Legendary University of Miami swim team coach Bill Diaz was honored on the UM campus recently by more than 65 former swimmers and divers who came from around the world to pay tribute to him.
Diaz, a longtime Pinecrest resident, coached the team for 14 years and was a successful Miami-Dade County high school swim coach before taking the UM job.
Interim UM athletic director Blake James opened the reunion ceremonies by welcoming the returning athletes and presented Coach Diaz with a warm, personal message from UM President Donna Shalala.
“As head coach, Diaz was the driving force that helped establish our swimming and diving programs as centers of national and international prominence,” Blake said, reading from Shalala’s statement. “Your legacy remains vibrant today and one could say that you’re still keeping the score with the Bill Diaz Scoreboard installed at our campus swimming pool.”
Alumni programs director Rick Remmert presented Coach Diaz with a proclamation from Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and the county commission declaring Friday, Oct. 12, as “Bill Diaz Day.”
“We want to recognize Coach Diaz and our alumni athletes, and honor their sincere dedication to the University of Miami,” Remmert said. “Twenty five Hurricane swimmers and divers are enshrined in the UM Sports Hall of Fame. Our hope and our commitment is to reach out, remain in contact and encourage everyone to keep those great memories alive.”
On Saturday, Oct. 13, Coach Diaz and the alumni athletes were recognized on the field during the UM-North Carolina football game for having 55 All American swimmers and divers, winning multiple national individual and relay swimming titles and for placing two Hurricanes — David Wilkie and diver Greg Louganis — on Olympic teams and winning Gold Medals.
“It truly was a remarkable couple of days to have everyone back in Miami on campus to see each other,” Coach Diaz said. “Everyone took pleasure in renewing old friendships and seeing the modern new UM facilities and the development that has taken place over the past 40 years.”
In 1973, with the advent of the landmark Title IX legislation, the UM became the first college in the United Sates to offer a swimming scholarship to a woman under the leadership of Coach Diaz. Two years later, the Hurricane women’s swimming and diving team won the first of back-to-back (1975-76) AIAW National Championships. Several members of those teams were on hand at the reunion to honor their former coach.
University of Miami athletics is rich in history and much of it is enshrined at the Tom Kearns University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame. For more information, call 305-284-2775.