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SMU to break ground on new aquatics center for Men's and Women's Swimming and Diving teams

February 26, 2016

DALLAS (SMU) – Building on a legacy of proud Olympians, world records and 155 national titles, SMU broke ground on a new Aquatics Center on Friday, Feb. 26.

The 42,000 square foot center will be home to SMU’s internationally recognized men's and women's swimming and diving teams. Located at 5550 SMU Blvd. on the University's growing east campus, the center will provide facilities for practice, competition and community use.

"SMU swimmers and divers have a legendary record of success, both in the pool and in the classroom," said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. "The facilities at the Aquatics Center will help student-athletes continue the Mustang swimming legacy, and enable fans to enjoy the highest levels of competition at a premier venue. Today's groundbreaking demonstrates SMU's commitment to supporting students in their quests for excellence."

The Aquatics Center will feature an Olympic-sized, eight-lane indoor pool with a platform diving well, including four springboards and a 10-meter tower for training and competition. Coaches' offices, men's, women's and visitor locker rooms and a classroom and meeting area will be located adjacent to the pool. Spectator seating for 800 will be on the mezzanine level.

The center also will be available for community use and swimming lessons.

Lead donors to the SMU Aquatics Center include Shelli and Steve Lindley '74 and the Willard M. and Ruth Mayer Johnson Charitable Foundation, the J.E. and L.E. Mabee Foundation, Emily and Bruce Robson '74, Hannah and Joe Robson '76, and Susan Cooper Wilson '67 and Robert A. Wilson '67.

Major donors include Michele Stackhouse Berube ’97 and Ryan T. Berube ’97; Frank M. Dunlevy ’71 and Susan Dunlevy; Maureen G. Frieze ’84 and J. Ed Frieze ’81; John M. Haley ’64 and Margie Jackson Haley ’67, ’68; Cindy L. Hawkins and Pat C. Hawkins ’70, ’71, ’72; Anna Marie Krizman Hurwitz and Joseph M. Hurwitz ’75; Dane K. Johnson, D.O., FACOS ’75; Mr. and Mrs. T. Gregory Kraus ’80; Greg M. Swalwell '79 and Terry G. Connor; John T. Unger ’73, ’74 and Kathy J. Welch ’74; and Terry Warner ’74.

SMU Aquatics Center Groundbreaking"These generous donors are ensuring a strong future for SMU swimming and diving," said Brad Cheves, SMU vice president for Development and External Affairs. "We are grateful for their support and commitment to future student-athletes."

A permanent exhibit in the Aquatics Center will honor former swimmers, divers and coaches who have built the strong reputation of SMU's program. When the former Southwest Conference declared swimming a major sport in 1932, SMU fielded its first men's team. After a brief tenure in the early 1920s, women's swimming returned to the Hilltop in 1974. Since then men's and women's teams have garnered 57 conference championships and qualified for 91 appearances at the NCAA National Championships. SMU athletes have earned 155 national titles and 1,465 All-America honors, with six Mustangs recognized as NCAA Swimmer of the Year or Diver of the Year.

Since 1952 SMU men's and women's swimmers have qualified for 91 Olympic appearances, winning eight gold medals, eight silver and four bronze. Current SMU women's coach Steve Collins has led the national teams of Slovakia and Bulgaria and men's coach Eddie Sinnott served as the head coach for Haiti in 1996 and assistant manager of the U.S. team in 2008.

Much of the programs' storied success can be traced to two legendary coaches: A.R. "Red" Barr and George "Coach Mac" McMillion '55. As head coach at SMU from 1946-71, Coach Barr led the Mustangs to 17 Southwest Conference championships. As a student, McMillion was captain of the 1954 SMU team, winning seven Southwest Conference individual championships. He returned to SMU to become assistant coach for 14 years, then succeeded Coach Barr in 1971. McMillion led the Mustangs to eight consecutive conference championships, and a top 15 ranking each year he coached. Bryan Robbins coached 12 diving All-Americans under McMillion, and was the coach of the 1976 and 1980 U.S. Olympic teams.

Current swimming and diving head coaches have continued the Mustang legacy, each with long tenures on the Hilltop. Men's swimming and diving coach Eddie Sinnott, another Mustang championship swimmer and assistant coach to McMillion, became coach of the men's team after McMillion's retirement in 1989. Women's swimming and diving coach Steve Collins inherited a championship team when he arrived in 1986. Under Collins, the women's team finished in the nation's top four for eight consecutive years, 1992-1999. Head diving coach Jim Stillson, who arrived on the Hilltop in 1985, has coached Mustang divers to 88 All-America honors and mentored three Olympians. In addition, he is a three-time NCAA Diving Coach of the Year.

Aquatics Center at SMU"SMU swimmers and coaches achieved great success in Perkins Natatorium, but they have long dreamed of a new aquatics center," said Rick Hart, SMU director of athletics. "The promise of these superb new facilities will strengthen the future of the swimming and diving program and honor the legacy of the student-athletes and coaches who created the SMU swimming powerhouse."

The gifts to support the Aquatics Center count toward SMU Unbridled: The Second Century Campaign, which concluded on Dec. 31, 2015, and raised more than $1 billion to support student quality, faculty and academic excellence and the campus experience.  Fundraising for the Aquatics Center continues. To make a gift, please contact Kurt Pottkotter (kpottkotter@smu.edu; 214-768-3639). 

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SMU is a nationally ranked private university in Dallas founded more than 100 years ago. Today SMU enrolls nearly 11,000 students who benefit from the academic opportunities and international reach of seven degree-granting schools.