Scuba Diving: Oxford Style, Far from Open Water for the Sport

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi is probably not the first place that comes to mind for those looking into scuba diving lessons. After all, Oxford is more than 300 miles from open water suitable for scuba diving. But surprisingly, UM has the second-largest collegiate scuba program in the country, behind the University of Florida. More than 70 Ole Miss students are enrolled in scuba diving classes this spring, with the majority taking the basic course and some 25 enrolled in advanced diving, said Steve Bramlett, director of the Aquatics Program. Each semester, 100 slots are open for the one-hour academic credit courses (EL 142 and EL 243), which are taught by diving instructor Will Sobecki. To help students enrolled in the advanced course prepare for more challenging dives, Bramlett, with assistance from others in the program, recently conducted a nighttime diving class. To simulate nightime and deep-sea diving conditions, lights surrounding the Turner Center pool were turned off. “The atmosphere is a lot different when there is no light source except for the students’ dive lights, so the students had to maneuver through the course of hula hoops and then follow a guide line,” said Bramlett, adjunct instructor in the Department of Health, Exercise Science and Recreation Management. “The goal is for them to maintain natural buoyancy. We want the experience to be as real life as possible, so they also went through a spot where they turned their dive lights off to see how they would react if their light went out while on a dive.” Bramlett, who has been diving for nearly 30 years, said the program is run with the cooperation of the Dive Shop in Memphis. Students completing each of the courses have the option of becoming certified, but certification is not required to pass the courses. Alex Harris, a freshman from Jackson, Tenn., said she got her scuba diving certification from Ole Miss in the fall and wanted to complete the advanced course in order to dive in Belize. “This is really just the next step in being able to do deeper dives which I want to do,” she said. Mary Lauren Brunson, a freshman from Grenada, agrees that advanced certification will enable her to dive in new places, and the nighttime dive exercise was very beneficial in helping her prepare. “It was challenging but very fun,” she said. “This dive alone was worth taking scuba diving for two semesters.” Mark Garneau, UM director of risk management and aquatics, said this is the first year the advanced diving class has done a night dive at the Turner Center, and it was exciting for the pool to host such a unique class. Garneau, who came to Ole Miss from Princeton University five years ago, said he is continually amazed by the diverse ways the pool is utilized each year. “It is really unique for a university to be so open to hosting so many different kinds of events,” he said. “Each year, we host everything from swimming lessons to aqua aerobics and scuba diving to state swim meets. It really is wonderful that the university allows all of these different types of activities to happen here.” For more information on the scuba diving program, e-mail Bramlett at sdb@olemiss.edu.This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it For more information on the UM Aquatics Program, visit olemiss.edu.

Jennifer Farish/University of Mississippi