Notre Dame head coach Tim Welsh and Cleveland State head coach Wally Morton will each compete in their final career dual meet, 29 years after the teams were the first dual contest at the Rolfs Aquatic Center

Irish Cap Dual Meet Slate Against Cleveland State Saturday

Feb. 6, 2014

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – For as jubilant as the University of Notre Dame men’s swimming and diving team was following its two dual victories at last weekend’s Shamrock Invitational, it was back to business as usual this week at the Rolfs Aquatics Center.

For the first time in five seasons, the Irish have one more dual tilt on the schedule after the annual invitational and prior to the conference championship meet, welcoming longtime opponent Cleveland State Saturday at noon (ET). Due to the ticketed men’s basketball game scheduled for the same time, spectators attending the meet are asked to enter through the Rolfs Aquatic Center doors near Gate 5 of the Joyce Center.

The final dual matchup of the regular season will give the Notre Dame swimmers penciled into the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Championship travel roster one more opportunity to prepare, and all Irish team members one last chance to shine in their home pool in 2014.

“Practices have been great, and the guys who are preparing to be the ACC team are very focused in now on how the championship meet will be,” Notre Dame head coach Tim Welsh said. “This is a final tune-up for them. The guys who focused on the meet last week are excited to have one more swim here with a lot less pressure. It’s great to finish at home, and for our seniors their last dual meet will be in their own pool. You can’t ask for anything better than that.”

The team awaiting Notre Dame (6-5-1) in its home finale is one who has become very familiar to the Irish over the past three decades, Cleveland State. The Vikings enter the weekend, which includes a dual contest at Valparaiso on Friday night, at 9-5 on the season, and head coach Wally Morton’s team is in search of its 12th straight double-digit win season.

“It has been a great relationship over the years, and Cleveland State was the original fast pool in the United States,” Welsh said. “Whenever we go there, they give out fast times if you’re ready. We love having them come here, and Wally Morton is one of the grand gentlemen in the sport. He has done everything at Cleveland State, started as an assistant, became the aquatics director, picked up the women’s team, and he’s run a mega, mega number of meets there. He’s done absolutely everything there, and he’s a gentlemanly, friendly guy who is great for our sport.”

Only once in the past 33 years have the Irish and Vikings not met during the men’s swimming season, and the meets between the universities have always been contested in a competitive but respectful fashion dating back to the days when the teams raced in the Rockne Memorial Pool, with legendary coach Dennis Stark at the helm of Notre Dame.

“It’s been full of good sportsmanship, and I think a lot of that is a tribute to Wally,” Welsh said. “Wally has maintained a high level of courtesy, sportsmanship and dignity in his program, and he has done it at what is largely a commuter school, with many international swimmers. The process of molding that diverse group into great teams year after year is what he’s been able to do, and I really respect the job he has done all these years.”

The final career regular season dual meet for both Welsh and Morton, who are each set to retire following the season, will take place in the very pool that both teams helped to christen on Dec. 8, 1985. Cleveland State scored a 71.5-41.5 victory over Notre Dame in the first dual meet that was ever held in the Rolfs Aquatic Center. Nearly 30 years of gentlemanly competition has continued, setting the stage for one last showdown between the teams and their legendary head coaches.

“It’s serendipitous for sure,” Welsh said. “It wasn’t planned, they made their schedule and we made our schedule, and we needed a day for the meet and this was it. After it (the retirement announcements) happened, it was more like, `Look at that, isn’t that neat and tidy.’ It’s very special to me to have it end this way, and there will be a new start to the relationship between Notre Dame and Cleveland State next year.”

With all of the emotions surrounding his swan song at the Rolfs Aquatic Center, the site of more than 130 Notre Dame victories and memories that will last a lifetime, Welsh has steadfastly preached maintaining the focus of a usual meet schedule. The team’s biggest challenges this season, in his mind, are still out in front.

“It’s going to live like a swim meet, no matter what we say about it ahead of time, it’s going to live like a swim meet,” Welsh said. “From our perspective, we wanted this year to be a solid job of coaching, and if I could do the best job of coaching I have ever done, great. I want to be focused this weekend on having a great meet, and then we can look back on it and say, now what. Now what will be the ACC and the national meets, there is plenty of competition left on our schedule.”

Still, having his family and many who have supported the program throughout the last 29 seasons by his side Saturday makes the final 2013-14 dual meet anything but ordinary for Welsh and the Irish, and will serve as a passing of the torch of sorts to longtime Notre Dame associate head coach Matt Tallman. Tallman, in his 13th season on the Irish coaching staff, will become just the third head coach in the 56-year history of the program following Welsh’s retirement.

“I know when the freestyle relay ends Saturday afternoon, and I walk off the deck, I will be well aware that I will never walk off the deck again having coached the team in this pool,” Welsh said. “That’s pretty powerful. Our sons are coming, which I really love, and they will make sure I don’t spend the rest of the night sitting on the pool deck waiting for daylight so that I know that it’s over. It will be the final chapter here.”

Notre Dame vs. Cleveland State
Feb. 8, 2014, Noon (ET)
Rolfs Aquatic Center, Notre Dame, Ind.

Order of Events

Women’s 200 Medley Relay
Men’s 200 Medley Relay
Women’s 1000 Freestyle
Men’s 1000 Freestyle
Women’s 200 Freestyle
Men’s 200 Freestyle
Women’s 100 Backstroke
Men’s 100 Backstroke
Women’s 100 Breaststroke
Men’s 100 Breaststroke
Women’s 200 Butterfly
Men’s 200 Butterfly
Women’s 50 Freestyle
Men’s 50 Freestyle
Women’s 1-Meter Diving
Men’s 1-Meter Diving
Women’s 100 Freestyle
Men’s 100 Freestyle
Women’s 200 Backstroke
Men’s 200 Backstroke
Women’s 200 Breaststroke
Men’s 200 Breaststroke
Women’s 500 Freestyle
Men’s 500 Freestyle
Women’s 100 Butterfly
Men’s 100 Butterfly
Women’s 3-meter Diving
Men’s 3-Meter Diving
Women’s 400 IM
Men’s 400 IM
Women’s 200 Freestyle Relay
Men’s 200 Freestyle Relay


— Tony Jones, Media Relations Assistant