40th Anniversary Special: Relive the 1979 Men’s NCAA DI Championships

The upcoming 2019 Men’s Division I NCAA Championships, taking place in Austin this week, mark the 40th anniversary of one of the particularly star-studded editions of the meet.

The 1979 NCAA Championships in Cleveland, Ohio, ran from March 22nd-24th, and were swum at Cleveland State University in Cleveland, Ohio. But this wasn’t just any old college meet – the 1979 featured some names that are still staples in our sport today.

Thanks to SwimSwam reader Stu Swanson, we obtained the original results. You can view those results in full (and in color!) in our new SwimSwam Results Archive, along with hundreds of other complete meet results.

Below, we’ve picked out just a few of the big names that were present. Any other swims stick out to you? Let us know in the comments.

1979 highlights:

  • A sophomore Ambrose “Rowdy” Gaines, representing Auburn, won the 50 free in 19.99 seconds.
  • Greg Louganis, who would go on to sweep the diving events in the 1984 and 1988 Olympics, won on the 1-meter diving board, but not the 3-meter.
  • Future Olympic coach David Marsh, then a sophomore, led off Auburn’s 400 medley relay in 50.85 and teammate Gaines anchored in 42.81. Auburn was coached by Richard Quick in ’79, as Eddie Reese had departed in ’78. Auburn had a pretty good team that year, but we hear Eddie is doing well in his new job, too.
  • Gaines took second in the 200 free, going 1:36.43. In fourth was USC senior and American record holder Bruce Furniss, three years after winning Olympic gold in the long course 200 free.
  • Marsh took sixth in the 100 back, going 50.63. In first was Alabama’s Puerto Rican Olympian Carlos Berrocal in 49.71.
  • Gaines led off Auburn’s second-place 800 free relay in 1:36.32. The only swimmer to out-split him was UCLA’s Brian Goodell (1:35.93), who had won the 400 and 1500 free at the 1976 Olympics.
  • Goodell went on to win the 1,650 later in the meet by nearly 14 seconds, breaking his own America, NCAA, and US Open record in 14:54.13. Painfully, the results list two DQs in the 1,650.
  • The future Olympic champ Gaines took third in the 100 free in 43.96. First-place finisher Andrew Coan, of Tennessee, had set an American record of 43.42 in prelims. Gaines’ Olympic gold in the event came five years later, in 1984.
  • Gaines wrapped up his meet with a 44.46 leadoff split on Auburn’s second-place 400 free relay.
  • Other names to look for:
    • Cal’s Swedish butterflyer Par Arvidsson, who’d win Olympic gold in the 100 one year later (his son Karl is now a junior on the Cal team).
    • USC’s Joe Bottom, 1976 Olympic medalist and older brother to Michigan’s now-acclaimed coach Mike Bottom.
  • RIP to the programs at this meet that no longer exist: UCLA men, Miami men (swimming), Houston men, Long Beach State, Texas-Arlington, Kansas, New Mexico, Clemson, Central Michigan, UC Irvine, Oregon, and probably a few others that we’ve missed.
  • SMU had a whopping 21 entries at the meet that year. The cap now is 18.

1979 Final Team Ranks

  1. Cal
  2. USC
  3. Florida
  4. Tennessee
  5. UCLA
  6. Auburn
  7. Indiana
  8. Alabama
  9. Southern Methodist
  10. Michigan
  11. NC State
  12. Miami (Florida)
  13. Harvard
  14. Arizona State
  15. Stanford
  16. SIU-Carbondale
  17. Louisiana State
  18. Arizona/Houston
  19. Missouri
  20. Texas – Austin
  21. Arkansas
  22. Long Beach State
  23. Iowa/Minnesota
  24. North Carolina
  25. Ohio State
  26. Texas – Arlington
  27. Florida State/Pittsburgh
  28. Wisconsin

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3 years ago

Rowdy swam slower on the 400FR because he was breathing tonhis right and couldn’t see them….

Marc Schlatter
3 years ago

That 1979 meet was my best collegiate meet, swimming for Indiana, I was 3rd in the 100 breast @ 55.44; Graham Smith from Canada and Cal set a US open record at that meet of 54.9…. these times are now are much slower than it takes to qualify for the meet!

I have to say I was routing for another IU breaststroker to beat my best time from 1979 in last week’s women’s NCAA’s. Lillly King’s recent American record last week of 55.73 was just amazing to watch!!

3 years ago

Would be cool to see the 81 results and compare. Rowdy separated himself from the field. The Lundquist /Barrett battle took breaststroke into uncharted territory. The Southwest Conference ruled. Texas took the first title of its dynasty in the Jamail Swim Center.

3 years ago

So Texas went from 20th in 79 to winning the title in 81? Talk about the Eddie Reese effect!

3 years ago

These times make me feel better about myself. Today’s swimmers have left me with an inferiority complex.

Fly 100
Reply to  Wethorn
3 years ago

Different era…the 5th stroke was not in place.

Fly 100
3 years ago

Since when is 2nd place a highlight. Florida won the 800 f.r. in what was then an NCAA and u.s open record. Cal with Rocca, Smith, and Arvidsson had a great meet. Lots of “highlights” not mentioned.

Reply to  Fly 100
3 years ago

Even 40 years later, people are still petty about their kids not getting enough attention.

3 years ago

If we could get all those programs back that were cut!

3 years ago

Marsh even dusted off a tie from 1979

About Torrey Hart

Torrey Hart

Torrey is from Oakland, CA, and majored in media studies and American studies at Claremont McKenna College, where she swam distance freestyle for the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps team. Outside of SwimSwam, she has bylines at Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, SB Nation, and The Student Life newspaper.

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