Minnesota “Head Men’s Coach” Dennis Dale Leaving Program

  93 Braden Keith | April 02nd, 2014 | Big Ten, College, Featured, News

The University of Minnesota’s prior “Head Men’s Coach” Dennis Dale will no longer be with the program, the school told the team in a meeting on Tuesday.

Dale, who is the “Head Men’s Coach” under the umbrella of the program’s true head coach Kelly Kremer is a Minnesota alumni, having graduated in 1967, and has been the head of the men’s team since the 1985-1986 season. In his time, his men’s team has 7 Big Ten titles, including back-to-back wins in 2004 and 2005, and he has earned 6 Big Ten Coach of the Year awards.

Dale became the “Head Men’s Coach” after the men’s and women’s programs were combined at Minnesota following the 2010-2011 season under Kremer.

Though it’s not going to be a direct replacement, Minnesota plans to hand the reins to the men’s sprint group over to second-year assistant Steve Miller, who is a 2009 graduate of Minnesota. That’s a sprint group that Miller was once a part of while a four-time First Team All-American as an undergrad.

The sprint group is a hallmark of the Minnesota program, including Big Ten Champion Derek Toomey who was 4th at NCAA’s in the 50 free last weekend.

We were unable to confirm the exact nature of the separation between Dale and Minnesota (firing, retirement, resignation, etc.) and as of posting, Minnesota had not responded to multiple requests for comment.

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93 Comments on "Minnesota “Head Men’s Coach” Dennis Dale Leaving Program"


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NMCoach
2 years 5 months ago

Dennis Dale completely turned around a program that was a joke in the early 80s! He played an integral part in that facility being built.

For all of his detractors…you will see that a lack of his presence in that program will be detrimental to Gopher Men’s program!

coacherik
2 years 5 months ago

How about we wait and see?

chlorinated
2 years 5 months ago

I agree we wait and see. Dennis may have turned the program around in the 1980s, but it’s 2014 now. This brings some fresh air to the program which is greatly needed, especially if they’re to move up at B1Gs and NCAAs. There hasn’t been a conference title in MN on the men’s side since 2007, but the women have won three in a row. Kelly Kramer is obviously doing something right there.

Consider the fact that Dale has taken a backseat role these past few years with coaching anyway, especially since Steve Miller was hired in 2012. Miller has been assisting at that school since 2009 and I believe the program is in perfectly capable hands. He’s young, energized, and it’s time he got his shot.

GSWIM
2 years 5 months ago

You’re dreamin’. All due respect, but Steve Miller is no Dennis Dale. And it seems like Dennis’ sprinters have been the only ones “getting it done” since Kramer took over the men.

It just wreaks of unprofessionalism the way this was handled. No respect for a man that not only touched so many lives, but also helped them swim fast. Again, whether it was time or not, he deserved a celebration, not a firing. And we won’t even begin to talk about the lack of loyalty Kramer & Minnesota is showing.

I predict no Big 10 titles in the future and with Toomey & Van Swol graduating, a legendary coach & biggest supporter disrespected, alumni alienated, an unproven “kid” taking over the sprint reigns. Tell me why on earth you would sign at Minnesota.

Go4swimmer
2 years 5 months ago

Being a former u swimmer, it pains me to see Dennis go, but it is time to move on. The program has been irrelevant since 2007, which is when Kelly’s last recruits from his first stint with the men’s team filtered through. Once Kelly left to coach the women’s team, they went back to recruiting Minnesota and Wisconsin kids, sure they could coach them up, but there was not enough talent to be relevant.

It’s too bad the way it all happened, as an alum, I’m sad to see him go, but I know in the long run it will all be for the best. Kelly is one of the best college coaches in the nation, he made the men’s team relevant once before and will do it again. And yes, he, not dennis is the reason the team was relevant 10-15 years ago. Who do you think recruited all those kids from all over the place to come swim in Minnesota?

Goldy50free
2 years 5 months ago

As a parent of one those untalented Wisconsin/Minnesota kids I take exception to your comment.. The 200 free relay placed 13th at Ncaa with 2 swimmers from Wi one from Mn and the other from Co, three of them are freshman.

