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Former Olympian seeks to rebuild NU's swim team
Omaha World Herald
September 5, 2001
Published Wednesday
September 5, 2001

By MITCH SHERMAN

WORLD-HERALD BUREAU


LINCOLN - To say that Pablo Morales is trying to rebuild the women's
swimming and diving program at Nebraska does not quite do justice to exactly
what the Huskers' new coach is attempting to accomplish.

The two-time Olympic gold medalist and former coach at San Jose State
arrived in Lincoln two weeks ago, ready to assess his program.

He found it in shambles.

On Tuesday at the Bob Devaney Sports Center pool, one day before fall
training is set to begin, Morales presided over a pair of meetings.

At the first meeting, he addressed the Huskers' returning athletes - three
of a possible 20 from last year's squad - and two new recruits.

At the second gathering, Morales talked to 12 women who responded to a flyer
posted around campus last week. It invited any full-time female students
with competitive swimming and diving experience to explore the option that
"there could be a place for you" on the NU team this season.

"I personally have not looked at it as a situation where pride or ego is
involved," Morales said. "I think it's exciting. I think it makes for a
great story."

It's a unique opportunity for someone who has had some competitive
experience in the past but never thought she would have a shot at the
University of Nebraska."

This is what it has come to for the Huskers, whose women's team lost
swimmers last spring when Athletic Director Bill Byrne discontinued the NU
men's program after 80 years of intercollegiate competition. A mass exodus
of women swimmers followed.

Morales was hired in January after NU did not retain Interim Coach Paul
Nelsen following the 2000-2001 season. Nebraska is set to appear Sept.
21 in Indianapolis before the NCAA Committee on Infractions after an internal
investigation concerning the removal last year of longtime Coach Cal Bentz
and three assistants.

I've relished in our situation," Morales said. "There's nothing you can do,
except go with it.

"Since we've started this process, I've looked at it as kind of an exciting
way for the general student body to be our savior and keep the program
viable for a year," Morales said.

After one year, Morales and assistants Doug Humphrey and Jeff Bro plan to
field a team full of their own recruits. For now, however, they must
find at least 11 swimmers and divers eligible to open the season Oct. 6.

I don't think that's really an option," Morales said. "We were not told it
was OK if we didn't field a team. We will find 11 swimmers.

"Of the 12 who answered Morales' open invitation to try out, at least one
had no competitive experience.

Nebraska's holdovers from the old team include sophomore Jerilyn Drummond,
junior Liz Rieke and junior Susan Walker.

We didn't really know what to expect today," Morales said. "We didn't know
if two people would show, or if we would get 30 or 40. The fact that we got
12 was very encouraging. I hope out of that group we will find a few that
will be a good fit here."

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