TUSCALOOSA, Alabama, May 10. DENNIS Pursley will be a busy man this summer after accepting the head swimming coach position at the University of Alabama, according to multiple sources close to the situation. On top of closing out his stay as Britain's head coach as that country hosts the 2012 Olympic Games, Pursley will be assembling his collegiate staff as he transitions to Alabama.
Pursley, a graduate of Alabama with a Masters (1973) and Bachelors (1972) degree, returns to the Southeastern Conference after previously being part of the SEC as Auburn's Director of Swimming Operations in 2007-08 prior to taking the British job.
“One of the reasons I went to Alabama 30 years ago was because of my coach, Dennis Pursley,” 1980 Olympian and Congressional Gold Medalist Glenn Mills, owner of GoSwim.TV, told Swimming World. “Denny is a leader and a motivator. I'm excited for the future of the program. Roll Tide!”
In 1973, Pursley served a one-year apprenticeship under Coach Don Gambril while coaching the University Aquatic Club. In 1974, Pursley returned to his home town as the head coach of the Lakeside Swim Club in Louisville, Ky. With Pursley at the helm, Lakeside progressed from an unranked status with no regional or national qualifiers to a regional championship title and a top 10 national championship finish. In 1979, he was appointed to the coaching staff of the USA Pan American Games team. One of his swimmers, Mary T. Meagher, surprised the swimming world by establishing her first of several world records in the competition.
From Lakeside Swim Club, Pursley moved on to assume the head coaching responsibilities of the Cincinnati Marlins and led them to their first three national championship titles. After placing six swimmers on the 1980 USA Olympic Team (two of them with world record performances), Pursley served on the USA Olympic Team staff and was awarded 1980 Coach of the Year honors by the American Swimming Coaches Association.
In 1981, Pursley was named as the first head coach of the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) where he served as the head coach of the combined team for two years and the men's team until August, 1984. Six of the AIS athletes who had trained under Pursley (4 men and 2 women) accounted for half of Australia's medals in the 1984 Olympic Games. Only one of these athletes was ranked among the top 20 in the world (18th) in 1983. After the 1984 Olympic Games, Pursley began a three year term as head coach of the Olympian Swim Club in Edmonton, Alberta where his team progressed from fifth to first in provincial championship competition.
During the first decade of Pursley's career, his swimmers accounted for seven world records, 12 American Records and 20 U.S. National Championship titles as well as numerous medals in major international competitions – including the Olympic Games and the World Championships.
In 1989, he was appointed as the first National Team Director of USA Swimming and was responsible for all aspects of the National Team program. During his 14 year tenure, the medal production of the USA team increased dramatically. The USA team finished first in the medal count in both men's and women's competitions in all three Olympiads, culminating with 33 medals (14 gold) in the 2000 Olympics which was described as the greatest team performance of all time. In recognition of his contributions, he was awarded the United States Olympic Committee Chairman's Coaching Award for 2000.
Pursley returned to the deck in 2003 as the Head Coach of the Brophy East Swim Team in Phoenix Arizona. Throughout his career, he served as a member of the following committees, boards and organizations: AAU Region VI Coaches Association (Chair), AAU Midwest Conference Coaches Association (President), Canadian Swimming Association Board of Directors, Alberta Coaches Council Executive Committee, Arizona Swimming Board of Directors, USA Swimming Olympic International Operations Committee, International Relations Committee and Senior Swimming Committee.
Update: On Friday, Dennis Pursley released the following statement via the University of Alabama:
“It will be a great honor and privilege to return to my alma mater following the London Olympics,” Pursley said. “I could not be more impressed with the commitment of the University of Alabama to the pursuit of excellence in both academics and athletics, and I truly believe that the potential of the Crimson Tide swimming and diving program is unlimited.
“The opportunity to work closely with many of the world's top swimmers and coaches in recent years has broadened my vision and I am excited about the opportunity to bring these ideas and concepts to the pool deck in Tuscaloosa,” Pursley said. “It will be a pleasure for me to rejoin the Alabama family, especially during this era of enthusiasm, optimism and progress on the University campus.”