CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Cleveland State University men's and women's swimming & diving programs dedicated the Wally Morton Locker Rooms Saturday afternoon inside the Robert F. Busbey Natatorium.
Saturday's dedication featured remarks from CSU President Harlan Sands, CSU Director of Athletics Scott Garrett and CSU head swimming & diving coach Hannah Burandt in addition to the comments from Morton, the esteemed former head coach for whom the locker rooms were named. A video message was also played during the ceremony from Ohio State Director of Men's and Women's Swimming & Diving Bill Dorenkott, an alum of the CSU men's program.
"I want to thank you for this great honor," Morton said. "I want to thank you my family in particular for being here for me."
"We have a tradition here at Cleveland State University, whether it be Coach Busbey or myself," Morton said. "What we do is for an outstanding accomplishment—a pool record, a school record or even a personal best time—we would give one clap. That would represent that we are one team. Now, I would like everyone to stand up because you are part of this one team."
Morton then led the assembled group in a sequence of claps recognizing various important people and attributes associated with the programs.
The men's and women's locker rooms were dedicated Saturday after having undergone a complete update and renovation over the last several months. New lockers were installed that featured plaques recognizing those that significantly contributed to the project. New shower towers were installed along with new paint and new flooring throughout the shower area and locker room areas. The project also involved knocking down walls to expand the locker room footprint.
"The fact that all of you have shown up to support our swimming & diving program tells you something about the way we treat our family at Cleveland State," Sands said to the crowd that easily surpassed 100 attendees. "The fact that Wally, with his 40+ years of service and his family sitting with him, is investing in all of you and has gotten the rest of us to invest—this is why we do this. Because we're all committed to making you successful. It all starts with culture."
Morton coached at Cleveland State for 40 years, beginning his tenure in 1974 as Director of Aquatics and assistant swimming & diving coach under former coach and athletic director Robert Busbey. Morton served as head coach of the men's program for 33 seasons and was also the women's head coach for his final seven seasons with CSU.
Morton accumulated 20 conference championships as a Viking while earning nine conference coach of the year awards. He also racked up a combined 385 dual meet wins and 46 winning seasons and coached the first swimming All-American in Horizon League history.
"Today's a very special day," Garrett said. "This locker room project—the extension of what was previously the Heritage Project—serves as a model for how our athletics program can achieve our mission and goals. Any time something extraordinary like this project is delivered, it takes a significant group of stakeholders to all come together and pull in the same direction. Which is something you all know CSU swimming & diving has done going on five decades."
"You all know Wally's impact on this program," Garrett said. "There's really nothing I can add that you don't already know. The least we can do to recognize Wally's impact is to honor him with naming recognition of these locker rooms. We appreciate Wally's involvement on all things CSU swimming & diving, and I appreciate the counsel he's provided me since I arrived at CSU. Wally, congratulations."
After a meet-and-greet gathering in the lobby overlooking the pool, the formal ceremony, including a ribbing cutting, was conducted on the pool deck. The current CSU swimming & diving teams, alumni, friends of the program, athletic department members and University officials were all present. The new locker rooms were then opened for tours for all in attendance.
"Wally Morton is an institution at Cleveland State," Dorenkott said. "I can say wholeheartedly that I wouldn't be where I am today, or the person I am today, without Wally Morton in my life. To say that Wally changed my life would be a unbelievable understatement. And I know there's countless others that feel the same way. To me personally, Wally is like a second father."
The locker rooms were funded with over 200 contributions to the program's Extra Mile campaign. The benefactors' names are enshrined as part of a graphical display on the main spectator entrance to the natatorium.
"Home is where the heart is," Burandt said. "There is no better home for a swimmer or a diver than Busbey Natatorium. We have the best house. And now, we have locker rooms that we are proud of and that we get to live in. When we do things together in our house, that's when the magic happens."
"When the student-athletes walk into those locker rooms, they see the love and support. They'll see the name plates of the seniors that will get brought down and put in the lockers forever. Team is forever. And we can see that when we walk into these locker rooms, which we are really excited to share with you all today."