Dave Allen, Who Founded, and then Saved, UNCW Swimming, Dies at 75

Dave Allen, who founded and built the UNC Wilmington swimming & diving program from scratch beginning in the late 1970s, died early Wednesday. He was 75.

Allen worked with then athletics director William J. “Bill” Brooks to bring men’s and women’s swimming and diving online when the school joined the NCAA Division I classification and the program prospered under his direction – both philanthropically and competitively.

That success came full circle on May 20, 2022, when the school’s aquatics facility was renamed the David B. Allen Natatorium. Several hundred alumni were present for the naming of the natatorium, which had long been known as “Seahawk Natatorium.”

“It’s a sad day for our Seahawks Swim and Dive family,” said UNCW Head Coach Bobby Guntoro, who swam for Allen from 2006-11 and now heads up the program. “Coach Dave Allen impacted so many lives throughout his career. His contributions will be lasting and immeasurable to the Wilmington Community. Personally, Coach Allen played an important role in my life. I am forever grateful to Coach and the Allen family.”

Allen was the program’s head coach for 37 years from 1977 until 2014. His tenure was known as much for his ability to program-build at a mid-major as it was for competitive success. That includes igniting a massive push to fundraise to save the program that he founded in 2013, a move that was ultimately successful and resulted in him being held up as an example around the sport.

Which is not to say his teams didn’t have plenty of success in the pool:

A native of Rochester, N.Y., Allen coached teams to 542 dual meet wins at three institutions. Prior to UNCW, where he fashioned a record of 494-356 in 37 seasons, he coached one season at Allegheny College and then six years at Potsdam State. During his time at UNCW, Allen coached 15 All-Americans, 155 conference champions and 19 ECAC winners.

When Allen established the UNCW program in 1977-78, it flourished. He directed the UNCW men’s and women’s teams to a combined 16 CAA championships, along with a pair of Eastern titles.

Allen guided the men to an impressive streak of 13 consecutive CAA men’s titles from 2002-14 and coached the women to three championships, including back-to-back crowns in 1998 and 1999, along with the 1997 and 1988 ECAC titles.

Allen racked up 15 CAA Coach of the Year honors – 10 as the league’s top men’s coach and five for his success with the women’s program.

During his prolific career, Allen sent six Seahawk swimmers to the NCAA Championships and numerous student-athletes earned All-CAA honors and other major honors.

In addition to mentoring thousands of student-athletes, Allen had a major impact on the lives of countless youths in the Wilmington community through the school’s summer swim program. Many children learned how to swim for the first time under Allen’s direction.

Allen is a member of four elite groups. He was inducted into the Potsdam State Athletic Hall of Fame in 1997, the Greater Wilmington Sports Hall of Fame in 2017, the North Carolina Swimming Hall of Fame in 2019 and the UNCW Athletic Hall of Fame in 2020.

He announced his retirement on March 13, 2014, after coaching 44 years on the collegiate level and stepped down officially from UNCW on June 30, 2014.

A press release from UNCW contributed biographical information to this report.

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11 months ago

Great coach. Great Man. You made my collegiate swimming experience wonderful

1 year ago

Dave Allen was yet another product of legendary Coach Charles Silvia’s Springfield College program..

NC Fan
1 year ago

Todd Desorbo, Bobby Guntoro, and Tim Lane. Pretty good coaching legacy from a small mid-tier school.

Reply to  NC Fan
1 year ago

Kevin Norman – Brown
Michael Baric – NC State
Dan Dozier – Harvard
Mike Smiechowski – St. Bonnaventure
Beau Bunn – Alabama (diving)

Reply to  NC Fan
1 year ago

Kevin Norman – Brown
Dan Dozier – Harvard
Michael Baric – NC State
Mike Smiechowski – St Bonaventure
Beau Bunn – Alabama (diving)

Sign of the great culture Coach Allen created in Wilmington! Amazing coach and even better person.

Another one
Reply to  AquaHawk
1 year ago

Mike Williams – William & Mary

Swim Mom
1 year ago

The program Coach Allen built at UNCW is incredible and the torch will continue to burn brightly under Coach Bobby Guntoro.

Prayers for all.

1 year ago

Incredibly sad to hear this, his energy, enthusiasm, and love for his swimmers were shown any time I crossed paths with him.

Mike Smiechowski
1 year ago

RIP Coach. I owe a lot of who I am and what I do to you. You will forever be loved and never forgotten.

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Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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