William (Bill) Spahn distinguished himself as one of the nation’s top swimming coaches while coaching UNM swimming program for 24 years. Spahn spent four years at Kansas before taking over at UNM in 1981.One of his biggest accomplishments was coaching the Lobos to a first ever Western Athletic Conference Championship in 1986.
UNM disbanded the women’s program in 1987-88 because of budget cuts in the athletic department. Spahn still let his girls on scholarship compete that season. UNM revived the program for the ’91-92 season. Meanwhile, Spahn coached the men’s team to runner-up WAC finishes in ’90 and ’93. Then, the men’s team lost all scholarships in 1996-97. Spahn kept the program alive for three more seasons, with the help of other in-state scholarship support, but it finally shut down before UNM joined the MWC in 1999.
His ability to consistently produce teams that were able to compete for a championship resulted in four WAC Coach-of-the-Year honors for Spahn. Under Spahn, UNM’s had 55 conference champions and 13 All-Americans during his tenure. He reflects fondly about former walk-on turned All-American Teri Sexton in 1988 and All-American Duncan Cruickshank (all four of his years, 1984-87), among the Lobos’ best swimmers. He had the pleasure of coaching Tom Jager, who at the time was the world champion in the 50 free and 400 free relay, the world-record holder in the 50 free, and a gold and bronze medalist at the 1992 Olympics.
Known to his swimmers simply as “Bill,” Spahn has a knack of transcending the coach-student athlete dynamic. He and his wife, Leslie, moved to Fort Collins, Colo., where he coaches the FAST. a youth swim club program.