OC adds swimming; Olympic champ to coach teams Student-athletes dive into training this fall
Oklahoma Christian University will add intercollegiate men’s and women’s swimming programs for the 2017-18 academic year, with five-time Olympic medalist Josh Davis to serve as the coach, OC President John deSteiguer said Wednesday.
The addition of the programs will increase the university’s total number of varsity sports to 16. OC will be only the third Oklahoma university to offer intercollegiate swimming.
“Competitive swimming is a great sport with great student-athletes,” deSteiguer said. “It is a fantastic fit for OC and our culture of discipline and excellence. Coach Josh Davis, a five-time Olympic medalist, is perfect to lead this new program. I am thrilled about what the future holds.”
Davis will immediately begin recruiting student-athletes, OC Athletic Director Curtis Janz said, with the plan for the Eagles and Lady Eagles to begin competing with the 2017-18 season. Davis wants to bring in a core group of swimmers this summer who will attend OC and train during the 2016-17 academic year while preparing to “be our first leaders” when competition starts in 2017-18.
“Josh is a great fit with our university,” Janz said. “He is a highly competitive person. His accolades speak for themselves. He will be a great Christian example, and he’ll also have student-athletes who will swim fast and compete hard and represent the university with high standards.”
Janz said there is a void of competitive collegiate swimming programs in this part of the country, which provides an opening for OC.
“I believe we can be successful on a lot of different levels,” he said. “We can provide an opportunity for prospective student-athletes to have a good option to compete at the NCAA Division II level and it’s a good enrollment builder for the university. We have good facilities, both of our own and in the area. I believe we can be nationally competitive in a short amount of time.”
Davis, who lives in Edmond with his wife Shantel and their six children, was the U.S. flag bearer at the opening ceremony for the 1995 World University Games, then won three gold medals at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta as part of the U.S. 4x100-meter freestyle, 4x200-meter freestyle and 4x100 medley relay teams. He was the only man in any sport from any nation at the Atlanta Games to win three gold medals.
In the 2000 Games in Sydney, he served as the U.S. swim team captain and his youngest teammate on the U.S. squad was a precocious teenager named Michael Phelps. In Sydney, Davis earned silver medals as part of the U.S. 4x100 freestyle and 4x200 freestyle relay teams and broke the U.S. record in his specialty event, the 200-meter freestyle.
He was a nine-time U.S. champion in the 200-meter freestyle (every year from 1996 to 2002), the 400-meter freestyle and the 200-meter backstroke.
The 43-year-old Davis has remained close to the swim world since retiring from competition. In 1996, he started Mutual of Omaha Breakout! Swim Clinics and since then, he’s worked more than 1,000 swimming clinics in the U.S., working with more than 30 Olympic swimmers. He also works as a motivational speaker and has spent time working in television.
Davis has been inducted into the University of Texas Hall of Honor and the San Antonio Sports Hall of Fame. The natatorium at the North East Independent School District’s Virgil T. Blossom Athletic Center in San Antonio is named in his honor.
He grew up in San Antonio and moved to Oklahoma in 2012. He said he’s excited to build a collegiate program from the ground up.
“I’ve been hired by coaches and club teams and colleges for 20 years to teach concepts on peak performance, but yet I’ve never had my own group to work with,” Davis said. “It just didn’t present itself. But now that we’ve established ourselves here in Edmond and I see the culture of the campus here and I see where Curtis wants to take the program, it seems like a perfect fit.
“I know how to make young kids fast, but I’ve been on the best college and international teams in the world, and so I know how to make this age group fast, too, so I’m really excited for swimmers not just in Oklahoma, and not just in this five-state region, but across the country to come experience what OC and Edmond has to offer.”
Janz said the decision to offer swimming came after careful research and the realization that competitive swimmers had few options after finishing their high school careers.
In NCAA Division II, 69 universities offer men’s swimming, while 91 offer women’s swimming. In states bordering Oklahoma, there are 15 women’s and 14 men’s programs and in-state, Oklahoma Baptist offers both sports, as well as NAIA member St. Gregory’s.
“I think we’ll have a really fun, healthy rivalry with OBU, but then as a conference evolves, we’ll have some exciting conference meets and then be competitive at the Division II Championships,” Davis said. “It might take us three or four years to get there, but that’s ultimately the goal. That’s where I’ve been operating the last 30 years, on that level.
“I think we have the setup here to make swimmers real fast and real happy and have a great college experience.”
OC’s team will use the pool inside the Payne Athletic Center for training and to perhaps host dual meets, Janz said. Larger competitions could be hosted at the Edmond YMCA Recreation and Aquatic Center, located in Mitch Park.
The university’s most recent intercollegiate sports addition (before swimming) was women’s golf, which began competing with the 2011-12 academic year. OC also offers men’s golf, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s indoor and outdoor track and field and baseball and softball.
View more stories from the Summer 2016 issue of Vision magazine.