Gopher Alum
2 years 5 months ago

This comment is directed to Go4Swimmer

I echo the opinion of Goldt50Free…

I am a Gopher alum from the era post 2007. And your comments about the lack of talent disrespects the team members of my era. Aren’t we ALL Gophers? Please note the next time you are in the natatorium that most of our school records were swum by swimmers NOT recruited by Kelly.

Go4swimmer
2 years 5 months ago

I never said the kids from Minnesota and Wisconsin weren’t talented, I said there aren’t enough of them. When Kelly coached the men’s team 15 years ago and ran the recruiting, they were recruiting nationwide. Still recruiting talented swimmers, just way more of them. It was the best hire Dennis ever made, when Kelly left, that pretty much stopped. There just aren’t enough kids to make a successful team. And don’t talk to me about records, new technology, rule changes brought down a TON of records, so the records being post 2007 is irrelevant. Yes, we are all Gophers and we all hope for the best, this is for the best, you will see soon.

NMCoach
2 years 5 months ago

Chlorinated,

FACT #1 – the current team did NOT take this well!

FACT #2 – the B1G conference for the women is not near as strong as the mens. Just look at the team standings for NCAAs and count the number of top 10 from the B1G schools on the mens side vs the women.

FACT #3 – since this is 2014 and Dennis is supposedly not doing a good job any more, go back and look at the scoring from the B1G meet and NCAA meet this year…over 80% of the points (maybe even higher) came directly from the athletes under Dennis’ direction.

FACT #4 – since Kelley was given the role of Head Coach over both programs, he has spent the overwhelming majority of time with the post-grad women making them his priority and then the current women. Dennis was REDUCED to a back seat role and thus the program suffered.

Kyler Van Swol and Derek Toomey were the last recruits that Dennis was heavily involved in…I think they’re pretty good.

Dennis deserved a whole hell of a lot better treatment than he was given! Steve Miller is a good guy…but Dennis has had amazing success with that sprint…it is definitely not a step up as a replacement. Steve will really struggle with any of the athletes that were coached by Dennis, the comparisons will never go away for him.

chlorinated
2 years 5 months ago

To all of you:

I get it, I’ve been there. I swam for him and I know how it all works. And I know that in recent years the sprint group has been Dennis AND Steve. Each coach plays a role in the development of a swimmer and a lot of the energy and expertise has come from Steve. Without Dennis of course there may be an initial step back, but it’s not two steps. My 1980-2014 point was to consider how much swimming has changed in the last 30 years. Times are getting quicker and training styles are changing. I personally didn’t find Dennis as one for embracing change, sorry if maybe you did. Now was he still doing a good job coaching? Sure. Was he still successful? Sure. But it’s not going to kill the program to see him leave. He had to leave eventually, he’s not going to coach forever.

Conference strength, NCAA strength, it doesn’t really matter; a ring is a ring and you do what you need to do to get it. I agree ousting Dennis like this may not have been the best way to do it, especially given his accomplishments and success, but I do have faith in Kelly and what he’s doing. I’m with G04SWIMMER on this one. Kelly worked with the men from 98-04, there were titles in 01,02,04 and top 10 NCAA finishes 01-05. He can recruit and he can coach. The men haven’t been back to those numbers since Kelly left. (I will agree he does spend too much time on his postgrads though.)

The combining of the programs in 2011 was to increase funding, lighten the workload on Dennis, and to put Kelly back with the men again. Now consider a lightened workload and a young sprint assistant for the old guy who’s been in the game a long time…that is the reduced, backseat role.

Yes this was all handled poorly, but let’s stop bashing the future of the program. If we really are all Gophers we should hope for the best and time will tell. You’re still giving MN football a chance, right?

Gopher Alum
2 years 5 months ago

Chlorinated,

Just to note, after Kelly left, the men didn’t have Top 10 finishes from ’05-’09, they were only Top 11 finishes (with 2 Big 10 titles). The next two years were a 14th and a 15th (2 future NCAA champions transferring didn’t help). Since Kelly’s return, the men have finished 24th, 18th, and this past week 22nd. In fact, since Kelly took over in ’05, the women have only 3 Top 10 finishes, none higher than 9th. Minnesota has been pretty much in the same NCAA finish for 20 years, 16 years with Kelly. So I’d hesitate to say much is going to change with or without Dennis.

