Legendary UT swim coach dies

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (SUBMITTED) -- The man who revived Tennessee’s swimming and diving program, Ray Bussard, passed away Wednesday evening at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center. He was 82.

“This is a big loss for the Tennessee swimming and diving program, he was one of the best all-time,” head coach John Trembley, who swam for Bussard, said. “Ray will forever be remembered as an icon in the swimming world. He was creative, hard-working, persistent and an innovator in our sport.

“He gave our program many of the traditions we still have today. He will always be respected by those who competed against him, appreciated by those who competed for him and missed by us all.”

Following an eight-year period during which UT did not sponsor a varsity swimming and diving team, Bussard restarted the program in 1967 and led the Volunteers to eight SEC team championships and the program’s lone NCAA title in 1978. During his 22-year tenure on The Hill, Bussard produced two Olympic gold medalists, 20 NCAA individual champions, 98 SEC individual champions and prodigious All-Americas.

With more than 250 career wins, Bussard is credited with establishing the Tennessee aquatics program as a power both in the formidable SEC and on a national level.

Bussard also served as an assistant on the 1984 U.S. Olympic Swim Team. He has been inducted into the Tennessee Swimming Hall of Fame, Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame, Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame, Chattanooga Sports Hall of Fame, Virginia Sports Hall of Fame and received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Bridgewater College. In 1984 he received the National Collegiate and Scholastic Swimming Trophy from the College Swimming Coaches Association.

A native of Hot Springs, Va., Bussard graduated from Bridgewater College, where he was National AAU All-Around champion in track and field, an All-State football player and an all-tournament selection in basketball.

The family will receive friends at Mann Heritage Chapel, located at 6200 Kingston Pike, Sunday from 2-4 p.m. Funeral services are set for Monday at 11 a.m. at St. John Neumann Catholic Church, located at 645 St. John Court in Farragut. Interment will be in Bath County, Va.

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