More than eight decades ago, a group of students interested in forming a swim team at the University of Georgia approached C.W. Jones, the Physical Educations Director of the Athens YMCA.
At the time, the Georgia campus was without facilities, a team and a coach, but "Jonesy" answered the interest of these young swimmers and was appointed temporary coach and supervisor of the newly chartered team. Little could he have suspected that this appointment would lead to a head coaching commitment from 1926-1942, a 41-36 dual meet record and most importantly, a foundation for decades to come.
Daily life was greatly interrupted by World War II, and Jones' commitment to the Georgia swim team was no exception. From 1943-1946, Jones was needed on other fronts and thus turned over the helm to B.W. "Bump" Gabrielsen.
From 1948 to 1966, Gabrielsen raised the standard of Georgia swimming and diving to new heights as he piloted the Bulldogs to a dual meet record of 118-106-4 during that span of time. Gabrielsen's record book contains 70 individual SEC Champions (including relay teams), three conference team championship titles, one National Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Champion and one U.S. Olympic Team member.
During Gabrielsen's coaching career, Georgia was home of one of the finest swimmers in SEC history — sprint freestyler Reid Patterson, who swam for the Bulldogs from 1952 to 1954. Patterson claimed the NCAA title in the 100 freestyle during the 1953 championships and won eight SEC titles (seven individual and one relay) in his three seasons with the Bulldogs.
Patterson's career was highlighted during his senior season when he broke the American record in the 100 free with a mark of 51.0. As Georgia's first Olympian in swimming competition, Patterson was inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 1983.
Following Gabrielsen's retirement, Richard "Moose" Wammock coached the 1967 team, finishing second in the SEC and 31st in the NCAA. Alan Gentry, a Bulldog letterwinner in 1955, led the Bulldogs for a three-year stint (1968-70), producing one SEC champion and setting 15 school records in one season.
The women's swimming program was established in 1974, when, under similar circumstances to the men's beginnings, a group of women approached Martha Washington and then-Associate Athletic Director Liz Murphey. The women's team met with almost immediate success, qualifying one relay team and one individual (Veronica Stroup) for the AIAW National Championships during its first year. Stroup went on to win the Lady Bulldogs' first All-America honors, led by the coaching expertise of Washington. Washington stepped down as women's head coach in 1977 and was replaced by Joe McEvoy who held the position for two seasons.
Pete Scholle led the men's team from 1971-1982. His teams compiled a dual meet record of 97-53.
Jack Bauerle, a four-year letterwinner for the Bulldogs took over coaching duties for the women in 1979 and for the men in 1983. During the 1980s, Bauerle returned Georgia swimming into the national spotlight it had enjoyed in the 1950s. With such firm foundations, Georgia entered the 1990s, and both men's and women's teams greeted success in stride.
The men's team peaked in 1997 with a third-place finish at the NCAAs, while the women's program claimed national championships in 1999, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2013 and 2014. The Lady Bulldogs won five SEC titles from 1997-2001 and added conference crowns in 2006, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. The Lady Bulldogs became the first Georgia program in history to win three straight national crowns and the first women's team to capture five straight league titles. Last season, the Lady Bulldogs won the national title and the Bulldogs came in fifth.