But after Dennis built this program, he deserved more than to be kicked to the curb? It makes you wonder who’s next – Terry???

This is so embarrassing.

swimswamswum
2 years 5 months ago

Amen. These hit the nail on the head. I think Steve is fully capable of the job and has done a fantastic job at Minnesota. The program is more than lucky to have such a stand up guy.

It’s a fact that at some point, Dennis had to leave the program, but the way the situation was handled was extremely unfortunate. While none of us know the full truth behind what happened, I would’ve always hoped for someone who built the program from the bottom up would get the utmost respect he deserves.

BBE
2 years 5 months ago

Dennis Dale has done a lot of great things for the Golden Gophers and he should be celebrated for all of his accomplishments. However, it’s a good time for a change and it seems like the remaining coaching staff, with the lead of Kelly Kremer, will be able to bring that program to a new level.

CCST
2 years 5 months ago

I wonder how the men’s team reacted.

Gswim
2 years 5 months ago

This is not by choice. Dennis Dale deserved better than firing. Especially when he just coached an 18.9 sprinter at NCAA’s. Shocked that this is how Kramer thanks the guy that groomed him for the position. What a classless move.

swimswamswum
2 years 5 months ago

Dennis Dale was an integral role of the success to the MN Swimming and Diving Program. It will be sad to see him go. His passion, humor, wit, and knowledge will be greatly missed on the pool deck!

Dan Anderson
2 years 5 months ago

Dennis Dale is a class act. He is a fine man who has coached men to great things both in the pool and in life. He will be missed.

goldengopher
2 years 5 months ago

Steve Miller holds high expectations for his Men’s Sprint Group to fulfill for this next upcoming season, however, Kelly did not need to make Dennis Dale leave the program. This man has been here since 1985 and only proven to be an asset to this team. He has been able to produce many men who have shown contributions to Big Ten’s and NCAA’s for Minnesota. In fact, he has probably led his swimmers to more moments of success than Coach Ryan Purdy or Coach Kelly Kremer. I think the vibe and environment Dennis Dale created will have been lost. Bad idea on Minnesota’s Swimming part.

goldengopher
2 years 5 months ago

I think Steve Miller holds high expectations for his Men Sprint Group, however, Coach Kelly Kremer’s actions were unprofessional towards Dennis Dale. Coach Dale was an asset to this team since 1985, and has lead his swimmers to success at Big Ten’s and the NCAA championships. His success is greater than that of contributions from Coach Ryan Purdy or Coach kremer. For what Coach Dennis Dale has done for the University of Minnesota Swim Team Kremer has shown disrespect towards his faculty and swimmers. My apologizes go out to the Men’s Sprint Group and Coach Dennis Dale. The environment and atmosphere of sarcasm, wisdom, and humor will be missed.

goldengopher
2 years 5 months ago

I think Steve Miller holds high expectations for his Men Sprint Group, however, Coach Kelly Kremer’s actions were unprofessional towards Dennis Dale. Coach Dale was an asset to this team since 1985, and has lead his swimmers to success at Big Ten’s and the NCAA championships. His success is greater than that of contributions from Coach Ryan Purdy or Coach kremer. For what Coach Dennis Dale has done for the University of Minnesota Swim Team Kremer has shown disrespect towards his faculty and swimmers. My apologizes go out to the Men’s Sprint Group and Coach Dennis Dale. The environment and atmosphere of sarcasm, wisdom, and humor will be missed.

UofMgrad01
2 years 5 months ago

Not the way I imagined the fairietale ending… Numerous championships, loyal alumni, and out of the blue this happens!?!

