AZUSA, California, February 14. AZUSA Pacific University will include two new sports to its award-winning intercollegiate athletics program, adding women's water polo and women's swimming & diving beginning the 2008-09 academic year, University President Dr. Jon Wallace announced today.
"There has been growing desire among our women on campus to have competitive intercollegiate programs in water polo and swimming," said Wallace, "and now is the appropriate time to bring them on board. We're pleased to increase the competitive experiences for our female students."
In addition to adding the sports, Robert Fleming has been named the director of the Cougar aquatics program and will serve as the head coach for both the swimming and water polo teams. Fleming comes to Azusa Pacific after serving the past 12 years as the aquatics supervisor at nearby Citrus College, where he was also the head coach for women's water polo and swimming.
"The unknown that lies out in front and the fact that we get to bring everything together and build something really excites me," said Fleming. "I look at this opportunity as if everything is laying on a big table, and I get to put the pieces together like a puzzle."
Azusa Pacific will debut its inaugural swimming & diving team in November of 2008 followed by the initial water polo squad in January of 2009. Both programs are slated to stage their home competitions at the Citrus College aquatics center while for training purposes using facilities at the Glendora (Calif.) Country Club.
In addition to Fleming on the coaching staff, Tim Kyle has been named assistant coach for the water polo program while Azusa Pacific alum Lauri Marsh will assist the swim team. Kyle has served as the head coach of Citrus men's swimming and women's water polo.
"Lauri competed for me at Citrus when she was also a student at Azusa Pacific," said Fleming, "and in fact some of my best teams at Citrus had a majority of athletes who were also attending Azusa Pacific. Lauri is an example of the numerous ladies at Azusa Pacific who swam or played water polo but gave up their athletic careers because attending Azusa Pacific was more important to them."
Fleming will immediately begin recruiting for both programs, hoping to fill out rosters sizes of about 25 athletes. He is also working on the season schedules that will include approximately 20 play-dates of competition. Azusa Pacific is now the fifth Golden State Athletic Conference school with a women's aquatics program, joining Biola University (swimming only), California Baptist University, Concordia University and Fresno Pacific University.
The addition of water polo and swimming & diving bring the total number of sports at Azusa Pacific to 16. They are the first programs added since women's tennis joined the Cougar program in 1998.
Azusa Pacific is affiliated with the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and is the 3-time reigning Directors' Cup champion, recognizing the Cougars as the most successful athletics program in the NAIA from 2005 through 2007.
Special thanks to Azusa Pacific for contributing this report.