WILMINGTON, North Carolina – Expressing a desire to spend more time with his wife, children, and three grandsons, longtime coach Dave Allen, the founding father and architect of UNCW’s swimming and diving program, is heading for dry land.
Allen announced his retirement on Thursday after coaching 44 years at three different institutions and will step down officially on June 30, 2014. A national search for his successor will begin soon.
“Words cannot describe what Dave Allen has meant to this department, the university and the community,” said Jimmy Bass, UNCW’s athletic director. “He has not only been the most successful coach on our staff and in the conference, Dave has been a tremendous ambassador for the sport of swimming and diving nationally.
“We will miss Dave’s tireless work ethic, friendship and professionalism, and thank him so much for his service over the last 36 years.”
Allen, 66, recently led the men’s team to an unprecedented 13th consecutive Colonial Athletic Association championship in College Park, Md. He has also coached the UNCW women to three championships, including back-to-back crowns in 1998 and 1999, and the 1997 and 1998 ECAC crowns.
“It’s time for me to step aside and let someone else take the program to a higher level,” said Allen. “The decision to retire is not based on any one thing. I still enjoy the on-deck coaching and working with the student-athletes and the competitions. There are so many other behind-the-scenes duties that need much more energy than I have right now.
“This is something that I discussed with my family going back to last year. Winning the conference meet this year, especially the way we did it, put an exclamation point on the season. I don’t know if it can get any better.”
Allen originated the program in 1977-78 and has directed the Seahawks to a combined 16 conference championships, 13 on the men’s side and three for the women, along with a pair of Eastern titles.
The ultra-successful mentor has been named CAA Coach-of-the-Year 15 times, including five for the women and 10 for the men.
“We have accomplished a lot of great things here, but there’s more growth still to do with this program and more work to be done,” Allen continued.
“I’m very proud that I was given the opportunity by Coach (Bill) Brooks to start the program. I hope people will remember that we built and developed a program that the university and the city of Wilmington could be proud of.”
A native of Rochester, N.Y., Allen coached his teams to 542 dual meet wins at three institutions. Prior to UNCW, where he has a record of 494-356 in 37 seasons, he coached one season at Allegheny (4-7) and then six at Potsdam State (44-26).
Allen swam collegiately at Springfield (Mass.) College and began his coaching career at Allegheny College in 1970-71. He spent one year at Allegheny before moving on to Potsdam State (N.Y.), where he compiled a 44-26 record with the Bears.
At Potsdam, Allen's squad captured the state championship in 1977 and was ranked No. 15 in the NCAA Division III poll. In his final two seasons in New York, Allen coached five All-Americans and was voted Coach-of-the-Year. He was inducted into Potsdam's Athletic Hall of Fame in 1997.
The Seahawk program took off in 1977-78 with Allen at the helm. In 36 seasons at UNCW, Allen has coached 15 All-Americans, 155 conference champions and 19 Eastern titlists.
Allen was honored in 1987 when he was selected to represent the United States government in a five-week tour of the Mideast. He presented clinics and seminars in Turkey through the U.S. Information Service's Sports America program.
Allen's student-athletes have also enjoyed great success in the classroom. Eight swimmers - Steve Hewins (1990-91), Laura Doepp (1991-92), Deb Kresho (1993-94), Brendan Curl (1999-00), Tiago Barreira (2002-03), Michael Krayer (2005-06), Melissa Milstead (2006-07), Bennett Rainey (2009-10) - have captured the Chancellor's Cup, the school's highest academic honor for athletes.
Hewins also became the first UNCW athlete to earn a CAA Post-Graduate Scholarship, while Doepp was named to the GTE-CoSIDA District III Academic All-America team.
Krayer, meanwhile, closed out his career as one of the most decorated swimmers in the program's history. In addition to helping the Seahawks secure four CAA titles, he was named the CAA Male Scholar Athlete-of-the-Year in 2004-05 and 2005-06.
Six of Allen’s swimmers have been inducted into the UNCW Athletic Hall of Fame, including inaugural class members Janet Johnson and Sam O’Leary in 1998. Other swimmers enshrined are Burak Erdem (2002), Amy Lewis (2006), Dan Gallagher (2010) and Adrienne Sutton (2014).
Allen, whose children, Matt, Brian and Stephanie, have all attended UNCW and competed on the swim teams, plans to travel with his wife of 43 years, Ellen, and enjoy time with this family.
Allen said, “We are staying in Wilmington and will continue to support UNCW and UNCW Athletics as much as we can.”
Dave Allen’s Conference Championships
Men – 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 Women – 1998, 1999, 2006
Dave Allen’s Career Highlights
On March 1, 2014, the men’s team wins the final relay behind Alex Labonge, Adam Salzman, Gabe Thran and Joe Gallene to edge William & Mary and keep intact a 13-year dynasty in men’s swimming and diving.
Carly Tanner competes in the 50 Freestyle, 100 Breaststroke and 100 Freestyle at the 2013 NCAA Championships in Indianapolis.
The 2010-11 men’s team pulls away on the final day of the CAA meet behind Luke Murphy and Michael Baric, who combine to score 80.5 points in the meet. Stephanie Forlenza sets a meet record in the 200 Backstroke.
Caitlin Kersteir wins the 100-Yard Butterfly for the fourth straight year as the women’s team takes second in the 2009-10 meet. Kersteir earns the Thomas V. Moseley Award, the university's highest athletic award and becomes the first women's swimmer to compete in the NCAA Championships, swimming in the 50 Free and 100 Fly events.
Rob Anderson joins Kersteir in the 2010 NCAA Championships, competing in the 50 Freestyle and 100 Breaststroke events.
Kersteir and Anderson collect CollegeSwimming.com All-America honors in 2010 for outstanding senior campaigns.
Melissa Milstead is named CAA's Women's Swimming Scholar Athlete-of-the-Year for the second straight year and receives the school's Chancellor's Cup Award for Academic Excellence.
Allen is named 2006 CAA Men's and Women's Coach-of-the-Year after guiding the Seahawks to a sweep of the league's hardware. The men's team, powered by 35 All-CAA performances, cruises to a 277-point victory over George Mason. The women dominate George Mason by 155.50 points behind 21 All-CAA swimmers.
Senior diver Dean Berman is named 2006 CAA Diver-of-the-Meet and Diver-of-the-Year and becomes the first Seahawk to earn All-America honors at the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships in Atlanta.
Senior Michael Krayer is selected 2006 CAA Scholar Athlete-of-the-Year in swimming for the second consecutive season and is honored as the top male scholar-athlete in the conference.
Melissa Milstead is selected 2006 CAA Scholar Athlete-of-the-Year after the team wins its first championship since 1999.
Sprinter Dan Gallagher finishes fourth in the 50-Yard Freestyle at the 2002 NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships in Athens, Ga.
The women's team captures the 1998-99 conference title in one of the most dominating performances in the history of the meet. The Seahawks set four conference records, established 11 school records and win 11 of 20 events in building an impressive 161-point win over James Madison.
All-time greats Janet Johnson and Sam O’Leary make up two of the five members of the inaugural class of the UNCW Athletic Hall of Fame in 1998.
In 1995, Burak Erdem wins the 200-Yard Backstroke, becoming one of only two swimmers in CAA history to repeat as conference champion four straight years in an event.
Steve Hewins becomes the first UNCW student-athlete to earn a CAA Post-Graduate Scholarship in 1991.
The budding program signals its arrival when butterflier Sam O'Leary becomes the school's first NCAA Division I All-American in March of 1982.