Poppell Announces Addition of Wright, Schultz Retirement
Columbia, S.C. – South Carolina head swimming and diving coach Jeff Poppell announced today that Michael Wright, who has coached and been a national champion diver, will serve as the Gamecocks’ as head diving coach.
Wright, who joins the staff immediately, replaces Dale Schultz, who had been the Gamecocks’ diving coach since May 2021 and chose to retire from coaching this season.
“We’re very excited to welcome Mike to our coaching staff and have no doubt that he will bring an energy and passion that will help us build upon the great diving tradition that has existed at South Carolina,” said Poppell. “He’s been an instrumental part of the success of Tennessee’s diving program over the last nine years. In addition, as the head club coach in Knoxville, he has consistently developed some of the top young diving talents in the nation.”
In addition to two stints as a volunteer coach at his alma mater, the University of Tennessee, Wright served as the head coach of the Tennessee Aquatics diving club since 2014, coaching athletes to the USA Junior National Team and to a combined nine USA National Titles. His efforts earned him the opportunity to coach the Junior Pan American Team, which featured divers winning two gold medals as well as a silver and bronze medal during the 2017 and 2019 games.
The six-time Tennessee High School Diving Coach of the Year guided athletes to state championships every year from 2016 until 2021. All 12 of the graduating senior divers that Wright coached went on to sign National Letters of Intent with college programs.
Schultz had more than 30 years of collegiate coaching experience, coming at Arkansas (1989-2000, 2008-13, 2016-21), Florida (2014-16), Purdue (1988-89), and South Carolina (2021-22). He was awarded the SEC Diving Coach of the Year three times and has coached one NCAA Champion, six SEC Champions and 28 All-Americans.
Schultz daughter, Brooke, is in her second season on the Gamecock diving squad. In her first season at Carolina, she finished ninth in the NCAA Championships in the 1-meter competition. Under her father’s tutelage, Brooke won the 2018 NCAA title in the 3-meter and was runner-up in the 2019 NCAA competition.
“Congratulations to Dale on his retirement after a long and accomplished coaching career that saw him achieve great success every place he’s been,” said Poppell. “Dale has been a tremendous friend to me over the past 14 years and I will truly miss the fun times shared between us. I can’t thank him enough for leaving the comforts of home last year and agreeing to come to South Carolina to help us in our quest to build something great here in Columbia. I wish him and his family all the best as they begin this new and exciting chapter.”
Wright, an SEC champion and All-America performer at the University of Tennessee (2009-11), became the first African-American to ever win a title at the USA Diving Winter National Championships in 2010.
Prior to Tennessee, Wright helped Indian River State College to back-to-back NJCAA Championships by sweeping the one- and three-meter events in 2007 and 2008. He was inducted into the NJCAA Hall of Fame in 2015.
Truly a gifted athlete, Wright has become well-known outside of the diving world as the “Speedo Ninja” on American Ninja Warrior, competing in five of the seasons. He advanced to the National Vegas Finals during season 10.
Wright earned his bachelor’s degree from Tennessee in fine arts in 2011 and then completed his master’s degree in sports psychology in 2013. He and his wife, Hali, have three children: Kylee, Camden and Kobie.