Head swimming coach Don Gambril will be leaving Harvard in June for the University of Alabama, The Crimson has learned. The former assistant Olympic and Long Beach coach will sign a five-year contract in Tuscaloosa on Friday morning after just two years at Harvard.
The decision by Gambril, who had been highly successful in turning a slumping swimming program around and building Harvard into an Eastern power in his two seasons, was confirmed yesterday by Robert B. Watson, director of Athletics, and the official announcement will be made today by the two schools.
"I was surprised," Watson said. "He must have done a lot of soul-searching, but he wants to be the very top coach in the nation but he'll go further at Alabama toward that goal."
The offer from Alabama to build a national swimming power a la Southeastern Conference rival Tennessee, was one "I couldn't afford to turn down," Gambril said yesterday. "It was a tough decision, and it is a very sad situation to have to leave."
Gambril, who had in Watson's words a "great deal of say in developing a program here," will have even more control at Alabama. "They hired me to beat Tennessee," Gambril said, "and they want to win."
Unlike at Harvard, he will have athletic scholarships to attract top swimmers, far less stringent recruiting and admission standards, and $80,000 for Gambril to fly to any meet and bring in any prospective swimmers. "Their whole philosophy is different," Gambril said yesterday, "but while Harvard's was not necessarily mine I lived up to their policy and philosophy."
Gambril thus leaves a little less than two years since he was hired on May 8, 1971 following a controversial selection process. The reaction of the team and the other coaches was one of initial shock, when Gambril announced to a team meeting on Monday his decision. "I had mixed emotions about it," said diving coach John Walker. "I can't blame him although I wish he was staying," he said, with an attitude which best expressed the sentiments of those involved in Harvard swimming.
"There was nobody like him," said Dave Brumwell, one of the talented swimmers Gambril was able to attract to Harvard during his short tenure. "I'm really disappointed he's leaving, everybody is."
"It was a big loss for the team, and for Harvard," co-captain Phil Jonkheer said.