AU Swimming National Champions The Auburn University (AU) Swimming and Diving program competes in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The program has enjoyed considerable success, including 13 NCAA Championships and 23 SEC Championships, and has had more than 2,200 athletes designated as “All-Americans,” players selected by the national media as being the best in their sport for a given season. The AU Tigers’ 13 combined men’s and women’s NCAA Championships are third only to the University of Texas and Stanford University, which have won 17 and 16, respectively. The Auburn men’s team has won eight NCAA titles (1997, 1999, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2009) and the women’s team has won the NCAA title five times (2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, and 2007). The men have earned 18 SEC titles (including 16 consecutively from 1997 to 2012), and the women’s team has earned five. The team has won more than 85 NCAA individual or relay championships and eight NCAA diving titles. Eight AU swimmers have won medals in the Summer Olympic Games.
James E. Martin Aquatics Center Auburn’s Swimming and Diving program was established in 1932, with swimmers practicing in a pool in the basement of an on-campus gymnasium. The pool was so small that the team was unable to host other schools at events. Swimmers had to be timed and their results telegraphed to other schools to be compared to determine a winner. An expansion of the facilities allowed for competitions to be held beginning in 1936. Auburn first made it to the SEC Championships in 1940, and the Tigers placed fifth. All intercollegiate sports were suspended during World War II, and the AU program resumed in 1947.
The program made great strides in the 1970s, with the Tigers finishing 3rd in the SEC and 17th in the NCAA rankings for the 1973-1974 season. The 1977-1978 season saw the team place 2nd in the NCAA and earn its first individual NCAA champion with Scott Spann Sr.’s victory in the 200-yard individual medley and the 100-yard breaststroke.
Rowdy Gaines Sets World Record In 1990, Auburn hired as head coach David Marsh, who graduated from Auburn in 1985 and stayed on briefly as an assistant coach. After coaching stints in Atlanta, Georgia, and Las Vegas, Nevada, he returned and elevated the program to national prominence. Diver Marina Smith won the NCAA title in the one-meter competition in 1993. The men’s swimming team captured its first SEC title in 1994, and that same year, at the NCAA championships, the Auburn women won the 200-yard medley relay, breaking the monopoly held on NCAA relays by Texas, Stanford, and the University of Florida. The men’s team became the first swim team in Auburn history to win a national title when it took home the 1997 NCAA Championship. The women’s team won its first NCAA title in 2002. Both the men’s and women’s team won the SEC title in 2003, the first time both conference championships were held by the same school. The men’s and women’s team swept the NCAA title later that year, marking the first time one individual has coached the men’s and women’s teams to a championship. Diver Caesar Garcia won the platform event in 2003 and 2004. After capturing the 2005 NCAA title, the Auburn’s men’s team was the first swimming and diving team to be honored at the White House. Diver Steve Segerlin won the platform event in 2006 and 2007 and the 3-meter event in 2007.
Marsh stepped down in 2007, following his fourth men’s and women’s sweep of the NCAA title, and remains the most successful coach in Auburn history. Marsh was replaced by Richard Quick, who had previously coached the women’s teams at Stanford and Texas. Quick led the Tigers to the 2009 men’s NCAA title. Following a diagnosis of an inoperable brain tumor, Quick resigned; he died later that year. Quick was succeeded by former Auburn swimmer Brett Hawke. Hawke led the men’s team to victory in the 2011 SEC Championships.
The Auburn Swimming and Diving Program also has been well represented in international competition, including the Olympic Games, the Pan-Pacific Games, the Goodwill Games, the International Swimming Federation (FINA) World Championships, and the World University Games. Numerous Auburn swimmers have competed in the Olympic Games and 14 have won 32 medals. In addition to representing the United States, Auburn athletes have competed for home countries that include Australia, the Bahamas, Brazil, Canada, France, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela. At the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, a university-record 16 Auburn athletes competed, winning 13 medals, a standing record for a single university in swimming.
Kirsty Coventry Kirsty Coventry of Harare, Zimbabwe, is the most decorated Auburn Olympian. She won seven Olympic medals (two gold, four silver, and one bronze) in the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games combined. Coventry won four individual NCAA titles during her time at Auburn and helped lead the Tigers to NCAA Championships in 2003 and 2004. Rowdy Gaines of Florida was a five-time individual NCAA champion who set ten world records between 1978 and 1981. Gaines went on to win three Olympic gold medals in 1984, becoming a member of the International Swimming Hall of Fame and the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame. Other notable team members include Margaret Hoelzer of Huntsville, Madison County, who won two silver and one bronze medal, and César Cielo of Brazil, who has won one gold and two bronze medals. Cielo has the distinction of winning 10 total NCAA titles (individual and medley), the most of any Auburn swimmer, and is considered Brazil’s most successful swimmer. Zach Apple was a member of two relay teams in the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo that won gold.
Zach Apple The Auburn swimming and diving team trains and competes in the James E. Martin Aquatic Center on the AU campus in Auburn, Lee County. Open since 1993 and named for a former Auburn University president, the $10.5 million facility has hosted NCAA Championships (1998, 2003, 2012), SEC Championships (1994, 2000, 2003, 2009) and the U.S. Open (1995, 2000, 2005). It features a full-size 50-meter competition pool, a competition diving well, a sports medicine facility, a strength training center, and a high-tech team room. There is seating for up to 1,000 spectators, with another deck area able to accommodate 800 additional competitors during meets. There is also an instructional pool that was built in 1969 and an outdoor pool adjacent to the center that was added in 2007.
Auburn University. Auburn Swimming and Diving. Auburn, Ala.: Auburn Athletic Department, Auburn University, 1988.