A college president who died while swimming off the South Carolina coast may have had an underlying medical problem that led to his death, police said Monday.

State University of New York at Albany President Kermit Hall, 61, and his wife were swimming at a beach resort and were about 100 yards offshore when Hall had some sort of trouble Sunday afternoon. Other beachgoers helped his wife pull him to the beach, and he was pronounced dead shortly afterward, police said.

"By reports, it wasn't over his head. You could stand on the bottom where he was," Capt. Robert Bromage of the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office said Monday.

Coroner Curt Copeland said he was "99 percent sure" there would be an autopsy.

Hall was named president of the university in 2004.

"Kermit Hall was a distinguished scholar and mentor to students and faculty alike who, as president for far too short a time, made enormous contributions to the academic advances of the University at Albany. The State University has lost a colleague of vision, integrity and dynamism," SUNY Chancellor John Ryan said in a statement.

Hall was born and raised in Akron, Ohio. The son of a tire maker and a bookkeeper, he was a first-generation college graduate.

Before his appointment, Hall was president and history professor at Utah State for four years. Before that, he was provost, vice chancellor and history professor at North Carolina State University for two years and was executive dean and a professor of history and law at Ohio State University from 1994-97.

He also had held academic and administrative jobs at the University of Tulsa, the University of Florida, Wayne State University and Vanderbilt University.