Wisconsin Men’s Swimming’s Winningest Coach Jack Pettinger Dies at 79

Former University of Wisconsin head coach Jack Pettinger died on Tuesday. He was 79 years old.

Pettinger was the head coach of the Badgers men’s team from 1969-1994, where he led a team that scored at the NCAA Championships 17 times – including a high of 14th place in 1970: his first season as head coach.

His 233 career dual-meet wins at Wisconsin are the most of any men’s head coach in the program’s 107-year history – by a factor of almost 3.

Pettinger also spent 1 season, 1973-1974, as the first coach in the history of the Wisconsin women’s swimming program.

He was named the Big Ten Swimming Coach of the Year in 1992 at Wisconsin.

Pettinger also spent time as an assistant coach under the legendary Doc Counsilman at Indiana from 1964-1969, where he worked with Mark Spitz and Gary Hall, among others. He also spent 1 season at Minnesota as a volunteer assistant, where the Gophers won the Big Ten title: a team that included current Auburn head coach Gary Taylor:

Pettinger coached most recently with the Badger Aquatic Club in Madison. The list of swimmers that he coached is long, including 4-time Olympic champion and former World Record holder Jim MontgomeryBrad HornerRobert PinterJack YoungValter Kalaus, and Jack Collins – the current head coach of the Badger Swim Club in New York.

Pettinger is associated with a number of high-profile figures in American swimming. He swam at Michigan from 1958-1961 for Gus Stager, where he was a roommate of Jon Urbanchek – who was just hired as USA Swimming’s National Team Technical Advisor.

His coaching tree includes current Purdue head coach Dan Ross, ASCA Hall of Fame coach Bob Groseth, Drew Walden, Robert Pinter, Kristy Brager, Jesse Stipek, and Blaine Carlson.

During his time at Wisconsin, he coached, among many others, Mike Unger, the Assistant Executive Director of USA Swimming.

“Jack was the ultimate coach,” Unger said of his former mentor. He had a VERY tough exterior, and a huge heart. He cared for his swimmers as if they were his own kids, and was as principled as they come.”

Pettinger also served as a captain in the United States Marine Corps after finishing his education at Michigan.

A Memorial Service will be held at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, July 14, 2018 at CRESS FUNERAL HOME, 3610 Speedway Road, Madison, Wisconsin, followed by a final team picnic at Cress. Attire is casual – shorts and sneakers.

Leave a Reply

Notify of
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Jeanne Fleck
2 years ago

What a great man!!!! he will be missed by many. Thanks Jack for all you did for swimmers and coaches.

NM Coach
2 years ago

Great, GREAT Man! His swimmers loved him. Well, maybe they didn’t love those Hawaii training trips, but they loved him.

I will miss you my friend!

Jim Richardson
2 years ago

Jack was among the very, very best people I have had the good fortune to know and learn from. His legacy is obvious in the lives of all he touched. Well done Jack!!

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder 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, …

Read More »