Nov. 19, 2013
Purchase tickets | 2013 Hall of Fame Class
RALEIGH, N.C. - When Steven Gregg recalls his illustrious swimming career at NC State, the four-time All-American emphasizes how proud he is to have been a student-athlete in one of the golden eras of Wolfpack athletics.
Named to the 2013 NC State Athletic Hall of Fame class, Gregg points out what a great atmosphere surrounded the entire athletic community during his collegiate career.
"Just look at the success we had in those days," he remembers. "Coach (Norm) Sloan took the basketball team to the national championship. Coach Lou Holtz and the football team were going to bowls, and individual athletes were accomplishing great things."
Gregg achieved unprecedented success on the State swimming team - becoming the first Pack athlete to achieve All-America status four years in succession from 1974-77.
He was a national champion in the 200 Butterfly in 1976 and a six-time ACC champion during his four years in Raleigh - four times in the 200 butterfly (1974-77), as well as in the 100 butterfly (1975) and 500 freestyle (1974).
Gregg was one of the first NC State athletes to win an NCAA title and was a member of the 1976 United States Olympic team. A silver medalist in '76, he finished second in the 200 butterfly behind USA teammate Mike Bruner, as the U.S.A. captured all three medals.
State swimmers won 12 straight championships and Gregg's four-year streak was an integral part of that success.
As a team, State finished in the Top 10 twice during Gregg's tenure in Raleigh: seventh in 1974 and sixth in 1976.
"I was so impressed when I heard a year ago that the university had established the Athletic Hall of Fame. It made perfect sense that on that first ballot was David Thompson and the elite athletes and coaches in our storied history.
"I am humbled at being selected among so many worthy athletes. It means a lot to me."
According to Gregg, quite a bit of camaraderie existed in those days between the athletes and teams. "It was pretty remarkable," he notes, recalling that football and basketball players attended swimming events.
"There was a lot of training we had to go through. We worked an hour and a half in the mornings before classes and practiced from 3 until 6:30 p.m. in the afternoons. The Case Athletic Center dining room closed at seven so we had to wrap up practice at that time."
There wasn't a lot of free time afterwards because of academic studies. "Yet most of our athletes graduated on time with degrees," he says.
Gregg, who left Raleigh with a degree in zoology, pointed out the cooperation between academics and athletics.
"If we had to travel, the professors worked with us, but we still had to fulfill the course requirements. It felt like family with everyone working together."
To prove that point, Gregg remembers Chancellor John Caldwell sending word for him to report to his office after a road trip.
"I was kind of uneasy, wondering what he wanted to see me for. Dr. Caldwell was so friendly and personable. It felt so parental. He just wanted me to share with him how it went on the trip. That made quite an impression on me - a 17-year-old freshman.
Gregg started swimming at the age of five and joined the WAC (Wilmington Delaware Athletic Club) when he was eight. The coach was was Bob Mattson, a former All-America swimmer at State. Later while attending a private high school, he participated in swimming clubs and perfected the butterfly strokes.
He participated in national competition at age 15 in Houston. Future Olympian swimmer Mark Spitz was also involved in that event as well as the NC State freshman swimming class.
The ACC wasn't a strong swimming conference in those days and Coach Don Easterling scheduled tough non-conference competition to mature his swimmers.
"He wanted us to compete against the best," Gregg remembers.
That, of course, resulted in the string of Wolfpack swimming championships and prepared swimmers to compete at the national level.
When Gregg arrived in Raleigh he was called "a golf club with ears" because of his physical build of 6', 140 pounds. During his four years in Raleigh, he added 15 pounds - his weight when he placed second in the 1976 Olympic Games.
Gregg procured two additional degrees - a master's in exercise science from the University of Arizona and a doctorate in exercise science and bio-chemistry from The University of California at Berkley.
He worked for Quaker Oats -- marketing Gatorade in Europe and lived in Brussels, Belgium for six years before moving to Chicago.
Recently, he retired from marketing and advertising after heading Chicago's attempt to land the 2016 Olympics.
By George Cox