Former Illinois Swimming & Diving Head Coach Don Sammons Dies at 90

by Sidney Zacharias 1

December 01st, 2022 Big Ten, College, News

Don Sammons, head coach of the University of Illinois swimming and diving programs for 22 years, died last week. He was 90 years old.

Sammons was at the helm of the men’s program from 1971-1992, while also taking over the combined men’s and women’s program beginning in 1980. He retired from coaching in 1993, which was the same year that the men’s program at Illinois was cut. 

Throughout his time in Champaign, Sammons coached seven All-Americans, seven Big Ten champions, and qualified swimmers 46 times for the NCAA Championships. Under Sammons, all of the men’s swimming records were broken. 

His accomplishments earned him a slew of awards. In 1974, he was awarded the John Newman Award for his contributions to boy’s swimming in the state of Illinois. He was also named the Illinois Swimming Men’s Collegiate Coach of the Year in 1983, and was inducted into the Illinois Swimming Hall of Fame.

Prior to collegiate coaching, Sammons led Thornridge High School to 11 consecutive South Suburban League championships and four top-five state finishes. The program’s highest state meet finish under Sammons was 3rd in 1970. 

Sammons is an Illinois native, and attended Lindblom High School in Chicago where he swam only his senior year. He still went on to compete collegiately for DePaul for two years before transferring to the University of Illinois to finish his career. After graduating with his bachelor’s degree in 1955, he did military service in Korea, then returned to Illinois to earn his master’s degree in 1960.

The Sammons family told Illini Athletics that there will be no services. 

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Dr Deluxe
2 months ago

I only lived in the Chicago south suburbs for two years during high school and even though he was not my school coach , he was my summer coach and he was tough. He stood out because at that time in the late 60’s the premier Chicago programs were the west and north suburbs ( Hinsdale Central , New Trier and Evanston) and his Thornridge program didn’t get enough credit. He developed some very good IM’ers ( Moore and Magnuson ) and was responsible for the development of young phenom freestyler Tom Beyers, the most accomplished swimmer from that part of Chicago. Condolences to the Sammons family.