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Former Arizona State diving coach Ward O'Connell passes away

August 26, 2009

The Arizona State family passes along its thoughts and sympathy to the family and friends of former diving coach Ward O'Connell, who passed away Wednesday night.

O'Connell served as ASU's head diving coach from 1974-1997. Under the direction of O'Connell, 11 Sun Devils earned All-American honors for a total of 15 accolades. ASU diving accumulated 10 individual Pacific-10 Conference titles, three Western Athletic Conference champions and one Western Collegiate Athletic Association champion during O'Connell's 22 years as head coach. Over his career, O'Connell served as a collegiate diving coach for 31 years.

O'Connell's divers were a key factor towards the women's 1977 and 1978 AIAW National Championships. In 1994, O'Connell's coaching abilities were honored by the conference as he was named Pac-10 Coach of the Year. He was also a major playmaker in the construction of the Mona Plummer Aquatic Center and served as the pool director for several years. He was the longest tenured aquatics coach in Sun Devil history.

Not only was O'Connell respected in the collegiate diving scene but the international realm as well. A founding vice-president of the American Diving Coaches Association, O'Connell served as the United States coach at the Pan American Games in 1967, at an 18-team competition in the former Soviet Union and coached at the 1967 and 1987 World University Games. In 1987, he was named a recipient of the U.S. Diving Committee's Fred A. Cady Memorial Diving Coaches Perpetual Trophy, the highest award given to diving coaches in the U.S. He and his wife, Joel, also founded the Sun Devil Divers, a diving club team in the Valley.

"I am thankful for the building block Ward established with the facility and the reputation of success with ASU diving," said current diving coach Mark Bradshaw. "I know he had a great impact on all his athletes, a few have since become coaches because of the mark he left on them. It is a tough loss for the diving community and a sad day for all who knew him."