Passages: Don Sammons, Long-Time University of Illinois Coach, 90

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Passages: Don Sammons, Long-Time University of Illinois Coach, 90

Don Sammons, the former head coach of the University of Illinois swimming and diving team, died on Nov. 24. He was 90 years of age.

Sammons coached the Illinois men’s team from the 1971-72 through 1992-93. He was the head coach of the women’s team as well from 1980 through 1993 for a total of 35 seasons. He retired in 1993, when the university discontinued its men’s program.

Sammons coached seven All-Americans with the Illini. Seven swimmers won Big Ten titles, and he helped 46 swimmers qualify for NCAA championships.

A member of the Illinois Swimming Hall of Fame, Sammons earned the John Newman Award in 1974 for contributions to the sport in Illinois. He was the state’s men’s collegiate coach of the year in 1983 and chaired the Big Ten’s swimming coaches organization for four years.

A native of Dolton, Ill., Sammons swam at Chicago’s Lindblom High School as a senior. He still was good enough to earn a scholarship to DePaul University, then transferred after two seasons to the University of Illinois. He graduated from Champaign in 1955 with a degree in physical education and returned for a master’s in physical education in 1960, following a tour in the military. He worked as an assistant on the college swim team’s staff while working toward his master’s degree.

Sammons began his head coaching career at Thornridge High School in Dolton. His teams there won 11 straight South Suburban League titles, five district titles and placed in the top four of the state championships on four occasions, topping out at third in 1970.

Sammons was living in Arizona with his wife, Marilyn, at the time of his passing. No details on services were provided.

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