FormerGopher
2 years 5 months ago

The notion the Steve Miller is “entitled” to replace Dennis Dale is naive and unrealistic. Steve has two years of paid coaching experience. That minimal level of experience would not merit a second look for a head coaching job at most Division II programs, let alone entitling one to replace the most successful swimming coach in Minnesota history. In fact, it isn’t fair to Steve to suggest that he is a replacement for Dennis. When Dennis was first hired at Minnesota, he had already served for 13 years as the head swimming coach at Burnsville High School. Under Dennis’ direction, Burnsville went from mediocrity (at best) to win four state high school championships, three girls’ titles and one boys’ title. Dennis was named high school coach of the year four times while at Burnsville. Even before his stint at Burnsville, Dennis had proved himself to be an incredibly successful coach. After his military service (yes, Dennis is a vet too), he coached De La Salle high school for three years. Under Dennis’s direction, De La Salle became the best high school team in Minnesota.

So, when Dennis first took control of the Gopher team, he had far more experience and far more success than Steve. You can’t buy this type of success; you actually have to earn it. But the truth is, the removal of Dennis isn’t about Steve, it’s about the inadequacy of leadership of those above Dennis. You see, when a manager inherits a highly successful, self-directed, hard working employee who has been making the University look good for 25 years, the inability of that manager to take advantage of the situation is the fault of the manager, not the highly successful employee. Dennis’s removal represents a gross inability to lead. It’s especially telling that Dennis has worked under a number of other supervisors within the athletic department for all those years, all of whom were able to let Dennis work his magic.

But, what would one expect from an athletic department that just finished paying off an assistant coach (in a different sport) that was hired and then fired within the space of a few weeks, all because her romantic interests didn’t satisfy the head coach. Was anyone in the administration of the athletic department held accountable for this travesty? Well, of course not.

As for Kelly Kremer, there is little doubt that he is a good swimming coach. That said, Dennis had already done the hard work of bringing the Gophers from the bottom of the Big Ten in 1986 when he first arrived to winning its first Big Ten title in 70 years in 1996. The gophers won their second Big Ten title in 1998, the year Kremer joined the men’s coaching staff as an assistant coach under Dennis. Thus, the first two Big Ten titles can’t really be attributed to Kremer. The men’s team won two more titles after Kremer joined the women’s team and no longer worked with the men. So, Minnesota’s incredible rise to the top tier of the Big Ten simply can’t be attributed to Kremer. The gopher’s ability to remain competitive in the Big Ten similarly can’t be attributed to Kremer. Kremer just isn’t responsible for making Minnesota relevant in swimming; Dennis is.

The one thing that certainly can be attributed to Kremer is the University’s sudden inability to take advantage of the best sprint coach in the Big Ten, if not country; something the University had managed to do from 1986 until 2011, at which point Kremer became the ostensible leader of both the men’s and women’s teams.

What all of this suggests is a manager or managers that didn’t understand that the Gopher swim team wasn’t their personal play ground. Instead, it’s a public trust that belongs to the State of Minnesota and its swimming community. This incident represents a gross violation of that trust.

I wasn’t the best college swimmer in the world. But, I managed to place at the Big Ten meet and have followed the team for my entire adult life. It pains me to say that until the University makes amends, it and the swimming program are dead to me.

NMCoach
2 years 5 months ago

FormerGopher,

Well spoken…your statements are 100% accurate. The only thing I would add is that when Dennis took over the program at the U – it was a complete joke…only Dennis could have been able to turn that ship around. People don’t remember that Ernie Maglisco and Dennis were the two finalists for the job…and considering all the success that Ernie had at Bakersfield…people were surprised that Dennis got the job. Eventually Ernie got the ASU…and that didn’t go so well. Dennis’ tenacity and consistency turned that program around.

Just look at the assistant coaches that he has had and the success that they have enjoyed after their time at Minnesota…Dave Anderson (Schroeder) and Clark Campbell (KU) just to name 2! Hard to imagine their time with Dennis didn’t influence some of their current success.

Steve Miller will eventually be the same…I know he liked Dennis alot, but he will have a tough time the first two years.

Goldengopher1
2 years 5 months ago

As a former swimmer at the U of M I find this appalling. Dennis is a wonderful human being who I have nothing but admiration for.Dennis’s life revolved around the swim team and it’s sad to see this is the way his chapter closes. You will be missed Dennis.

