Pool perfect

The man known as ‘Coach’ receives college swimming’s highest honor

Donald R. Megerle, the legendary coach of the men’s swimming team for 33 seasons and a leader in the national collegiate swimming community, has received the College Swimming Coaches Association of America’s (CSCAA) highest honor, the National Collegiate and Scholastic Swimming Trophy.

Coach Don Megerle has traded life on the pool deck for life on the road as the director of the President’s Marathon Challenge at Tufts. © JOANIE TOBIN

Megerle, who coached the team from 1971 to 2004, received the trophy, the highest honor of its kind in the United States, on May 22, during the CSCAA national convention in Key Largo, Fla. He joins a roster of recipients that includes not only those coaches who were the most successful in the history of the sport, but who also were energetic contributors to the sport beyond their teams. The award, first presented in 1958, is voted on by the coaches.

At Tufts, Megerle was a seven-time New England or New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Coach of the Year. His teams compiled a dual meet record of 268-81, and 92 of his swimmers posted All-American performances at NCAA championship meets. He coached numerous NCAA and New England champions and had 16 Academic All-Americans.

‘Megerle Magic’
Beyond the success of his teams and individuals, Megerle fostered a unity in the Jumbo program that was even more significant than his swimmers’ achievements in the pool. Those who came to Tufts to swim for “Coach” entered into a lifetime relationship with their mentor. He celebrated their marriages and mourned their losses. In honor of his coaching techniques and team-building skills, Megerle was named Tufts’ first master coach on Homecoming Weekend in 1997.

As Hall of Fame coach Red Silva once said, “Don has great instincts and a wonderful human touch for his swimmers.”

“Nobody deserves this award more than Don does,” said Varney Hintlian, A72, chair of Tufts’ Board of Overseers for Athletics, who was a captain of Megerle’s first Tufts team in 1971-72. “It is an affirmation not only of his highly successful 33-year coaching career, but more importantly for the countless young people’s lives that he has touched and made better through his caring, wisdom and knowledge. In honoring Don with this award, his peers in the coaching world have recognized what many of us have known for years: There really is a “Megerle Magic,” and it works!”

His record of service to NCAA Swimming is remarkable. He was the meet coordinator for 32 Men’s Division I Championships, 28 Men’s Division III Championships and 22 Women’s Division III Championships. He held long tenures as the secretary-treasurer of the CSCAA (1982-98) and of the New England Swimming Coaches Association (1972-99). He was also a member of the NCAA Rules Committee from 1982-87.

“He is one of the good people on Planet Earth in my opinion,” said Tim Welsh, the head coach at Notre Dame, one of the many who voted for Megerle to receive the award. “Don’s tireless and energetic work as a meet manager for the NCAA Championships, his thoroughness, excitement and downright class in running the meets set the gold standard for all future meet managers to emulate. He did it with his characteristic laughter, fun and good humor. Being around Don at those meets was just plain fun.”

The National Collegiate and Scholastic Swimming Trophy is the most significant of many national awards that Megerle has received. The International Swimming Hall of Fame has twice recognized him for outstanding contributions, with the Paragon Award in 1999 and the Dick Steadman Award in 1991. The CSCAA presented him with the Master Coach Award in 1987 and with the Distinguished Coach Award in 1991. He has received Distinguished Service/Achievement awards from two universities, Tufts in 1996 and from Bethany College, his alma mater, in 2004.

Since stepping down as swimming coach in 2004, Megerle still mentors athletes at Tufts as director of the President’s Marathon Challenge, coordinating and mentoring more than 200 athletes who run the Boston Marathon each April to raise funds to support nutrition, medical and fitness research and education at Tufts.

“I was stunned by the news,” Megerle said. “This award is the payoff for coaching and working with so many fine young men and staff members over the years. I’m incredibly humbled and moved to be so honored.”

Paul Sweeney is Tufts’ sports information director. He can be reached at paul.sweeney@tufts.edu. This story ran in the June 2007 Tufts Journal.