Tennessee Legend Bussard Passes Away

A legend of collegiate swimming, Ray Bussard, passed away on Wednesday.  Known for his competitiveness, innovation and loud jackets, Bussard led the University of Tennessee to eight SEC titles and the 1978 NCAA Championship.  Along the way, Bussard compiled a .926 dual meet winning percentage (252-20) in the ultra-competitive SEC.  Eighty-five of those victories came consecutively and set a standard for years to come.

In addition to becoming the first coach in the SEC to win a NCAA team championship, Bussard was twice named NCAA Coach of the year, led the 1979 and 1983 Pan American teams, and assisted on the 1984 Olympic team.

Bussard was especially known for his expertise in sprinting and considered innovative in his focus on starts, turns, strength, and speed.  His swimmers set six world records, earned three Olympic gold medals, set 19 American records and won 44 NCAA titles.  


Lane 9  - Passages: Hall of Famer Ray Bussard, 83 -- September 23, 2010

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee, September 23. LEGENDARY Tennessee head coach Ray Bussard passed away last night surrounded by family at the Fort Sanders Hospital in Knoxville, Tenn. Bussard died at the age of 83 after battling illnesses, including diabetes and heart issues, that cost him his leg earlier this year and put him on a ventilator.

Bussard, known as an innovator, led the Tennessee men to an NCAA title in 1978 as well as Southeastern Conference titles in 1969 and from 1972-78 during the course of a 22-year career with the Volunteers. Bussard's innovations at Tennessee led to a distinct culture on Rocky Top during his time with the team. He created plenty of traditions, some of which have stood the test of time and remain to this day. He created the first usage of the coonskin hat by the Volunteers, made famous by Davy Crockett at the Alamo, with its introduction at a meet against SMU in Texas in 1971. Bussard also put a heavy emphasis on sprinting while at Tennessee, and introduced the concept he defined as "quickness control" that led to the "Tennessee Turn" and "Tennessee Start." Many of these principles are still seen throughout the sport today.

During his coaching career, Bussard led swimmers to six world records, three Olympic gold medals, 19 American records and 44 NCAA titles. He was named the National Coach of the Year in 1972 and 1978, and was named an assistant coach on four international trips (1978 USA-USSR Dual Meet, 1979 Pan American Games, 1984 Olympic Games, 1983 Pan Pacific Games). He was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1999, is a member of the University of Tennessee Hall of Fame and also created the Tennessee Swimming Hall of Fame.


Bussard also had success outside of the pool.  Prior to coaching swimming Bussard coached high school track, football, basketball and baseball and won five Virginia high school track championships.

He made his mark, however, at Tennessee.  Bussard was hired in 1966 to resurrect at UT team that had been mothballed in 1959.  He spent that first year recruiting ferociously and that first team of freshmen finished the 1968 season second behind Florida at the SEC Championships.  A year later the SEC title was theirs and so began a string of titles.

In addition to the wins and championships, Bussard established many traditions at UT including the donning of coonskin caps by the Volunteers and the tradition of pouring water from the UT Aquatic Center into opponents’ pools prior to meets.  When the Vols swam at home they also had the benefit of the Vol Timettes – attractive co-eds who served as timers.  

He was the SEC Coach-of-the-Year six times and received the CSCAA National Collegiate and Scholastic Swimming Trophy, the highest honor bestowed upon swimming coaches. Bussard is a member of both the University of Tennessee Hall of Fame and International Swimming Hall of Fame and helped establish the Tennessee Swimming Hall of Fame.   from