Arizona Head Swim Coach Rick DeMont Announces Retirement

Photo Courtesy: Taylor Brien

Rick DeMont, head coach at the University of Arizona, has announced his plans for retirement from college coaching.

DeMont has been a member of the Wildcats coaching staff for 30 years, and has been head coach for the last four. In addition to coaching at Arizona, DeMont was an assistant coach for the South African men’s team at the 2000 Sydney Games, 2004 Athens Games, and 2008 Beijing Games.

Swimming has been a large part of DeMont’s life since he was young, swimming on the 1972 Olympic team as a 16-year-old. It was at the 1972 Munich Games that DeMont became an Olympic gold medalist when he out-touched Australia’s Brad Cooper by one-hundredth of a second in the 400-meter free. He would later be stripped of his gold medal when traces of ephedrine, contained in his asthma medicine, turned up in a post-race drug test. After the positive drug test, the IOC refused to let DeMont swim in the finals of the 1500-meter free.

Rick DeMont and Brad Cooper at 1973 worlds

Photo Courtesy: Swimming World Magazine

DeMont recovered from the unfortunate incidents of the 1972 Munich Games by taking Belgrade by storm at the first ever World Championships. There he delivered a world record performance of 3:58.18 in the 400-meter free, once again defeating Cooper, and becoming the first man to break the four-minute mark in the 400-meter free.

Watch This Exclusive Rick DeMont Interview Pulled From The 2008 SwimmingWorld.TV Vault

Additional accomplishments include being named to the International Swimming Hall of Fame (1990), Arizona Sports Hall of Fame (1999), and the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame (2008). He was named Swimming World’s World Swimmer of the Year in 1973

Read the full press release from the University of Arizona: 

University of Arizona head swimming and diving coach Rick DeMont has decided to step down after spending 30 years as a member of the program’s coaching staff, the athletics department announced on Monday. DeMont began his career as a student-athlete at Arizona during the 1977-78 season and joined the coaching staff in 1987. DeMont will remain in his current role until the athletics department completes a national search for the next head coach.

“There is never a right time to make a decision like this and I thought long and hard about it,” DeMont said. “I’ve been coaching here for 30 years, and despite the offer of a two-year extension, I decided that now is the right time to move on. I’ve given everything I have to Arizona swimming and diving and I’m looking forward to spending more time with my family and pursuing other passions. I want to thank the administration, staff and student-athletes for making this a wonderful journey and I look forward to seeing what the program can do in the coming years.”

Long considered a world-renowned sprint freestyle coach, DeMont has been the subject of feature stories and swimming technique articles in numerous publications, such as Swimming World, Swim Technique and Splash magazines. During his tenure with the UA, he coached 27 U.S. Swimming and NCAA individual national champions, as well as numerous national champion relay squads. DeMont also pioneered negative split swimming, which utilizes the strategy of swimming a faster second half of a race than the first.

“We want to thank Rick for everything he has done for both our department and the swimming and diving program,” said Arizona Director of Athletics Dave Heeke. “We know this was a tough decision for him, but one he felt he needed to make. His contribution to our program can be seen throughout the record books and his knowledge and aptitude will certainly be missed. Rocket is a true Wildcat. We wish him all the best as he transitions into the next stage of his life and congratulate him on a fabulous career.”

As a swimmer, DeMont was a four-year All-American, spending two years at the University of Washington (1973-75) before finishing his career at the UA (1977-79). DeMont earned eight All-America honors during his two seasons as a Wildcat.

A former world record holder in the 1500m freestyle (1972), the 400m freestyle (1973) and the 4×100 freestyle relay (1977), DeMont collected numerous titles during his swim career, including National, Pan-American, World and Olympic championships. Following his senior year in high school, he was named World Swimmer of the Year. In addition, DeMont became the first man in history to break the four-minute barrier in winning the 1973 400-meter World Championship in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.

In 1990, DeMont was recognized for his great career with induction into the International Swimming Hall of Fame. He is also a member of the Arizona Sports Hall of Fame (1999) and the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame (2008).

