A true legend in the world of collegiate and international competitive diving, Hobie Billingsley, died Saturday morning at the age of 94, according to Indiana University (IU) sports website The Daily Hoosier.
As the Indianapolis Star reported, Billingsley served as the diving coach at IU between the years of 1959 and 1989, during which time his charges notched an astounding six NCAA titles and 23 Big Ten team titles.
Individual divers who were privileged to learn under Billingsley’s tutelage earned a combined 115 national titles and six Olympic medals, as the IU legend also helmed the American delegation to the international games in 1968, 1972, 1976, and 1980.
Born in Erie, Pennsylvania, Billingsley was a distinguished collegiate diver in his own right, securing All-American honors while a student at Ohio State University in 1945 and again from 1948-50 and winning NCAA titles in 1- and 3-meter springboard competitions.
Following his freshman year in Columbus, Billingsley enlisted in the Armed Forces and spent time serving in Japan during the Second World War, returning to Ohio State after the conflict concluded.
The coach’s achievements both at Indiana University as well as at the Olympic level earned him the admiration of many as well as induction into the International Swimming Hall of Fame, the Indiana University Athletics Hall of Fame, not to mention the Sammy Lee Award, known as the most prestigious honor conferred in the diving world.
Another testament to Billingsley’s accomplishments is the fact that the university at which he served so many years named its aquatics center after him and his longtime colleague and friend, swim coach Doc Counsilman, who was largely responsible for recruiting him to come to Bloomington in the first place.
After retiring from active coaching, Billingsley stayed in the sport via teaching as well as judging, ultimately explaining the philosophy behind his and his divers’ success, noting sagely, “We weren’t coaching them. We were teaching them how to live, how to be a better person, how to learn to compete, how to win well, how to lose well. If you want it, work for it, pay the price.”
In 2017, a very well-attended 90th birthday gathering was held for Billingsley, and during the event he humbly declared, “I don’t have a lot of money, but I consider myself to be one of the richest men I know because of the friends I have,” and that is indeed a testament to a life well-lived.