Western Kentucky Swimming coach Bill Powell, in his 36 seasons at WKU, has totaled 330 men’s dual meet victories, making the personable Hilltopper mentor, the second winningest coach on the NCAA’s all-time list for Division I Coaches.
Powell came to Western in 1969 and founded the WKU swim program. In 36 seasons, his Hilltoppers have had just one losing record (3-4 in that first year, including a one-point road loss). Since then, he has notched 35 straight winning seasons, seven undefeated marks and seven one-loss records.
Lady Topper swimming, in its eighth year, has enjoyed similar success. After a 5-7-1 record in its first season (1997-98), the Western women have run off seven straight winning years (two undefeated and four one loss marks), while capturing the past five Sun Belt Conference titles. Since that debut season, the Lady Topper have won 96 of 111 meets (.855).
On Dec. 6, 2003, Powell, a 10-time winner of the coach of the year award, became the second winningest coach in NCAA Division I men’s swimming history with the Toppers’ 130-85 home win over Evansville. He is one of just three coaches in NCAA history to own 300 career victories in men’s dual meets.
His Hilltoppers have compiled a 330-74 record and .820 success percentage in his 36 years at the men’s helm. Eight of his men’s teams have gone undefeated, including back-to-back perfect marks in 1998-99 (15-0) and 1999-2000 (12-0).
Powell has coached eight WKU swimmers who have qualified for the NCAA Championships, including former 50-meter freestyle (short course) American and world record holder Steve Crocker, and his own son, Dan Powell.
His teams dominated the Midwest Intercollegiate Championships from the late 1970s to the mid 1980s, winning eight of the 10 meets, including seven straight (1979-85). WKU then moved to the very competitive Eastern Intercollegiate Championships, where it took seconds in both 1994 and 1995.
A native of Wyandotte, Michigan, Powell was a high school swimming coach in his home state for 10 years prior to coming to Western. In nine seasons at St. Joseph High School, his teams 78-34, including a second-place finish in the 1968 state meet. He also coached at Lakeview High School in Battle Creek.
Powell earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Western Michigan, where he won three letters as a backstroker (1957-59).
Coach Powell retired from the Head Coach position at WKU in the spring of 2005. He didn’t fully retire instead taking a position as the assistant coach and allowing his previous assistant Bruce Marchionda to take over as the head coach. He and his wife, Joanne (Joey), have four grown children: Mary Beth, Anne, Dan and Katie; and eight grandchildren; Pete, Mike, Will, Ike, Jake, Margaret, Dan, Isabelle, Edie, and Audrey.