Colgate Athletics lost one of its legendary coaches this week with the death Monday of Bob Benson. He was 78.
Benson guided the Colgate men’s swimming and diving program for 31 years and the women’s program for 20 years. He accumulated 186 wins in 323 meets from 1970-2000 on the men’s side, and 114 wins in 197 matches from 1980-2000 for the women.
All of those totals are school records. Benson earned Patriot League recognition in 1995 as co-winner of the conference’s Coach of the Year Award.
“Bob did so much for this program and touched so many student-athletes past and present,” Colgate Swimming and Diving head coach Andy Waeger said. “He remained active with our program after his retirement by officiating our competitions, offering words of wisdom and keeping up with how we were doing.
“It isn’t lost on me and our current student-athletes that much of our traditions, history and a lot of what makes Colgate Swimming and Diving can be attributed to Bob. His impact is far reaching.”
Benson took over the Colgate program in 1969-70 after serving as head coach at Union College for four seasons. He turned the Raiders around and compiled 13 straight winning seasons, highlighted by consecutive 11-win seasons in 1973-74 and 1974-75.
Before Colgate joined the Patriot League, Benson guided 11 Colgate teams to Upper New York State Swimming and Diving Association championships during the 1970s and 1980s. He took over the women’s program in 1979-80 and immediately posted a nine-win season. In 20 seasons, the women produced 12 winning seasons and won New York State AIAW crowns in 1981, 1982 and 1985.
Benson was a 1963 graduate of the University of Connecticut and earned his master’s from the University of Pittsburgh. While at UConn, he won the New England Region championships in the 220- and 440-yard freestyle events as team captain. Benson also competed in the NCAA championships and participated in the 1960 Olympic Trials.
Benson was the husband of Roxanne Benson, who recently retired from her position with the Colgate Outdoor Education office after more than 40 years.
A memorial service is set for Saturday, Oct. 6, at 11 a.m. at the Colgate Chapel. In lieu of flowers, the Benson family asks that individuals please consider a gift to Community Memorial Hospital in Hamilton.