Sept. 23, 2010
KNOXVILLE, Tenn.--The man who revived Tennessee's swimming and diving program, Ray Bussard, passed away here 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 for 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."
In his time at the helm of the Tennessee swimming program, Ray Bussard led UT to new heights of the program's history with an overall coaching record of 252-20 (.926) in 21 seasons. His dual meet record of 178-20 (.899) included nine undefeated seasons.
Bussard guided the Tennessee program from its infancy in 1968 to an NCAA championship 10 years later. The title run of 1978 added luster to a sparkling eight-year span from 1972-1979, during which the Vols never finished out of the top four in the country.
Bussard came to the University of Tennessee in the winter of 1966, saw the construction of the UT Aquatic Center in 1967, and in 1968, put the Vols on the road that would establish them as a national power. After a 32nd-place finish in 1969, Bussard led teams that were perennial top-10 finishers at the NCAA championships from 1970-79. He coached the swim team at UT for 22 years, retired in 1989, the year the UT Student Aquatic Center indoor pool was named for him. His tenure was the longest for a head coach at UT without interrupted service until Lady Vols basketball coach Pat Summitt surpassed that achievement.
Even as he compiled an impressive win-loss record, Bussard also became known for the added tradition he brought to the sport of swimming. The Vols are noted around the nation for wearing coonskin caps before meets, emptying a bottle of their home water into an opponent's pool and featuring the Vol Timettes at all home meets. Such innovations gained Bussard the reputation of being an innovative promoter of swimming in his day and responsible for putting "show biz" into the sport.
Bussard's arrival in Knoxville represented the beginning of a new era in Tennessee athletics as the Volunteers had not competed in swimming at the NCAA level since 1959. Bussard, who had never coached the sport of swimming at a collegiate level, led an all-freshmen squad to a second-place finish in the Southeastern Conference. The following year, the Vols broke Florida's 13-year streak of SEC championships. Three years later in 1972, Bussard won another conference title and won the next six consecutively until 1979, when the streak was broken. Bussard added the only NCAA championship the Vols have won in 1978.
Bussard received National Coach of the Year honors in 1972 and 1978, as well as being named the SEC Coach of the Year in 1972, 1974, 1975, 1977 and 1978. He was an assistant coach at the USA-USSR Dual Meet in 1978 and served as Meet Coordinator for the 1982 USA-USSR Dual Meet held at UT. Bussard also participated in the 1979 Pan American Games as an assistant swimming coach. He also served as an assistant on the 1984 U.S. Olympic Swim Team.
Bussard has also been inducted into the Tennessee Swimming Hall of Fame, International Swimming Hall of Fame, Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame, Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame, Chattanooga Sports Hall of Fame, Virignia 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 Swim 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.
Bussard is survived by his wife, the former Ruth Cauley, and their three daughters, Terry Ann, Christy and Jacqueline.
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. Internment will be in Bath County, Va.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions be made to the Tennessee swimming and diving program. Contact the swimming and diving office at (865) 974-1258 for more information.