Rob
2 years 5 months ago

To all of you affiliated with the program (swimmers, alumni, parents, fans), please consider that this forum will live on past your initial reactions to the events of the last few days.

Dennis, thank you for your contribuitions to the University of Minnestota, the aquatics program and my development as both a swimmer and person.

Rob Schnitzler – Class of 2011

Russ
2 years 5 months ago

It’s easy to have an opinion when you aren’t involved, and may not even know anyone on the team anymore. It’s even easier to put that opinion up on an internet message board under a pseudonym that you can change if anyone calls you out.

I’m not ashamed to say that I respect the hell out of Dennis Dale. I am a coach now, and find myself using his techniques almost daily. His daily attitude and his passion for the sport and for his athletes continues to inspire me. Thank you Dennis for all you have done for me, and for the rest of the Gopher alumni.

Despite my respect for Dennis, and my confusion about the way this was handled, Kelly and the rest of the staff are not “dead to me” to use the words of an anonymous commenter above. Neither am I going to drag the name of a new coach through the mud just because he will be running the sprint group. Comparisons are inevitable and nobody can replace Dennis, but there is a lot of talent and passion on that staff, and I see bright things for the future of Minnesota swimming.

Russell Payne – 2008

Mike
2 years 5 months ago

Of all the comments here, Rob’s words are the truest.

Programs can only succeed if the athletes trust their coaches. I trusted Dennis and I trusted Steve.

I, too, would like to thank Dennis for helping me become the swimmer I was and the person I am.

If I were on the team now, I would have no doubt that Steve is a trustworthy coach whose ideas and energy are only going to do good things for the sprinters. Let’s remember those kids who are on the team now and make sure that they get the support they need to keep Minnesota strong.

Mike Richards – Class of 2011

Phil
2 years 5 months ago

Rob definitely has it right.

We can all continue to speculate on how the situation got to where it has, but chances are nobody writing comments on this forum actually knows.

Having been coached by Dennis myself, I can tell you he cared about nothing more than the upmost success of his athletes. The thing I respect Dennis the most for was his capacity to actually coach, provide feedback, and genuinely care about every one of his athletes regardless of ability.

I have no doubt that his group is in good hands with Steve, and I wish them all the best of luck.

Phil Greenberg – Class of 2011

Meg & Dave
2 years 5 months ago

It’s apparent from all the comments above that everyone is very passionate about the University of Minnesota Swimming and Diving program — as we all should be. The accomplishments and successes of this program spread far and wide, and have had the dedication and help from a variety of individuals [coaches, swimmers, divers, aquatics staff members, athletic administrators] — in maintaining that high level of success.

Please be considerate of the true values, relationships, and life lessons you have taken away from the program when posting your comments for all to see, and be mindful that its always best to stay positive and reflect upon ‘the good’ in the face of slight adversity and change.

Dennis, thank you for your incomparable coaching style. Your legacy, humor, and wit will live on in all those that you touched and impacted. We all have been truly blessed to have had the opportunity to not only swim, but grow as men and women under you. We have nothing but the utmost respect for you, and will miss seeing you on the pool deck!

Kelly, Terry, Steve, Purdy, & Wenbo — thank you for your continued inspiration, dedication, and pride in the Maroon & Gold. We are excited to continue to follow, support, and cheer on the team from the stands (or from our desks at work — boo!).

Best of luck to Steve as he starts this new chapter in his coaching career! You will be great.

Go Gophers,

Meg Braun — 2011
David Hawker — 2011

Andy
2 years 5 months ago

Dennis Dale is a great coach and a better man. When I was young, it was my goal to compete for the University of Minnesota. I’m proud to say that I got to fulfill that dream. I will always remember how approachable and instructive Dennis was when I swam there. You could always talk to Dennis about anything. I remember getting valuable advice about how to improve my technique and having great conversations with him each spring about who he thought was going to win The Masters. Dennis is just that kind of a guy. I continue to wish him the best and can’t thank him enough for the impact he had on my swimming career and life.

Andy Knaak – Class of 2012

Andy
2 years 5 months ago

Additionally, Steve Miller is a good man and I wish him the best of luck going forward.

