Passages: Houston’s Phill Hansel, 85

HOUSTON, Texas, August 8. FORMER University of Houston head coach Phill Hansel – The Father of Cougar Swimming and Diving- died Friday afternoon. He was 85 years old.

Long touted as the most influential man in Cougar swimming and diving, Hansel served as the head of the program from 1957-1996. During that span he guided the Cougars to more than 70 dual meet wins and ten Top-20 finishes at the AIAW and NCAA Championships.

A 1949 graduate and swimmer of Purdue University, Hansel began his coaching career at Multnomah Athletic Club in Portland, Ore., following graduation.

He would then move to Houston and was given the task of assembling the University's first team. The following year, with a wealth of recruits, Hansel was told the program would be dropped because a lack of funding, but that did not hamper the coach. Hansel would go on and coach the University of Houston swim club, and in 1959, they finished second at the AAU National Championships.

Under Hansel's guidance in 1959 was 18-time national champion Carin Cone. She would go on to become the first UH athlete to appear on Sports Illustrated on April 18, 1960.

In 1971, Houston reinstated the swimming program, and Hansel led the Cougars' men's team. The women's program would begin its first season in 1975.

Under his guidance, the Cougars recorded ten-consecutive Top 20 finishes from 1976-1981. He also coached Diane Johannigman (1978-81), Beverly Rose (1983-86), Anne Jardin (1977-81), Nicola Fibbens (1983-86), Ingrid Lawrence (1981-84), Cory Schia (1977-80), Katy Archer (1982-84) and Olivia Clark (1982-84) to a combined 120 All-America honors.

Hansel was also a three-time recipient of the Southwest Conference Swimming and Diving Coach of the Year award. He closed out his career at UH in 1996 with more than 39 years of experience and was recognized as one of the most successful collegiate swim coaches in the nation.

In 1986, he also became a columnist for Swimming World Magazine and was on the staff of the first annual US Pan-Pacific team. Hansel also managed the US Swimming Team in 1992 that won 27 medals, 11 of which were gold in the Barcelona Olympic Games. He also coached the Singapore Olympic Team in 1984 and was an assistant in 1988.

In addition to his coaching duties, Hansel served on the US Olympic Swimming Committee in 1992.

Hansel also coached the Shamrock Hilton Club from 1958-68 and the Houston Swim club.

Hansel was inducted into the Hall of Honor on Nov. 14, 2008.

Funeral arrangements have not been announced at this time. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to
the UH Phill Hansel Swimming Excellence Fund (c/o Katina Jackson, 3100 Cullen Blvd., Houston, 77204-6002).

Special thanks to the University of Houston for contributing this report.