Matt Scoggin Gives Texas Football Play “Perfect 10” in Quarantine Challenge

matt-scoggin
Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Matt Scoggin gives Sam Ehlinger’s run on 3rd down a “perfect 10.”

With the coronavirus quarantine continuing in the United States, leaving sports on hold for the time being, many institutions have been attempting to ease the mood by providing opportunities to fill that void. At the University of Texas, they asked each of their head coaches to commentate on a football play from the previous season to which diving coach Matt Scoggin decided to put his own diving twist on the play.

It was a part of a day that Texas Athletics created called “My Texas Tailgate” on May 1, to engage the fanbase while no sports were in play.

“We wanted to keep the excitement with the coaches and the athletes for our athletic department because this is a very tough time with COVID we are all experiencing,” Scoggin said.

“When I got the play sent to me, my idea was to engage the Texas fanbase in a way that let them know how a diving coach would call the play in their world. And that’s why I brought in the elements that you hear when watching a dive like at the Olympics or NCAAs.”

Matt Scoggin is in his 25th season as diving coach at the University of Texas. He was the CSCAA Men’s Coach of the Year last season in coaching Jordan Windle to a national title in the platform. Scoggin has a talented group of 13 divers at the University of Texas, including Windle, Grayson Campbell and Samantha Bromberg, but has been unable to coach them since mid-March.

“I’m in touch with them at least weekly, if not more than that, either through texts, phone calls, occasional Zooms. We are just staying in touch and making sure they are hanging in there with the resources they need to complete school this semester,” Scoggin said. “They are in final exams right now and we are making sure they are in touch with everyone that can help them to finish school strongly. We are making sure they are in touch with our strength coach so that they can, on a volunteer basis, stay in the best shape that they can at home while they are self isolating.”

The team is not allowed to hold organized practices virtually, as per rules by the NCAA and Big 12 Conference, but Scoggin is still able to give them pointers when needed.

“On a volunteer basis, they have reached out to the strength coach and received some conditioning with strength bands and some of them have almost a real weight room at home so they have been able to ask for particular sets on squats and hanging pike-ups, things like that,” Scoggin said. “Some of them have trampolines in their backyard – one of my divers has a dry board in their backyard and so they will call me and we will talk a little bit about some of the things they are working on but I am not allowed to lead any program.”

But even though he is not allowed to lead an organized practice, Scoggin has kept in touch with the other Texas coaches, including men’s swim coach Eddie Reese and women’s coach Carol Capitani.

“We do Zooms all the time,” Scoggin said. “We have phone calls weekly. We had a meeting at the football stadium at our offices last week. Everyone had their masks on and we are staying in touch and trying to make sense of this tough time everyone is going through.”

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Matt Scoggin with Michael Hixon and Cory Bowersox at the 2014 NCAAs. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

The COVID cancellations really took off in the United States in mid-March, the same week as the Zone Diving Championships, where Texas was at on March 9, 10 and 11. During that week, there was a lot of speculation over whether it would be safe to hold the NCAA Championships.

The NCAA basketball tournament, which generates millions of dollars through TV contracts, sponsorships, and merchandise, was under threat of being played without spectators. The swimming and diving championships also fell under that distinction. But on Wednesday March 11, the National Basketball Association had announced the season would be placed on hold after a player had tested positive for the virus. And by then, the reality hit that NCAA tournament and swimming championships could be next.

“As soon as (basketball getting cancelled) happened, people began to seriously wonder how the snowball effect was going to happen. I don’t think there were many of us that thought our season was going to be cancelled.”

Ultimately on March 12, the NCAA cancelled all of its winter championships, effectively ending the season just a week before the women’s swimming and diving championships.

“It was a shock to all of us,” Matt Scoggin said. “We understood why – we needed to flatten the curve and keep people as safe as possible so the divers adjusted and have been adjusting since that day.”

Scoggin, who has been around the sport of diving for a long time, has been impressed with the maturity of his athletes during this time.

“It’s an odd time. The divers have great perspective. They realize there are a lot of people suffering or have suffered with deaths in the family. It has affected all of us in a much smaller way, having trained so hard all year long and then go to Zones and have NCAAs cancelled the next day. We hear a week later, we aren’t allowed to dive for two more weeks and then we hear Olympic Trials are cancelled and the Olympics are postponed.

“It’s just a weird, tough time and they’re making the best of it. They’re all doing well in school and trying to stay in shape and staying as positive as possible. They can’t wait to start training again.”

Scoggin has been at his home in Austin with his wife and his daughter, who has come home and is able to still work remotely.

“Our family is very fortunate to be safe and healthy,” Scoggin said. “It’s been tough because our parents, who are in their late 80s and early 90s, live nearby. I’ll feed them once a week or every other week, I’ll bring groceries to them. It’s just tough because you don’t get to hug them because you don’t want to accidentally give them COVID-19 if you’re asymptomatic and a carrier.

“It’s just a strange time we are all going through but we are thankful by how healthy we are and I’ve been doing my best to not drive my wife crazy. I’ve picked up a new hobby, I’m now into cycling so I’ll leave the house for 3 or 4 hours at a time and go for a bike ride. Just trying to enjoy the outdoors and get away from the house and stay in shape.”

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