Longtime St. Olaf Head Coach Dave Hauck Dies At Age 87

Dave Hauck 1932-2019

Longtime St. Olaf College Swimming & Diving coach Dave Hauck died on Saturday, at the age of 87. Hauck was in hospice care at the time, surrounded by his family for the last week of his life. During his 44 years coaching swimming and diving at St. Olaf, Hauck’s teams were perennial MIAC powerhouses and produced 19 top-10 NCAA Division III team finishes and 20 individual or relay National Champions.

Hauck, affectionately known as “Haucker”, was much beloved by his athletes and those who knew him. Warm and outgoing, he was known for his infectious positive attitude, his coaching abilities across many sports, and his attention to every athlete.

“For everyone on the team…not everyone was national caliber”, said Carly Berry (St. Olaf ‘06), “and yet he would always know when you hit a best time or when you had an amazing swim, and that’s what made him such an exceptional coach and person.

“I actually had no interest in swimming for St. Olaf…Haucker ran the weight session, and he just sucked me in…I hadn’t even considering going to St. Olaf until I met Haucker.”

This Hauck-inspired buy-in was a pervasive theme of my conversations with his former swimmers. “I remember him just encouraging me to do my best and to have fun, said Craig Johnson (‘91). He got his athletes to do what we needed to do just by telling us to do it.”

“Dave Hauck epitomized what it means to be a coach, said Nelson Westby (‘08). He not only cared passionately about the sport of swimming and competition, but he more importantly cared about helping athletes achieve their goals both in and out of the pool.”

“Coach Hauck was a rarity in so many ways,” said Jon Foss (‘87), “He was a true Swimming and Diving Coach because he coached both disciplines well. His small-town affable nature and never-give-up attitude created fierce loyalty in his teams.”

Foss’ teammate Kevin Casson (‘89) expressed a similar sentiment. “Everyone whose life Dave touched has those special stories about how Dave impacted them.”

One result of that impact was a remarkable level of team success. Out of the tiny pool at Skoglund Natatorium, built in 1967, and too small for a 3-meter board, Hauck’s teams competed with the best in Division III, and dominated the MIAC. Under Hauck’s direction, the men’s team won 28 MIAC titles in 44 years, while the women’s team won 15 MIAC titles in 27 years.

Consider this: Hauck became the St. Olaf men’s swimming & diving coach in 1973. In 1977, the Oles won their first MIAC title since 1928, and then promptly went on a 20-year run, winning every MIAC title from 1980-1999. When Hauck became the women’s head coach as well, before the 1988-’89 season, he picked up a team that was the two-time defending MIAC champs. Hauck kept the ball rolling, and then some, as the St. Olaf women stretched their streak nine more years under his tutelage.

During Hauck’s tenure, the St. Olaf men finished in the top 10 at DIII Nationals 16 times: 1983-90, 1992-95, and 2006-09, with a highest finish of fourth (in five different years: 1985, 1987, 1989, 1990, 2009). The women had 3 top 10 finishes: a sparkling third in 1989, then 5th in 1990, and 10th in 1998.

Hauck coached the 1990 St. Olaf women to the DIII title in the 200 medley relay: Christy Aker, Andrea McCarty, Amanda Mason, and Julie Keller combined to win the Oles’ only relay title in school history in 1:50.08. On the men’s side, Hauck’s athletes won 19 individual Division III titles, the sixth most of any school in that time period, behind only Kenyon, Johns Hopkins, UC San Diego, Denison, Claremont Mudd-Scripps, and ahead of Williams and Emory.

St. Olaf’s 19 Individual NCAA Division III Swimming & Diving Titles under Dave Hauck:

Gabe Kortuem (1 title — 1 meter diving, 2002)

Tim Niznik (2 titles — 100 fly, 1990; 200 IM, 1990)

Nelson Westby (4 titles — 200 IM, 2007-09; 200 breaststroke, 2009)

Kevin Casson (5 titles — 500 free, 1986 and 1989; 1650 free, 1987-89)

That makes 12. But probably the best swimmer Hauck coached was his own son. Bob Hauck won 7 Division III titles: the 200 IM in 1984, the 100 back in 1986, the 400 IM in 1987, and an unprecedented four straight 200 backstroke titles from 1984-1987, the first male DIII swimmer to pull off a 4-year sweep in any event (at least as far back as 1975). After graduating, Bob Hauck signed on to co-coach with Dave, and still coaches the St. Olaf teams to this day. Many of Dave’s coaching accomplishments from the ‘90s on are Bob’s as well.

