Hall of Famer Dennis Pursley, who has been Alabama’s head swimming and diving coach since 2012, announced his retirement from coaching Wednesday in a University release.
Pursley will continue to serve in his position until a replacement is named.
“We can’t begin to thank Coach Pursley enough for all he has done to advance our program in his seven years as head coach,” Alabama director of athletics Greg Byrne said. “Alabama swimming and diving has excelled under his leadership both in competition and in the classroom. We wish Denny and his wife, Mary Jo, the best in his retirement from coaching and appreciate him staying on as head coach until a replacement has been named.”
Under Pursley’s direction, the Alabama men have placed in the top-10 at the NCAA championships four times, most recently finishing seventh at the 2019 meet, while the women have placed at the last six-straight national championships. Individually, his student-athletes have earned two NCAA individual titles, two NCAA relay titles, two Southeastern Conference Swimmer of the Year honors, a trio of SEC Championship Swimmers of the Meet, 12 SEC individual titles and six SEC relay titles.
His student-athletes have been equally as strong in the classroom as the Crimson Tide has twice been named CoSIDA At-Large Team Academic All-American of the Year and garnered 13 Academic All-America honors, one H. Boyd McWhorter SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year and the last four consecutive SEC Men’s Swimming and Diving Scholar-Athletes of the Year.
“I have been truly blessed with the opportunity to work with hundreds of exceptional young men and women during my 47 year career, and I will be forever grateful to The University of Alabama for the very special honor and privilege of finishing my coaching career here at my alma mater,” said Pursley. “The exceptional support from our athletic department, the unparalleled resources that are made available to our student-athletes, and the commitment to excellence that is pervasive throughout the University have all exceeded my hopes and expectations. When you add to this the construction of our new state-of-the-art aquatic center, the ongoing commitment of the athletics department to support our championship aspirations and an exciting incoming freshman class, the future of the program couldn’t be brighter. Coaching is an all-consuming profession, and it is time for me to give more time and attention to other priorities in my life. I am enormously proud to have been a part of this extraordinary family of athletes, coaches, support staff and administrators, and I will bleed crimson and white for the rest of my days.”
Pursley’s head coaching career spans the globe, having held positions in England, Canada, and Australia in addition to the United States. The 2006 American Swimming Coaches Hall of Famer returned to his alma mater after serving as head coach of the 2012 Great Britain Olympic Team and British Swimming from 2008-12. He also had stops as the national team director for USA Swimming and assistant coach of the 1980 US Olympic Team and 1979 US Pan American Team, the Australian Institute of Sport, as well as the Brophy East Swim Team in Phoenix, Ariz., Olympian Swim Club in Edmonton, Ontario, the Cincinnati Marlins in Ohio and Lakeside Swim Club in Louisville, Ky.
Appointed the first USA Swimming National Team Director in 1989, Pursley was responsible for all aspects of the Team USA program. During his 14-year tenure, the medal production of the USA team skyrocketed.
The USA team finished first in the medal count in both men’s and women’s competitions in all three Olympiads of his tenure, culminating with 33 medals, including 14 gold, at the 2000 Olympics which was described by “Sports Illustrated” as the greatest team performance of all time. In recognition of his contributions, Pursley was awarded the United States Olympic Committee Chairman’s “Coaching Award” for 2000.
Pursley began coaching under Tide legends John Foster and Don Gambril in the mid-1970s, following an Alabama career that included earning All-Southeastern Conference honors and the 1969 SEC 200 breaststroke title. He earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from Alabama in 1972 and 1973, respectively.