Frank Comfort ’69 (MAT), UNC’s head swimming coach since 1977 and one of the most successful coaches in collegiate swimming history, will retire after the 2006-07 season. That will mark Comfort’s 30th year as the head coach at UNC and his 40th year overall as a college coach. Comfort has won more dual meets than any coach in the history of collegiate swimming.
The athletics department is beginning a search for Comfort’s successor with the hopes the person can join the Tar Heel staff in time for the 2006-07 season and work with Comfort during his final season.
“I am proud of the success we’ve had here with teams competing well in all aspects of the college experience, including winning championships while also having student-athletes excel in the classroom,” Comfort said. “I look forward to the possibility of working with our new head coach next year.
“I’m especially thrilled with the work that has been done to completely endow the scholarship program for swimming and diving at UNC,” he added. “When I look back on my coaching career, I will always think, ‘How many people get to do what they love for 40 years?’ I’ve had that chance.”
In 2004-05, Comfort passed legendary Yale coach Bob Kipputh to become the winningest coach in dual meet competition. Comfort enters his final season with 565 dual meet wins 303 on the men’s side and 262 on the women’s side.
Comfort has won more Atlantic Coast Conference championships than any coach in league history. He has led Tar Heel teams to 25 ACC championships, including 10 men’s and 15 women’s crowns. While at Johns Hopkins, his men won eight Middle Atlantic Conference titles and the women captured two championships. Altogether, he has coached teams to 35 league titles.
Comfort’s men’s teams at UNC are 221-87-1 overall and 125-31-1 in ACC dual meets. Twenty-eight of his 29 men’s teams have finished in the top three at the ACC championship meet. The men have finished 13 times in the NCAA Top 25.
The Tar Heel women are 250-51-1overall, a winning percentage of .829, and 126-19 in ACC dual meets, a winning percentage of .869. The women have finished in the national Top 25 on 25 occasions, including nine seasons in the Top 10.
The 1981 and 1982 women’s squads finished third nationally and two other squads finished fifth.
Comfort has tutored NCAA, AIAW or U.S. Swimming national champions including Jessi Perruquet ’04, Sue Walsh ’84, Barb Harris ’82, Cami Berizzi ’84, Amy Pless ’84, Bonny Brown ’80, Ann Marshall ’79, Sarah Perroni ’93, Kari Haag ’96, Richelle Fox ’99, Bryan Stuck ’03, Trevor Runberg ’98 and Molly Freedman ’04 as well as U.S. women’s Olympians Walsh, Marshall, Wendy Weinberg ’80 and Janis Hape ’80. He coached Walsh to 11 individual national collegiate championships from 1981-84. Harris and Perruquet were other individual NCAA champions coached by Comfort. His 1981 women’s 200-yard medley relay team also won the national championship.
His top men’s swimmers included four-time first-team All-America Eric Ericson ’85, Olympians Chris Stevenson ’86, David Monasterio ’93 and Yann deFabrique ’97 and John Davis ’92, whose 11 individual men’s ACC championships are the most of any swimmer in conference history.
Three of Comfort’s swimmers have won the Patterson Medal as the top senior student-athlete at UNC Bonny Brown in 1980, Sue Walsh in 1984 and Katie Hathaway ’02 in 2002.
In 2002, 33 Tar Heel swimmers, 28 of whom were coached by Comfort, were named to the ACC’s 50th anniversary team, the largest contingent of any school.
Comfort began his coaching career at UNC in 1966-67 as the freshman swimming coach. Comfort was the head coach at Johns Hopkins from 1968-77. In nine seasons there, the Blue Jays’ men’s squad went 82-26. Comfort led the Blue Jays to the men’s NCAA Division III title in 1977 after second-place finishes in 1975 and 1976. Comfort’s swimmers at Hopkins won 12 NCAA individual titles and one NCAA relay team title. He was inducted into the Johns Hopkins University Athletic Hall of Fame in 1997.
Comfort is a 1967 alumnus of Syracuse University, where he was a three-time swimming letterman for the Orangemen. He earned his master’s in physical education from Carolina in 1969.