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Virginia Olympic Sports Board


Joined: 10/30/17 Posts: 5
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UVA Men's Rowing Alum - wanted to provide some clarification

Long time lurker here - just saw some talk about the Men's Rowing team at the Head of the Charles down below and thought I'd give some background.

Virginia Men's Rowing (VMR) has a pretty fascinating history that some of you alluded to from the website. In more recent history, VMR has had pretty consistently solid results in the last 50 years, and has had a representative in the 2004, 2008, and 2016 Olympics (Wyatt Allen and Matt Miller).

As mentioned prior, varsity men's rowing is governed by the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA), which basically has the same standards as NCAA. UVA and other clubs like Michigan used to compete in the IRA championships and did fairly well against the well-funded "big boys" full of scholarship athletes. So well, in fact, that some of the less successful varsity programs (*cough* Rutgers) led an effort to remove all club programs from the IRA in 2008 (mostly because their ADs were going to pull their funding because they were losing to unfunded clubs, which they ended up doing anyway). Michigan took the initiative to start the American Collegiate Rowing Association (ACRA), which is now the governing body of club rowing, and holds its own championship.

The UVA program sort of fell off around this time, with rock bottom coming in Spring 2009, when the 1st Varsity 8+ ended up in the C Final of the ACRA Championships (13th place). In Fall 2009, everything changed, when the program hired Frank Biller to take over as head coach. The results immediately turned around, as the 1V took 4th in 2010, and then in 2011 became the 1st non-Michigan team to win the ACRA Championship in an absolute program-defining barn burner of a race (video linked below is worth watching, even if they don't capture the part where UVA breaks away in the last few strokes). It didn't hurt that at this point the team had a 4th-year Matt Miller anchoring the 1st 8+, along with two other rowers (Alan Kush and Scott Stuard) who would go on to have National Team aspirations. The next year, UVA forewent the dramatics and dominated the field for a 3-second ACRA victory, and they did it at almost the same exact time that the women clinched their NCAA title in 2012 (there were like 2 straight weeks of parties after both teams got back home).

Michigan got back to prominence since that race, winning every championship since until this past year, which was claimed by upstart UC-Santa Barbara (UVA took 3rd and Michigan didn't place). I expect this year will be more like 2012, though, as indicated by that huge Head of the Charles win.

Other Fast Facts:
- This Head of the Charles gold was their 6th of the Biller Era (we won 4 golds in a row in the Collegiate 4+, and this was our 2nd gold in the 8+)
- We race at the Henley Royal Regatta, the most prestigious rowing event in the world, every other year. Our best finish was 2011, when we made it to the Semifinals and lost to the Dutch powerhouse ASR Nereus
- We raced at the Windemere Cup in 2012, which is an invitation-only regatta at University of Washington. The field was UW, UVA, Oregon State, and the Argentinian National Team. OSU apparently made some belittling comments about us only being a club program the night before the race, and then we proceeded to dominate the pretentious OSU morons, and only got edged out by Argentina by inches. (UW obviously destroyed everyone)
- We are blessed to have a very strong network of alumni donors, who make sure we're racing in the most state-of-the-art boats available. Our boat fleet is pretty incredible, and as good, if not better than most varsity teams. Helps that Coach Biller is a rep for Hudson Boat Works, which is one of the two top boat manufacturers in the world.
- We practice year-round, 6 days per week, early in the morning. We go to Gainesville, GA for a week during Winter Break, and we stay in C'ville for Spring Break. We start official practice when school starts in August, and don't stop until our last race in June.
- Every member of the team has a sizable financial commitment, which can be made up with fundraising opportunities like "Rent-a-Rowers", where people in the C'ville community can "hire" rowers / coxswains to do yard work and other menial labor for a day.
- Most of our members never rowed before joining the team, and we're typically a very under-sized team compared to our competition. As a result, we pride ourselves on having a humongous chip on our shoulders, while also not taking ourselves too seriously.
- Last thing - of course the Title IX stuff and varsity status questions always come up when it comes to us, considering our success and comparative disadvantages. To that, I would say, I don't think we'd want things any differently. Coach Biller loves the freedom of the club designation, and the culture of the team has so cherished that "underdog" mentality throughout its history, that suddenly getting the benefits of varsity status would feel like "selling out."

Let me know if you have any questions! I always enjoy talking about my incredible experience on this team.

[Post edited by gohoos_224 at 10/30/2017 11:01AM]

Link: 2011 ACRA 1V Grand Final

Posted: 10/30/2017 at 10:50AM


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  Tremendous! Keep up the good work. ** -- LeadingEdge 10/30/2017 7:17PM
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