Varsity, club crew teams still co-exist

In fall 2000, the women’s crew team will row down the Mississippi River with varsity status. In the meantime the men’s club team continues to compete against varsity programs from around the country.
Beginning today, the men will participate in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association’s National Collegiate Championship Regatta in Camden, N.J. The team is seeking a fourth consecutive national title in the Varsity 4 with coxswain.
While the women’s club team hasn’t enjoyed that level of success, men’s coach Michael Nicholls said he’s excited about the addition of a varsity women’s team. He said it will be good for the sport at the University and for the women’s athletics department.
But Nicholls said the school must recognize that money isn’t the only solution to building a highly successful program.
“Building the right environment is crucial,” he said.
Although Minnesota has never been known as a rowing school, Nicholls said both the men’s and women’s club teams have always been competitive. The rowers might have to step up their training intensity when competing at the varsity level, Nicholls said, but he is confident the women can succeed at the highest level.
“The club rowers have already proven that they have the resolve to compete against better-funded and more established varsity programs,” he said.
Next years addition of a varsity women’s crew team was fueled by Title IX, a 1972 law that requires federally funded universities to provide males and females with equal opportunities to participate in athletics programs.
The University added women’s soccer in 1993 and women’s hockey in 1997. Crew will bring the number of women’s teams to 12.
Women’s crew team president Nicole DeMott said though some might think the addition of another women’s sport is unfair to the men’s crew team, a majority of universities that have women’s varsity teams also have men’s teams competing at the club level.
With the help of funding from the University, DeMott said it will not take long for the women’s team to solidify itself as a nationally competitive program.
“In one to two years, the women will develop into an established team,” DeMott said.
Kevin Curley, a senior and captain of the men’s team, echoed Nicholls’ remarks and said going varsity is a great opportunity for the women.
Curley said many athletes who can’t afford to join a club crew team might now get the opportunity to participate. He said he is forced to pay most of his own costs, including transportation to the regattas, which are held as far away as Boston and Atlanta.
DeMott says she pays between $800 and $1,200 per year to participate. The University will cover these costs for the women’s varsity team, which will consist of between 60 and 80 rowers.
Both Curley and former men’s team captain Todd Beyreuther said money has had little impact on their desire to row. They said through all the hard work and money spent, crew has been a great experience with a lifetime of memories.
“It has been the greatest thing I have done at college,” Curley said.
Beyreuther said there were no hard feelings toward the women’s team’s promotion to the varsity level. He said the men only worry about the other teams they compete against, many of which — unlike Minnesota — are funded by their respective schools.
“We’re jealous of other men’s teams (that are funded by their school),” he said. “We’re not jealous of the women’s team.”
Beyreuther noted that when Michigan elevated its women’s team to varsity, the school agreed to fully fund the men’s club team as well. The University has announced no such plans to fund the men’s club team.
Although many of the teams that will compete at this weekend’s regatta are considered varsity teams, Minnesota’s team competes at a similarly high level and enjoys the competition.
“It’s fun to see how you compete against the best in the country,” Curley said.