dcounsilman.jpgJames E. “Doc” Counsilman, the Indiana University swim coach who led the team to six NCAA championships, died on Jan. 4. Cause of death was not released. He was 83.
Counsilman grew up in St. Louis and taught himself to swim in a local fish hatchery. While attending Ohio State, he swam for the Buckeyes and set world records in the 50-meter and 300-yard breaststroke events. His collegiate career was interrupted in 1943 when he was called to serve in the Army Air Corps.
During World War II, Counsilman flew B-24 bombers on 33 missions with the 15th Air Force. He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery when he managed to safely land his crippled plane in Yugoslavia, saving the lives of all 10 men on board.
Upon returning to the states, Counsilman earned a master’s degree from the University of Illinois and a doctorate in physiology from the University of Iowa. He became the assistant coach of the Indiana University men’s swim team in 1957, and was promoted to head coach a year later. Over the next 33 years, he guided the Hoosiers to 20 consecutive Big 10 titles and six straight national championships (1968 to 1974). He coached 48 Olympians, who went on to win 48 medals (17 gold, 18 silver and 13 bronze).
Counsilman published several books, including the 1968 text, “The Science of Swimming,” and was the subject of a documentary. But perhaps his greatest personal accomplishment was attained in 1979 when Counsilman became the oldest man to swim the English Channel. He was 58 at the time, and made the trip in 13 hours, 7 minutes.
Listen to Bob Costas Discuss Counsilman