“My dad ALWAYS saw the best in people,” said Bob. “From the way he greeted them to how he continued to interact with them. I think it is especially powerful in the life of a 18-21 year old who is trying to figure themselves out. His continual validation of them created an environment where great things happened everyday. Students wanted to be around him. His chosen profession was absolutely perfect for him. He loved interacting with young people, he loved the camaraderie that swimming offers, and he loved the sport of swimming.”

The sport of swimming loved Hauck back. Between 2002 and 2013, he won 8 MIAC Coach of the Year awards, 6 for men and 2 for women. He won three NCAA Division III Coach of the Year Awards, two for men and one for women. Upon his retirement from head coaching in 2013, as Foss reports, “330 swimming alumni paid a four hour tribute to Haucker, coming from 30 states, the trophies filled the hallway of the ballroom. “

And Hauck’s interactions didn’t stop on his own side of the pooldeck. When Carleton head coach Andy Clark was new to the MIAC, new to the midwest, and only a few years out of college himself, Hauck “was the first to call and welcome” him to the conference. “Coaching at my first national championships that very same year,” says Clark, “he took the time to walk me around the pool deck and introduced me to every coach, an introduction that included not only their name but a story about them as well.  It is an understatement to say I was amazed with the personal connections he had with so many people.”

Johnson, after graduating from St. Olaf, crossed the Northfield train tracks to coach at Carleton with Clark. “[It was] fun to coach with [Hauck] at swim camp and to coach against him in the MIAC, but it was never really against him,” Johnson said.

“Dave’s teams were good because he recruited very well, and many of his swimmers got better–a lot better, under his coaching, said Tom Hodgson, who coached at St. Thomas for nearly as long as Hauck coached at St. Olaf. “But there was never an atmosphere of ‘win at all costs’. Competition was always friendly, and for years, we scheduled our dual meet to be the last one of the year, so we could appreciate the recognition of each other’s seniors.”

One remarkable quality of Hauck’s was his diverse knowledge of sports and commitment to physical fitness. As well as both swimming and diving, Hauck coached gymnastics, football, softball, and golf for St. Olaf, and taught in the Exercise Science department. He continued to exercise frequently throughout his life, walking with his wife, Mary, on the St. Olaf track until a few weeks before his death.

Johnson recalls Hauck’s fitness and playful spirit with a story from a water park during training trip: “[it was] December of 1987, so Haucker was in his mid-50s, and as Haucker ran past us to go down the water slide again, the lifeguard told us to tell him to slow down because he didn’t want him to have a heart attack. And the three of us kinda laughed and said “well that old man is in better shape than any of you lifeguards.’”

This is a swimming website, so I’ve tried to tell this story, at least in part, in the language we all understand. A conference title is a tally of points, but we know that’s code for a team coming together, forming lifelong bonds, and having the time of their lives. A record is a number on the scoreboard, but really it’s an athlete inspired to reach their pinnacle. Dave Hauck lived a life in sport, and sport exists to have a deeper meaning. And for those who knew him, that deeper story is the one they tell.

Westby: “Haucker set the gold standard of being a human being. He was a role model father and husband, athlete, mentor, and friend. Dave helped to positively influence countless student athletes and his kindness will forever be remembered.”

Hodgson: “He was down to Earth, and got great pleasure out of the simple things in life: his wonderful marriage to Mary, his family, and his many, many deep friendships at St. Olaf and throughout the swimming world.”

Berry: “He was just so amazing at connecting with [everyone].”

Foss: “He had the ability to make anyone’s day just with his smile, but when he was serious about competing there was no messing around”

Johnson: “The first year the Carleton women beat the Ole women [at the MIAC meet], he said ‘I want all the coaches to come out for dinner tonight, and I’m buying.’”