Press release courtesy of the University of Arizona. 


  1. avatar
    Bill Bell

    For him to have come back @ Belgrade after having been robbed @ Munich and not only win but set a world-record in the process shows an inner- drive/ strength very few possess. Pretty big —-s I’d say.

    Good luck in your future endeavors, Rick, and maybe now you’ll finally have time to devote to your artistic aspirations.

  2. Steve Borowski

    A great friend.. I coached him on a trip to Paris and the Netherlands. He’s a legend.

  3. avatar
    Bill Spahn

    I hope that sometime soon, Rick will get back the 1972 gold medal he so richly deserves. Truly a great swimmer, coach and a great guy

  4. avatar
    Daniel O'Keeffe

    Congrats on a great career! I’ve always felt an odd kinship since I grew up taking Marax for asthma. That’s your medal, but thanks even more for being a great asset to swimming

  5. avatar
    Jim Lutz

    A great coach and an even better friend and person. I was honored to share the deck with him as a co-coach

  6. avatar

    Proud to call Rick a friend and an inspiration… what he went through in 72 was completely the fault of the AAU & the USOC – our own people let him down and even though he declared the asthma medicine on the required forms the system failed him although I’ve never seen him point the finger…. and you are right Bill – what he did in ’73 was even more incredible! – and yet my greatest joys were watching him race the 50 as an “elder” statesman, watching him create some awesome art and knowing that he impacted the lives of hundreds if not thousands of young people as a leader in life…. kudos on it all Rick and enjoy all of the chapters that remain for you to write!

  7. Congratulations on a professional life of purpose and an example of the joy real mastery brings. So many people, many who barely know you like me, have been inspired and have in turn inspired others not just because of what you’ve done, but who you are. Keep mentoring the coaches who can learn so much from you even as you spend time with family, art, and the rest of what’s out there for you. Thank you,

    Coach Steve Friederang

  8. Rob Richardson

    Rocket coached my son Ryan Richardson in 2008 to anchor the 200 free relay at NCAA’s as a member of the UofA National Championship team, and to 32nd in the 50M free at Trials. A great coach and person. Thanks Rick!

  9. Jim Booth

    DeMont, you won and lost and won again. That’s winning.

  10. avatar
    courtney Cash Kuehl

    Thank you SW for a great article. Maybe we can now make another push to get “Rocket” his medal back from the IOC. We all have seen that medals are being delivered to third and fifth place finishers after failed drug tests by top medal finishers. Watch “Negative Split” documentary to see the story about Rick’s journey of getting stripped of his medal at 16 years old after no wrong doing on his own, and the unwillingness of the IOC to admit fault and give him back his medal. Get Rocket his GOLD and Go Cats!

  11. avatar
    Chuck Kroll

    Rick, PAC 12’s in Fed Way will be missing another great coach this next season. Congratulations sir on an amazing swimming career. We can now all look forward to many new wonderful ‘brush strokes on canvas!’

  12. avatar
    Steven Wyatt

    I swam with Rick at the UofA durning the 78, 79 and 80 swim season. He taught me something I have never forgotten, and that was medals
    and throphes don’t define an athlete or a person. That if you give it your best effort then you will always be a winner. Congrats to you and get your fishing gear ready, see ya soon Richard.

  13. avatar

    A two year extension? For what? The UofA team has gone SOOO down hill ever since Frank left. I think he was a good sprint coach, but was never meant to be a head coach. Just my opinion.

  14. avatar

    Rick rocks!

    Bear down Cats 🙂

  15. avatar

    Haven’t seen Don Schwarz mentioned in any of the recent stories about Rick; – Marin –Rick’s coach into both Munich and Belgrade;

    • avatar

      Oooops …. Swartz. Don is now an assistant coach with North Bay Aquatics, under head coach Ken DeMont, Rick’s younger brother.

      Ken might be another contender to follow Rick; he swam at UofA in the same period as Rick and has had good long-term success in the club coaching ranks.