Passages: Frank Elm, Former US Olympic, Rutgers Coach Dies at 92

Frank-Elm-swimming-coach
Photo Courtesy: Swimming World Archives

Frank Elm, one of the top coaches in U.S. history has died. He was 92.

Born on Oct 30, 1929, Elm was the head coach for the 1980 U.S. Olympic team. He also was an assistant coach for the 1968 and 1976 Olympic Games.

Elm, who also coached the 1967 U.S. Pan American Games team, and two U.S. National Teams that toured Japan in 1975 and the Soviet Union in 1981, was elected to the American Swimming Coaches Association (ASCA) Hall of Fame in 2004.

Elm coached at Rutgers for 31 years and was elected to the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 1998. He developed the women’s program at the school and fought for facilities worthy of the talent and hard work he and his swimmers put in at Rutgers, where he developed 10 Olympic swimmers- two gold medal winners, several Pan Am Games swimmers, five of whom won gold medals. He also tutored several individual and national championship swimmers as well as national relay champions.

He oversaw the development of the women’s swimming and diving program at Rutgers, a team that went undefeated from 1973-75.

Near the end of his career, he was able to help oversee the construction of the Sonny Werblin Recreation Center, one of the finest swimming and diving facilities in America. Elm received the Master Coaches Award from the Swimming Coaches’ Association of America in 1973 and was bestowed with the honor of Loyal Son in 1992 by the Rutgers Alumni Association.

“It is so antiquated it’s disgusting,” Frank Elm told the New York Times about the old facility. “With only four lanes, it limits the size of our teams and our training. Other state schools like Tennessee, with its 32 available lanes, and Penn State, with 12 lanes, make the Rutgers facilities look sick.”

Rutgers has hosted a Frank Elm Invitational in his honor at the Sonny Werblin Recreation Center.

Elm came to Rutgers as a successful AAU Coach, New Jersey Interscholastic Champion, All-American from Indiana University and a swimmer-coach in the Marine Corps. His Rutgers team won 39 dual meets in a row, Summit Y Men’s team won 68 meets in a row, and the Summit Y Girls team won 70 meets in a row (never losing a dual meet). Another club Frank Elm coached in the 1950’s won 60 meets in a row and never lost while he was coaching. Frank Elm served on several National Committees and was selected as a Loyal Son of Rutgers in April of 1992.

Frank Elm led the Scarlet Knights at Rutgers from 1961 to 1972 stamped 11-straight winning seasons, with an overall 79-42 record. In 1965, the creation of the Eastern Seaboard Championships brought Rutgers University to a new level, with swimmers such as Bill Clark (’63), Larry Jones, John Wasylyk (’64), Don Galluzzi, Marty Flickenger (’65), and diver Roy Nicholas (’64 – Eastern Champion and NCAA top-eight finisher) as the top performers.

But one of his biggest pioneering roles came when women joined the college swimming ranks.

The 1970’s at Rutgers were best known for the inclusion of the women into the Rutgers program. Olympic swimmer Judy Mellick (’77) became the first female members of the Rutgers team and the first woman to compete with men. She was one of the pioneers as Rutgers transformed into a successful women’s athletic program. The Rutgers women’s swimming program blasted onto the scene under Frank Elm with three consecutive undefeated season (1975-77), with a fierce dominance at the Eastern Championships. The women’s team went on to be the only Eastern team to place in the top ten at the 1977 Nationals. Frank Elm coached 15 swimmers on to earn All-American recognition and many to be come stars of their era, including Mellick, Ellen Wallace, Debbie Franks, Maureen Mortell and Robin Locklair.  Wallace went on to represent the USA at the Pan-Am Championships. Frank Elm finished the women’s program in the 1970’s with a 70-20 record.

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Jim Smith
9 months ago

No mention of 1975 World Champion Kathy Heddy and 1976 Olympian? Frank coached her to national championship gold medals, American records, World Record in the 400 free relay…….

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Joan
9 months ago
Reply to  Jim Smith

and Kathy Heddy won gold against the East Germans in World Championships in 1975. Her and Shirley Babashoff were the only Americans able to do that!