Johnson about the annual Florida training trip: “He knew everybody down there…he knew every single coach down there.”

Berry: “He had such an amazing ability to remember names and faces”

Hodgson: “I have always thought of Dave as one of the most genuine people I have ever known. He was 100% authentic. Very early in my coaching career we recognized our shared values, perhaps most important of which was the fact that Athletics was a part of the educational process, and the development of young men and women was far more important than winning.”

Johnson: “The number of St. Olaf swimmers who have become swim coaches…says a lot about Dave.”

Casson: “Aside from all his jokes and stories, I will always remember his quiet, classy wisdom.  I was a competitive swimmer for 16 years and I think every major swim began with a quiet moment, just me and Dave. He would review our strategy and impart the words of confidence that somehow always allowed me to be better, to perform better, than I had any right to be. I think Dave did that for 100’s of swimmers over the years and somehow made each of us feel that he was on this planet especially for us.”

Clark: “It is an understatement to say I was amazed with the personal connections he had with so many people.  I learned a lot from Dave over the years and whether he realized it or not, he was my role model, both for how to coach but also for how to live.  The value he placed on relationships, his dedication toward his family, the integrity he brought to coaching and the positive outlook he had on life were infectious qualities of his that will continue to guide me.”

Johnson: “When I was a senior he knew I was going to be a swim coach and knew I would need to judge diving…he would go over there to the other coaches and say ‘I have a student-athlete who needs to judge diving.’ Nobody was going to say no to Haucker.”

Foss: “There was a little trouble finding his two NCAA coach of the year awards, the were in a box in the basement of his house. That speaks something to the man’s character.”

Foss: “Haucker was known for  unforgettable quotes, each meant something important. ‘If you wanna swim fast, you gotta swim fast’ (meaning every day in practice), ‘the big dogs need to get off the porch’ (meant the teams best athletes need to set pace being fastest in practice.”

Other “Hauckerisms” (courtesy of Carly Berry)

“Looks like you’ve been ridden hard and put in the barn wet”

“Taking a walk in pitch in slow-pitch softball’s like sucing eggs and howling at the moon”

“If you win day 1, and you win day 2, and you win day 3, you win the meet!”


By his own standard, then, Hauck won the meet that was his life.

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Mike Wittmer
3 years ago

So appreciative of everything Haucker did for our son, Matt. St Olaf and Dave Hauck were one of the best things that happened to our family.

retired coach
3 years ago

I was the beneficiary of Coach Hauck’s wisdom when I asked him for advice on coaching one’s own son. He warned me to make sure I could tell when my son wanted me to be “coach” and when he wanted me to be “dad” and to never reverse the two. I was blessed to have known both Haucks for so many years.

Sybesma Richard
Reply to  retired coach
3 years ago

We all lost a great coach, father, grandfather,friend, and colleague. A legend in the sport of swimming. My thoughts are with his family. What a great man who will be missed.

3 years ago

Absolute legend. I can remember my college coach telling me stories. Specially considering he coached his son who owned that D3 record in the 4IM with 3:55 with hand touch back stroke turns.

Brad Shively
3 years ago

One of the GREATS in the coaching world and as classy as he was competitive. The Hauck family is in my thoughts tonight.

Douglas Boyd
3 years ago

God Speed Coach. If all of us who can say you influenced our lives lined up…

Please say hello to my coaches Doc & Sam Freas in Valhalla.

3 years ago

With that stretch of absolute dominance, St. Thomas should have rallied the rest of the MIAC to get St. Olaf booted from the conference back in the ’80s, like St. Olaf just did to St. Thomas. Ha! (just kidding!).

Kidding aside, it’s guys like him that make D-III sports so unique, so special. Just look at the obvious impact he had on so many young people and the way they adored him. Truly a life well lived. RIP, Haucker.

3 years ago

Thank you for this beautiful tribute to Haucker, Andy Hardt. He was much beloved and will be dearly missed by all of us who were fortunate enough to have crossed paths with him over the years.

Brad Flood
3 years ago

God Speed Dave!

Not just One of the “Good Ones”, The Role Model for that Honor!

Your family are in my thoughts.