Passages: Dave Allen, Founder and Long-time Coach of UNC Wilmington, 75

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Photo Courtesy: Carl Labonge III

Passages: Dave Allen, Founder and Long-time Coach of UNC Wilmington, 75

Dave Allen, who founded the UNC Wilmington swimming and diving program in the 1970s, died on June 21. He was 75 years old.

Seen as the patriarch of UNCW swimming, Allen and athletics director William J. Brooks started the program for the 1977-78 season in Division I. Allen retired in 2014 after 37 years at the helm. In 2022, the school named its aquatics facility the David B. Allen Natatorium in his honor.

Allen went 494-356 in 37 seasons in Wilmington. He coached 15 All-Americans, 155 conference champions and 19 ECAC winners with Wilmington. Between the men’s and women’s teams, Allen led Wilmington to 16 Colonial Athletic Association championships as well as a pair of ECAC team titles. Six of his swimmers swam at NCAA Championships.

The native of Rochester, N.Y., began his coaching career at Allegheny College. He spent six years at Potsdam State. In all, he won 542 dual meets in his career.

“It’s a sad day for our Seahawks Swim and Dive family,” UNCW head coach Bobby Guntoro, who swam for Allen from 2006-11, said in a university release. “Coach Dave Allen impacted so many lives throughout his career. His contributions will be lasting and immeasurable to the Wilmington community. Personally, Coach Allen played an important role in my life. I am forever grateful to Coach and the Allen family.”

Allen led UNC Wilmington’s men to 13 straight CAA titles from 2002-14, at the end of his career. The women won three titles, including back-to-back titles in 1998 and 1999. The women also won ECAC crowns in 1997 and 1998. Allen won 15 CAA Coach of the Year honors (10 men’s, five women’s.)

Allen also spent much of his life working with Wilmington’s learn-to-swim and community programs.

He was elected to the UNCW Athletic Hall of Fame in 2020. He’s also a member of the Potsdam State Athletic Hall of Fame (inducted in 1997), the Greater Wilmington Sports Hall of Fame (2017) and the North Carolina Swimming Hall of Fame (2019).

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Katie Laing
Katie Laing
7 months ago

Coach Allen allowed ME, a college triathlete with zero pool experience to join his team of ace swimmers in the UNCW pool in the early 90’s. 

I am forever grateful for this gift and his patience, guidance, and after-practice tutoring. During one of those after practice tutorials on flip turns, he said to me, “You’re the most improved swimmer I’ve ever had in my pool.” Not a far leap considering where I started. I worked my butt off for Coach, and in return I was given the gift of being a lifelong swimmer. This has impacted my life in countless ways. 

The gift of perseverance, fitness, camaraderie, love, and the freedom to confidently swim-explore remote coastlines and surf big waves are all gifts Coach Allen gave me.

Coach, I am forever grateful, you will be missed!

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