UNCW swim coach to retire after 542 wins, 16 CAA championships

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Expressing a desire to spend more time with his wife, children and three grandsons, longtime coach Dave Allen, the founding father and architect of UNCW’s swimming and diving program, is heading for dry land.

Dave Allen is one of the most respected swimming and diving coaches in the NCAA Division I ranks.
Longtime UNCW Swim Coach Dave Allen will retire in June. Image courtesy UNCW Athletics.

Allen announced his retirement Thursday after coaching 43 years at three different institutions and will officially step down on June 30. A national search for his successor will begin soon.

“Words cannot describe what Dave Allen has meant to this department, the university and the community,” said Jimmy Bass, UNCW’s athletic director. “He has not only been the most successful coach on our staff and in the conference, Dave has been a tremendous ambassador for the sport of swimming and diving nationally.

“We will miss Dave’s tireless work ethic, friendship and professionalism, and thank him so much for his service over the last 36 years.”

Allen, 66, recently led the men’s team to an unprecedented 13th consecutive Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) championship in College Park, Md. He has also coached the UNCW women to three championships, including back-to-back crowns in 1998 and 1999, and the 1997 and 1998 ECAC crowns.

“It’s time for me to step aside and let someone else take the program to a higher level,” Allen said. “The decision to retire is not based on any one thing. I still enjoy the on-deck coaching and working with the student-athletes and the competitions. There are so many other behind-the-scenes duties that need much more energy than I have right now.

Coach Allen guided the UNCW men's swim team to their 13th straight CAA title earlier this month. Photo Courtesy- UNCW athletics
Coach Allen guided the UNCW men’s swim team to their 13th straight CAA title earlier this month. Photos courtesy UNCW Athletics.

“This is something that I discussed with my family going back to last year. Winning the conference meet this year–especially the way we did it–put an exclamation point on the season. I don’t know if it can get any better.”

Allen originated the program in 1977-78 and directed the Seahawks to a combined 16 conference championships, 13 on the men’s side and three for the women, along with a pair of Eastern titles.

Allen has been named CAA Coach of the Year 15 times, including five for the women and 10 for the men.

“We have accomplished a lot of great things here, but there’s more growth still to do with this program and more work to be done,” Allen said. “I’m very proud that I was given the opportunity by Coach (Bill) Brooks to start the program. I hope people will remember that we built and developed a program that the university and the city of Wilmington could be proud of.”

A native of Rochester, N.Y., Allen coached his teams to 542 dual meet wins at three institutions. Prior to UNCW, where he has a record of 494-356 in 36 seasons, he coached one season at Allegheny (4-7) and then six at Potsdam State (44-26).

Allen swam at Springfield (Mass.) College and began his coaching career at Allegheny College in 1970-71. He spent one year at Allegheny before moving on to Potsdam State (N.Y.), where he compiled a 44-26 record with the Bears.

The Seahawk program took off in 1977-78 with Allen at the helm. In 36 seasons at UNCW, Allen has coached 15 All-Americans, 155 conference champions and 19 Eastern titlists.

Allen was honored in 1987 when he was selected to represent the United States government in a five-week tour of the Middle East. He presented clinics and seminars in Turkey through the U.S. Information Service’s Sports America program.

Allen, whose children, Matt, Brian and Stephanie, have all attended UNCW and competed on the swim teams, plans to travel with his wife of 43 years, Ellen, and enjoy time with his family.

“We are staying in Wilmington and will continue to support UNCW and UNCW Athletics as much as we can,” Allen said.