University of Toronto Varsity Blues swimming head coach Byron MacDonald won the Jean-Marie De Koninck coaching excellence award as announced on Monday night at the BLG / U SPORTS Honours Awards Gala in Vancouver.
The award is given to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to university sport as demonstrated by long-term commitment and leadership as a coach at the local, provincial, national and/or international levels. The award is named for the former swimming coach and long-time math professor at Université Laval, who also served as a swimming commentator for Radio Canada at several Olympic Games.
"I cannot think of a more deserving coach for this award," said Beth Ali, Executive Director of Athletics and Physical Activity at the University of Toronto. "Byron not only developed our program into one of the best in the country, he also continues to maintain its reputation year after year. He coaches student-athletes to their fullest potential in the pool, classroom and in the community."
A fitting winner of the award and its namesake, MacDonald has been the head coach of the Varsity Blues swimming program since 1978-79 and has no plans to let go anytime soon.
Claiming he plans to coach until at least 2024, MacDonald continues to build one of the most prolific legacies in university sport – one that has already made him one of the most successful coaches in the country.
Arguably, one of Canada's most decorated university coaches, MacDonald has earned multiple coach of year awards, both at the U SPORTS and OUA level, while coaching over 200 swimmers to all-Canadian status and over 70 swimmers to international teams. He has guided his teams to 58 conference championships (31 men and 27 women) and 24 national championship titles (15 women and nine men).
As an Olympic coach in 1992, he helped guide his swimmer to a bronze medal and most recently coached Blues standout Kylie Masse to an Olympic bronze medal at the 2016 Olympic Games, a gold medal and world record time at the 2017 FINA world championships and four medals at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. He has also served as the head coach of Team Canada's very successful FISU and Pan Pacific teams.
A former national team member himself, Byron was ranked top 10 in the world for five years in the 1970s and won several medals, including two golds at the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh and placed sixth at the 1972 Olympic Games in the 100m butterfly.
Byron is a two-time Gemini Award winner for his CBC swimming coverage at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, and most recently covered the Rio 2016 Games.