Hobie Billingsley, Coach of a Diving Dynasty, Dies at 95

He made ends meet by doing a comedy diving and a trampoline show with Bruce Harlan, an Olympic diving champion, until Harlan’s death in 1959. (Harlan was taking part in a diving exhibition in Fairfield, Conn., and while helping to dismantle the diving tower fell 27 feet to his death.) Billingsley then teamed up with Dick Kimball, another coach, and for 15 summers they toured the United States, Canada and the Far East, with a side trip to Bermuda.

Harlan had become the first full-time diving coach in the American college ranks when Michigan hired him in 1957; a month later, Billingsley became the second when Ohio University, in Athens, hired him. He moved to Indiana after two years at Ohio.

Billingsley coached five Olympic teams — the United States women in 1968, the U.S. men in 1972, Austria in 1976 and Austria and Denmark in 1980. After the 1972 Olympics, when the American men lost the three-meter springboard title for the first time since 1912, he was so distraught that he wandered around Europe alone for almost a month and decided to quit coaching before changing his mind and returning home.

Billingsley was voted the American diving coach of the year seven consecutive years, (1964-70), and elected to the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in 1983. He served as an Olympic diving judge in 1992. He was the subject of a 1980 documentary film, “Hobie’s Heroes.”

After retiring as a coach, he remained at Indiana as a teacher, recruiter and fund-raiser. He ran a summer diving camp and coached coaches in the United States and abroad.

Billingsley’s marriage in 1952 to Mary Drake, with whom he had three children, ended in divorce in 1975. In addition to his daughter Elizabeth, he is survived by a son, James; another daughter, Nancy Farmer; eight grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.

Frank Litsky, a longtime Times sportswriter, died in 2018. Danielle Cruz contributed reporting.