Cancer Claims The Life of Matador Legend Pete Accardy
By Bob Vazquez, Assistant Athletic Director (Media Relations)
Northridge, Calif. – No one would ever
argue who is the greatest head coach in the 55-year history of
Matador Athletics … Pete Accardy.
During his illustrious 24-year career as head coach of the Cal State Northridge men’s swim team, and 15 seasons as head coach of the CSUN women’s swim team, Accardy coached the Matadors to a record 13 NCAA team titles, which is still a collegiate record. Nine national titles (1975, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985) were recorded by the CSUN men’s swim team. Another four NCAA crowns (1982, 1987, 1988, 1989) were won on the women’s side. The Matador men’s and women’s swim teams also gained runner-up honors eight times.
Accardy became the first coach in NCAA history to win national championships in the same season in two sports in 1982.
Accardy, who was 72-years-old, passed away on July 13 from cancer in Del Mar, Ca.
Accardy’s survivors include his wife (Barbara), son (Lee Michael Accardy), his daughter-in-law (Leslie Accardy), and two grandsons (Matthew and Kyle).
Services are pending. Pete Accardy will be buried next to his mother (Ruth Foster Accardy) at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Los Angeles.
Condolences can be sent to …
C/O Lee & Leslie Accardy
1315 Shimmering Glen Ave.
Henderson, NV 89014
Accardy coached more than 300 NCAA Division II All-Americans at Cal State Northridge and compiled unmatchable dual meet records of 286-62 on the men’s side and 139-28 on the women’s side. Accardy’s men’s teams captured every conference title in the 1970’s. The Matador women’s teams claimed each conference championship between 1986 and 1991.
The long list of All-Americans included Jeff Kubiak, a member of the CSUN Hall of Fame, the 1985 and 1986 NCAA Division II Swimmer of the Year and a former member of the United States National Team.
With deep admiration, Kubiak once said of Accardy … “Coach (Accardy) was always upbeat, and as a swimmer I always knew that he cared about all of his athletes. It was an honor to train and compete for him. He loved swimming, and everything he did grew from that love for the sport. I am truly thankful to the (Northridge) program and Pete Accardy. Coach helped me become a world-class swimmer and helped me pursue my career. I am forever indebted.”
Michelle Lee Hampton is one of the great female swimmers in Matador history. A 14-time All-American, she set four NCAA records when CSUN won the NCAA title in 1982, and later qualified for the United States Olympic Trials in 1980 and 1984. Her memories of Pete Accardy will never fade. She once said … “I had no college plans until Northridge and coach Pete Accardy made me an offer. It turned out to be the best thing that could have ever happened. We had great success as a team at Northridge and they had a great TV and Communications Department which was going to be my major and my career path.”
Bob Hiegert served as CSUN’s Athletic Director (1977-95) and head baseball coach of the Matadors from 1967-84. Hiegert and Accardy went to school together and were in the same fraternity. Even after all these years, Hirgert and Accardy remained close friends.
“Pete Accardy was a great friend and a great person to have on the athletic department staff,” remembers Hiegert. “You could always count on Pete. The student-athletes on the men’s and women’s swim teams loved Pete. Not only did Pete develop their talents as individuals, Pete developed strong team concepts. Traditionally, the team peaked at the end of the season in time for the NCAA’s. When people talked about the success of John Wooden as a basketball coach and Al Scates as a volleyball coach at UCLA, Pete Accardy’s name also was mentioned because of his success as a swim coach.”
Accardy’s coaching success earned him countless coaching awards including the NCAA Division II Swimming and Diving Coach of the Decade (the 1980’s). Accardy was also named NCAA Division II Coach of the Year eight times (five times for men, three times for women).
Joel Barr served as an assistant for 23 of Accardy’s 24
seasons while Joe Weiss served as an assistant coach for 14
“Pete was my mentor and good friend,” said Barr. “We have a special bond more than 40 years. Pete was a unique man. He never used the words 'I' or 'me' when describing his achievements as a coach. It was always 'WE'... what we did! He took great pride in, and had an amazing passion for coaching. He had an incredible ability to see talent in swimmers that other coaches did not recognize. He knew how to get swimmers to reach their peak performance and fully utilize their abilities. He was also a person who gave all swimmers a chance to improve and succeed. Pete exhibited the compassion and willingness to work with swimmers that did not appear as talented or gifted as others. He always took the time to speak with other coaches who wanted to talk or who sought out his opinion. He was highly respected by everyone in the Swimming Community. I learned a great deal from Pete, and cherish the time that I was able to spend with him. It was a privilege to have worked with "His Lordship" (The name that everyone fondly called him) and the countless swimmers at CSUN. My career as a Teacher, Counselor, and Coach was based the time I spent together with Pete. People have remarked that Pete was like Dick Clark-the man never aged or changed. He will be missed dearly.”
Accardy, who was inducted into CSUN’s Hall of Fame in 1994, graduated from Cal State Northridge with a BA degree in Physical Education. While at CSUN, Accardy was honored as the team MVP for swimming in 1958. Accardy was also a member of CSUN’s first basketball team during the 1958-59 campaign.
Accardy also earned a Masters degree in Education from Cal Lutheran University. Accardy also graduated from Reseda High School in 1958 where he competed in swimming and basketball.
When Accardy retired from his coaching duties at Cal State Northridge in 1993, he was the second winningest swim coach in all NCAA divisions (I, II, III) and the fifth winningest coach in NCAA history for all sports in any of the three NCAA divisions (I, II, III).
On the day Accardy retired in 1993, the distinguished coach simply said, “My goal when I came here was to establish a quality program which was nationally recognized. And I think we did that.”
Matador Memo …
One of Pete Accardy’s hobbies included owning thoroughbred race horses … After retiring from coaching at Cal State Northridge, Accardy and his wife (Barbara) moved from their home in West Hills to Del Mar … Joel Barr served as an assistant for 23 of Accardy’s 24 seasons while Joe Weiss served as an assistant coach for 14 years … Accardy was born in Cincinnati, Ohio.