Michigan Legend Jon Urbanchek to Receive CSCAA’s Ben Franklin Award

Jon Urbanchek 1997 NCAA by Bill Collins (1)
Photo Courtesy: Bill Collins / Swimming World Archive

Michigan Legend Jon Urbanchek to Receive CSCAA’s Ben Franklin Award

Legendary former Michigan head coach Jon Urbanchek has been named the 2023 winner of the Ben Franklin Award by the CSCAA.

The award will be presented at the CSCAA’s annual awards dinner on May 8 in Orlando, Fla. The Ben Franklin Award, “recognizes individuals or organizations whose efforts and innovations best promote the integrity and enhancement of the student-athlete ideal.”

Urbanchek swam at Michigan in the 1950s, enrolling in 1957 and being part of three Wolverines NCAA championship teams. From that 1961 title, Michigan wouldn’t win another until 1995, with Urbanchek coaching his alma mater.

Urbanchek replaced his coach at Michigan, Gus Stager, in 1982. In his 22 years in Ann Arbor, he won a national title and 13 Big Ten titles, including 10 straight from 1986-95.

Urbanchek worked as a teacher and coach at Anaheim High School in California for 14 years. He coached at Sammy Lee Swim School, formed Anaheim Aquatics in 1967 and was a co-founder of Fullerton Aquatics Sports Team (FAST). He entered the college realm as the coach of Long Beach State and Long Beach Swim Club, where he followed legendary coaches like Dick Jochums and Don Gambril and mentored coach Dave Salo.

“I am so honored to be presented with the Ben Franklin Award. He was an inventor!” Urbanchek said in a press release. “I always tried to think of new ways to do things when I coached. The way I wrote practices changed because we need to invent new ways to make swimmers fast. We always need to think about doing something new and I credit great friends along the way for helping me do that. Dave Salo, Jim Richardson, Eddie Reese and Jack Bauerle are just some of the people who I credit. Of course, I married a doctor and she gets credit too!”

With his wife, Dr. Melanie Urbanchek, a research professor in surgery at Michigan’s medical school, Urbanchek scripted his practices by a color system according to intensity. “The Colors” is a system that has been widely adopted by his proteges and others he’s influenced.

Urbanchek retired from coaching in 2020. He and Melanie live in California.

The 62nd annual CSCAA Meeting will be held at the Hard Rock Café in Orlando in May. Information is available here.

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