The University of Louisiana at Monroe Water Ski Team has been the dominant ski team since the inception of collegiate water ski competition in 1979, capturing 20 National Championship titles over the past 29 years.
It all began in March of 1977, in Leesville, Louisiana, at Danny Rowzee's Invitational Collegiate Water Ski Tournament. Three ULM students, Mike Adams, Bill Rainwater, and Hank Kiser, entered the tournament independently (not knowing each other at the time). These three developed a lasting friendship, and the dream of a University of Louisiana at Monroe "Water Ski Powerhouse" began.
The following summer they organized an interested group of student skiers who lived in the local area. The first order of business was to obtain permission to ski on Bayou DeSiard which runs through the ULM campus. The next step was to build a ski jump. Three building construction majors, Mike Adams, Steve Kidd, and Charles Salassi, begged lumber and metal from community businesses, and built the water ski jump in Scott Ingram's backyard. Scott's dad was a local attorney at the time; now he's a district judge --- and the original superstructure of the backyard ski jump is still in use today.
It was during this time that Mike Adams and Bill Rainwater learned of Tom Murphy's (former ULM Dean for Student Affairs) interest in water sports. They asked him to be their advisor and to help promote this new sport at the University. They told Tom about the jump, which was under construction at the time, and where it was located. By chance, Attorney Mike Ingram was his neighbor, so he decided to take a look at what they had built. Tom couldn't believe they had constructed this ski jump in the backyard of a private home with a chain-link fence around it! There were about seven or eight students working, and they said it would be "no problem" getting it to the bayou, which was several miles away. He told them if they could get that jump out of the backyard, and all the way to the bayou, without tearing down the Ingram's house, or destroying the neighborhood, he would be happy to be their advisor! They separated the jump into two pieces, using a series of piano dollies and twenty of their friends, and literally rolled the unit on its edge, out of the backyard, and placed it in some old cotton trailers they had borrowed from a local gin. They blocked traffic, jockeying it through the streets of Monroe, and within several hours had it floating and assembled on the bayou. This spirit of hard work, dedication, and camaraderie was a major determining factor for Tom's involvement with this group of young people. They truly believed there was absolutely nothing they could not accomplish if they put their minds to it.
All that was needed now were some ski boats. Mike Adams had an outboard motor and boat, and Bill Rainwater had an old 1969-70 Hydro-Dyne. For months they dragged everyone around the bayou behind these two units.
By fall this band of "Indians" chartered the University of Louisiana at Monroe Water Ski Club. The original members were Mike Adams, Les Brazzel, David Chop, Trudy Doggett, Scott Ingram, Terry James, Hank Kiser, Charles Salassi, Paul Trichele, Karen and Sharon Van Buren, Bill and Jenny Rainwater, Patti Hare, Dickie Deason, and Pat Boggs.
In September 1977 the ULM Ski Club went to their first team tournament at the University of Houston and took second place. Two weeks later, they went to another tournament in Texas, and won! Since then they've never looked back. They traveled like everyone else -- in private cars, slept on the ground or in tents at the ski site, ate sack lunches, and pooled financial resources to get the job done.
Thanks to the hard work and efforts of the founders, a series of significant improvements in the ski program occurred rather quickly. In 1978 they won the South Central Regional Championship. Through the efforts of Hank Kiser they acquired the first tournament ski boat. Later that year, Mike Adams' father, from Shreveport, financed the first promotional tournament ski boat. The team used the Nautique, by Correct Craft, for six years, before shifting to Master Craft in 1984. In May 1995, ULM hosted the Collegiate All Star Tournament on Bayou DeSiard. Ski Nautique bought rights through NCWSA to pull the tournament. After seeing the location of the ski site and the quality of the water ski program, Nautique offered ULM a fantastic deal, which included building a special edition boat in University colors. The switch back to Correct Craft was inevitable.
In the summer of 1978, Mike Adams, Bill Rainwater, and Charles Salassi went to Tom Murphy with an idea: a national championship tournament. They wanted to pull all the regions together, and have ULM host it! They promised to do all the publication work and promote the idea to the American Water Ski Association. Tom agreed, and with the support of the University and the City of Monroe, Bill Rainwater went to DuQuoin, Illinois, and presented a proposal to AWSA to host the first National Collegiate Water Ski Tournament at ULM in Monroe, Louisiana. The proposal was accepted by AWSA. On October 13-14, 1979, ULM hosted the first National Collegiate Championship. It was a huge success! The following teams entered the tournament: Ohio State University, Bowling Green University, University of Texas, San Diego State University, Florida Southern University, Penn State University, and the University of Louisiana at Monroe. The San Diego team won, ULM took second, and Florida Southern took third. On October 11-12, 1980, Florida Southern hosted the second National Championship in Lakeland, Florida, and ULM won its first national title!
In 1979, Dwight Vines, then President of ULM, authorized the use of a talent scholarship for ULM water skiers. This was probably the first official step to recognize collegiate water skiers with a scholarship, and it gave ULM's program a tremendous boost. The talent scholarship was used to recognize outstanding ULM students who had a special talent, such as cheerleaders, dance and drill teams, band members, and water skiers. The scholarship provided a tuition fee waiver to the student. At that time, Dwight Vines authorized five ski team scholarships; today the entire ULM Water Ski Team is carefully selected and given talent scholarships.
After the ULM Water Ski Team won its fourth national championship in 1983, the student body passed a referendum which assesses all full-time students one dollar per semester as part of their activity fee to provide financial support to the ULM Water Ski Team. These fees provide for the operating costs of the skit team: gas, course maintenance, travel costs etc... The ULM Maintenance Department assists in the maintenance of the ski dock & jump, and the ULM Grounds Department keeps everything looking great. Members of the ULM Water Ski Team are responsible for carefully operating the boat and keeping it in excellent operating condition.
The ULM Water Ski Team is happy to be skiing behind a beautiful maroon and gold 2008 MasterCraft ProStar 197, and to be working with our local boat vendor, Gus Campbell of Gus Campbell WaterSports and Boating Center.
With 20 NCWSA National Championship Titles, and generous support from the ULM Student Body and Administration as well as the local business community, the ULM Water Ski Team is able to attract and recruit world class athletes from around the world.