, Ryan Bradley, and Tyler Morgan. A new era for the DU Men’s Swimming and Diving Program began with the introduction of Jim Bain as head coach in 1972. He served for 32 years as the men’s head coach. Unfortunately in 1973-1974, the pool in the DU Field House had to be renovated and the team once again practiced in multiple area pools. The University of Denver Pioneers however won three consecutive Intermountain Swimming Conference titles from 1973-1975 despite the interruption. The program made a transition from NCAA Division I to National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA)/NCAA Division II competition in 1976. The 1977 season was not too favorable but after that year, the Pioneers regularly finished in the top five at the NAIA championships. The program produced a number of topnotch swimmers like Yoram Kochavy. Kochavy a 1984 olympian, was the NAIA National Champion in 1985-1986. Coach Bain also won the NAIA National Coach of the Year award in 1978 and in 1985. In 1997, the DU Men’s Swimming and Diving Program completed its last season of competition at the DU Pool. The Men’s Varsity Team returned to Division I status beginning in 1999. The program has also seen the construction of a new home, the El Pomar Natatorium in the Ritchie Center.
In 2002, the Men’s Swimming Team won its first Pacific Collegiate Swimming and Diving Championship title. The team set five school records in the process. Coach Bain was named the Pacific Collegiate Swimming Conference Coach of the Year that year. When the Sun Belt Conference (SBC) began sponsoring men’s swimming and diving in 2005, DU joined the conference.During the 2005-2006 season, the Pioneers finished second at the SBC conference and head swimming coach, Jim Henry won SBC Male Coach of the Year Honors and head diving coach, Jeff Carter took SBC Diving Coach of the Year honors as well. In 2007, Brian Schrader, the Pioneers’ current head swimming coach, won the SBC Men’s Swimming Coach of the Year Award. The program made a clean sweep of the four major SBC individual awards in 2008 (Brian Schrader, Men’s Swimming Coach of the Year; Erik Cook, Men’s Diving Coach of the Year; Blake Worsley, Men’s Most Outstanding Swimmer; Aaron Feight, Men’s Most Outstanding Diver). Blake Worsley and Aaron Feight also received Division I All-American honors in 2008.
James E. Bain, “Swimming,” A Tribute to Champions, Ed. Erik Prenzler (Denver: Mile High Alumni Boosters, 1985), 21-22.
The Official Website of Pioneer Athletics. www.denverpioneers.com (accessed December 10, 2009).