Notre Dame takes the starting blocks at 5 p.m. (ET) on Friday to start the 2008-09 season.

Fighting Irish Start Season Friday With Dennis Stark Relays

Oct. 2, 2008

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Just over seventh months removed from its latest BIG EAST Conference championship, the Notre Dame men’s swimming and diving team will begin its 2008-09 season Friday as the team plays host to the Dennis Stark Relays at the Rolfs Aquatic Center. The Irish, who have won three of the last four BIG EAST titles, return 26 monograms winners from last season including All-American diver Michael Bulfin and Canadian National Team member MacKenzie LeBlanc.

This is the 44th annual swimming of Notre Dame’s opening meet for the men who begin the 51st varsity season in program history. Previously known as the Notre Dame Relays, the event was renamed in 2004 to honor former Notre Dame head swimming coach Dennis Stark, who is a dedicated servant to the University and community.

“The program is proud to honor Dennis Stark each year with the opening meet named in his honor,” said Notre Dame head coach Tim Welsh. “This meet is a lot of fun for the men and our fans, and we hope to start the season off on a high note.”

Oakland, Marquette, Ball State and Cleveland State join the Irish in the water for the opening event.

The meet strays from the standard format and solely focuses on races of the relay variety. The 3-meter synchronized diving event will feature five dives per pair and the 1-meter diving relay will consist teams of two divers performing three dives each. Their scores will be combined. The 400 IM relay has four legs, with each swimmer completing a 100-yard IM. The 1,000 Free Relay will have two legs each spanning 500 yards. Following the meet’s customary procedure, schools will remain in the same lane for the duration of competition.

Beginning in 1964 and taking place in each of the subsequent 44 seasons since, Notre Dame’s swimmers and divers have christened each competitive season with the Notre Dame Relays, an event founded by former Irish head coach Dennis Stark. The creator of the relay meet in 1964, Stark has coached and officiated at every Notre Dame Relay meet since. He was the first coach of both the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams at Notre Dame and coached for 27 years before moving into an administrative position as director of the Rolfs Aquatic Center in 1985.

A 1947 graduate of Notre Dame, Stark was the head coach of the Irish men’s program from 1958-85 and ended his career with a record of 167-137, including an 11-1 mark in 1974-75. Stark, whose student-athletes included Notre Dame’s first-ever NCAA qualifiers and six All-Americans, also headed the women’s program from 1981-85, compiling a 31-14 dual-meet record during his tenure. He was the 1984 women’s coach of the year in the North Star Conference.

Stark remains heavily involved in the Special Olympics program in the Northern Indiana area. He was the aquatics venue manager for the 1987 International Summer Olympics held in South Bend and was even honored by Special Olympics advocate Eunice Kennedy Shriver for his outstanding work.

He has also been honored by the Notre Dame National Monogram Club, earned the Harvey G. Foster Award from the Notre Dame Alumni Association, and was recently presented the Russ Oliver Award honored his high ideals, dedication and service to youth athletics by the St. Joseph Valley Officials Association. The St. Joseph Valley Officials Association also awarded Stark with its Zebra Award in 2007.

A native of Detroit, Mich., Stark and his wife, Angelina, have five children, three of which are Notre Dame graduates.