The Rice women’s swimming team received some exciting news following its early morning practice Jan. 30 regarding the future of the program.
Rice University President Reginald DesRoches and Tommy McClelland, vice president and director of athletics, joined head swimming coach Seth Huston in announcing to the Owl swimmers that Rice will reinstate women’s diving as a varsity program for the 2024-25 season.
“We’re thrilled to announce that we’re adding diving in July,” DesRoches said. “One of the things I’ve talked about in regards to athletics is being excellent in everything that we do, and this will allow us to compete for conference and national championships.”
The Owls initially sponsored diving from 1975-91 at the NCAA Division I level before the sport was discontinued due to constraints related to changes in NCAA specifications for pool facilities.
The Rice swimming team has annually outscored its opponents in the swimming portion of the conference championship, including last season’s inaugural appearance at the American Athletic Conference meet.
“When we look at our swimming program, we see an excellent program competing at the highest levels in swim,” McClelland said. “But in some ways, there’s been a barrier towards championships because it didn’t have the full allotment of how the sport is counted.
“As we go into competition now, we’ll be able to have those diving points, which will give us the best opportunity to win championships for a program that is already a championship-caliber one.”
In the coming months, the team will look to hire an assistant coach, who will also serve as the head diving coach alongside Huston. The move will also allow the roster to grow, including about four to six additional student athletes.
“In this day and age, it’s very seldom you’re seeing schools adding programs, and it’s more often they’re taking programs away,” Huston said. “So just to add to the swimming team and make it the swimming and diving team, it’s a big deal.”
“We were making all the guesses yesterday as to what it could be, but when we heard the news, we were super excited about it,” freshman swimmer Catherine Eland said. “We were just screaming and jumping around.”
Following the announcement to the players, DesRoches and McClelland joined Huston and the team in a celebratory dive into the pool.
“When there’s a big championship moment, the tradition is for the team to jump in the pool after they’ve won it, and we think of this as celebrating a big moment or championship,” McClelland said. “I’m so grateful that we’ve got a wonderful president who’s willing to not only support our efforts, but to jump in with the student athletes and show that we’re all in on this effort.”