2 years 5 months ago

Russ,
Well said. Having worked with Dennis for 18 years on a daily basis I know the many outstanding contributions he has made to the Mens program and that is the way I will chose to remember his leadership of the Gophers ! Jim andersen

Mike Zechmeister
2 years 5 months ago

I would personally like to thank Dennis for all he has done for Minnesota swimming for the past 4+ decades. As the first swimmer that Dennis signed to join him at the U, I can say that I have been a part of and followed Dennis’ journey since the beginning. Dennis is a great coach, a great mentor and a great friend. The life lessons that I learned from Dennis transcend anything that I never learned or did in the pool. For all of that, I cannot thank Dennis enough and hope that I get a chance to get together with all who feel the same way to properly celebrate his career.

As a loyal Gopher, I think it is also very important to me that we all continue to support the program in the ways that we do best. I for one will continue to do that to the best of my ability. To the extent that folks are upset about what has unfolded, my hope is that all will find a path forward that is constructive and fully supportive of the program.

Best of luck to the team and coaches. I will be rooting for all of you!

Mike Zechmeister
Gopher Swimming, 1985-1989

NMCoach
2 years 5 months ago

Zech,

Please post on FB when a retirement party will be for Dennis and I will definitely fly up from NM for it!

Gopher Alum
2 years 5 months ago

RETIREMENT PARTY? THERE ISN’T GOING TO BE A RETIREMENT PARTY!!! THERE ISN’T GOING TO BE ANYTHING!!!! HOW CAN YOU HAVE A PARTY WHEN HE WAS FIRED???

That is what I am so upset about and why all of you “Thanking Dennis” and praising him should be mad as hell if that’s really how you feel about the man. And Mr. Zechmeister, you are the worst! How can you honor Dennis with your words of praise and then encourage everyone to forgive the atrocious way his career was forced to end? So it’s “Thanks old man, hit the road. Go Gophers!” I’m sure Dennis appreciates the respect you are showing him.

Why am I the only one that thinks he deserves a more honorable way to cap his career?

I’m with FORMERGOPHER. Minnesota Swimming is dead to me. GO BLUE!!!

2 years 5 months ago

I had the honor of being a freshman on the team the year Dennis started coaching at Minnesota. It has been a pleasure to see his legacy develop over the last 30 years and a simple posting here cannot begin to describe the countless contributions he has made to the program–they are indisputable and I would like to congratulate him for all he has accomplished. I look forward to opportunities to properly honor and celebrate Dennis and all his accomplishments in the coming months.

On a personal note I want to thank Dennis as he deserves all the credit for everything I ever accomplished as a swimmer and, to a great extent, how I have developed as a person–for that I am very thankful. This marks the end of a truly special era for Minnesota Swimming.

Thank you for everything Dennis and I hope to talk soon,
Dan Egeland ’89

Curt
2 years 5 months ago

Dennis Dale is a legend, He is, will be, and was one of the greatest people and coaches to work in the NCAA. His dedication and reputation precedes him as a pioneer for the University of Minnesota Athletic program. He should be honored for all of his hard work and his contribution to the University of Minnesota. Dennis, as a former Gopher alum, I wish you the best in your future and you will never be forgotten!

Dennis, we all love you, and you have done an amazing job!

The new head coach, Steve Miller was one of Dennis’ greatest athletes. He is someone who is a perfect fit to fill Dennis’ shoes. It will be tough, but he is respected among the coaches, peers, and alum. I wish the best of luck to Steve in his future endeavors!

We will miss you Dennis and as always, GO GOPHERS!!

Curt Carlson-2011

Greg
2 years 5 months ago

Maybe we could all be so lucky and Hite is removed from Wisco and Dennis will take the helm and bring some class and dignity back to the Badgers??

Goph4er fan
2 years 5 months ago

Better dead then red.

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About Braden Keith

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The most common question asked about Braden Keith is "when does he sleep?" That's because Braden has, in two years in the game, become one of the most prolific writers in swimming at a level that has earned him the nickname "the machine" in some circles. He first got his feet …

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