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Rice reintroduces diving team after more than 30 years


President Reggie DesRoches, far left, Athletic Director Tommy McClelland, second to left, and the swim team celebrate Tuesday morning’s news by hopping into Rice’s swimming pool.

Courtesy Rice Athletics

By Kathleen Ortiz     1/30/24 11:21pm

The temperature was hovering around the low 50s Tuesday morning when President Reggie DesRoches and Athletic Director Tommy McClelland jumped into Rice’s outdoor competition swimming pool alongside the entire swim team. McClelland and DesRoches, dressed in their Rice pullovers and khakis, hopped into the water to celebrate their announcement that the swim program would add a dive team in the coming season.

“I thought our coach was joking after the announcement when he said President DesRoches and Mr. McClelland should jump in with us,” junior Morgan Bartley said. “When they actually jumped in with us, I was so shocked. I have no idea if they knew they would be asked to do that but they’re great team sports for doing so, especially in a full outfit.”

The dive team announcement comes less than a year after the swim team outscored their opponents in the American Athletic Conference championship in swimming points but placed fourth overall when diving points were factored into the final score.  

“Year after year, our swimmers have produced championship-caliber results and countless event champions, but the lack of diving points has prevented them from standing at the top of the podium as a team,” McClelland said in a press release Jan. 30. “We are committed to winning our conference in every sport, and the return of the diving team is a vital step forward.”

Rice previously had a dive team from 1975 through 1991 before the team was discontinued “due to constraints related to changes in NCAA specifications for pool facilities.” Head coach Seth Huston said that they are starting the search for a dive coach and recruiting between two and three freshmen and transfer divers for the upcoming season. 

“Even having a couple of divers would help us alleviate this [point] gap and finally show just how great and competitive the Rice swimming — and now diving — program is,” Bartley said.

Excitement over the announcement began Monday, Jan. 29 when the Rice swimming Instagram account posted a graphic with Tuesday’s date and the words “COMING SOON.” The caption read, “Stay tuned.” The swimmers weren’t initially told what it meant, but a dive team was on their minds.

“Honestly, I guessed it was going to be diving related,” sophomore Mia Nagle said. “The athletic department has never baited us with a coming soon post before, so I knew it had to be something big. With where we want to be in the conference and what we lack [centering] around needing a diving program, I just had a funny feeling that’s what we were going to get, and I’m happy that we did.”

Despite the team pestering their coaches to give them the surprise early, they held off until Tuesday. As they were warming down before heading to lift weights, the team started to notice cameras, a drone and members of the Rice administration making their way into the pool area. 

“The team was ecstatic that we are not just getting a dive team, but we will have one next year,” Bartley said. “A few other teammates and I assumed the announcement would be about a dive team … [but] we thought (it) might be something that started after my grade, juniors, were long gone.”

The Rice Competition Pool already houses several one-meter and three-meter diving boards, but, according to Rice Athletics, the team will add a hot tub, video equipment and heat lamps for dive training specifically. The athletic department is also working on a 10-meter training and diving dry room with tumbling, dry board and trampoline equipment.

While Rice will go without a dive team to this year’s conference championship in Dallas on Feb. 22, it’ll be for the last time.

“I definitely want to sincerely thank President DesRoches and our vice president and director of athletics, Mr. McClelland,” Bartley said. “[I want to thank them] for seeing the potential in our program and giving us the ability to show not only what we are capable of, but also giving us a fighting chance at a conference title.”

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