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Diving 'legend' bids farewell

BY TORK MASON | MARCH 28, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Iowa swimming and diving team will have a new face in the 2012-13 season.

Diving coach Bob Rydze — the longest-tenured coach in the Iowa Athletics Department at 37 years — on Tuesday announced his retirement, effective June 30.

Rydze coached 18 divers who earned All-American honors and four Olympians. He also serves as chairman of the Board of USA Diving. He said he will continue to hold that post.

"Bob's success in the sport of diving is unmatched," Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta said in a release. "He achieved at the highest level and did so as a Hawkeye. We're all proud of him and appreciate his many years of service."

Rydze was brought to Iowa City in 1975 by former head coach Glenn Patton. He was only paid as a part-time coach for his first two seasons before being promoted to full-time. Rydze said he took the job with little hesitation, despite the pay.

"It was a leap of faith," he said. "The Big Ten was probably the only conference, at the time, that had full-time diving coaches. Coach Patton promised me that if I came, it would be made a full-time position after a couple years. So I took that leap."

Patton said he chose Rydze on the recommendation of former Michigan diving coach Dick Kimball, and said Kimball was true to his word.

Former Hawkeye Randy Ableman qualified for the 1980 Olympics and went on to earn All-American honors three times while under Rydze's leadership.

"For us to have a young program and have a diver make the United States Olympic team, that helped put us on the map for swimming and diving," Patton said.

Patton said Rydze's greatest strength as a coach is his "uncanny knack" of being able to communicate with and relate to his divers — "at a level I've not seen in America," he said.

Redshirt freshman Joelle Christy agreed.

"Diving has definitely evolved over the years, and Bob has grown with the sport," she said.

Rydze was an instrumental cog in Iowa's back-to-back Big Ten championships in 1981-82. He spent hours each week collecting the times for each event from every school, which gave the Hawkeyes a significant competitive advantage over the rest of the conference.

"He knew the conference swimmers better than I did — better than anyone in the conference," Patton said. "He knew what everybody was doing, how they were progressing. He had an unbelievable impact on helping us decide who we should swim in what event — both in dual meets and the Big Ten championships — in order to maximize our finish."

Rydze said he was excited about the potential of the group he's leaving behind. His daughter, Veronica Rydze, was the only upperclassman on the team this season, and he said the underclassmen have the talent to succeed at the Big Ten level.

He said he told the divers to keep an open mind as they move forward without him.

"I want them to look at it as a great opportunity, to be coached by someone else," he said. "They should be excited that someone is going to come in with a lot of energy and be able to do some things that, at my age, I can't do anymore."

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