Rowing’s coach search on the horizon

Brian Stensaas

The addition of women’s rowing to the fall varsity lineup in the year 2000 has prompted a national search for a permanent coach. It will be a process that could take up to three months to complete.
According to Donna Olson, senior associate athletics director of women’s sports at the University, the department is conducting an open search which will be formally advertised sometime in late November or early December.
Olson said the department is hoping to interview all possible candidates the last two weeks in January, with the announcement of the new head coach between the middle and end of February.
“We want to become competitive nationally,” Chris Voelz, women’s athletics director said. “We did the same thing with soccer and hockey. We had a genuine national search. It’s the best fit for the national prominence.”
Women’s soccer was added as a varsity sport in 1993 while women’s hockey came aboard in 1997.
Because of the open-search classification, current rowing coach Jill Cooper will have to apply to be considered for the varsity position. It is something that she and the current club members want.
“I would be looking to take on the varsity (coaching) position,” Cooper said. “It is a whole different situation, though. I would be able to quit the job I have now and concentrate totally on rowing and the athletics department.”
Without naming names, Voelz said, “We’ve had a lot of good inquires so far. It’s being seen as a good job to get.”
Part of the allure is the easy access to the Mississippi River, which both Voelz and Cooper see as a draw to the area. Cooper, who took over as club coach in 1992, said among the biggest changes would be the ability to recruit a powerful team.
“That would be intense,” she said.
“I think that there is a mutual feeling on the team that she’s done a great job here,” team member Jessica Brent said of Cooper. “Even though we’re still just a club sport, we practice and train like a varsity squad would. We always think of ourselves as an NCAA sport.”
Women’s rowing was announced as a new varsity sport in May. University President Mark Yudof has said that the addition was part of his plan to ensure gender equity between men’s and women’s athletics. Yudof’s plan is in compliance with Title IX, a law passed in 1972, in part geared toward marking the end of discrimination against women’s athletics.
Women’s rowing will be the 12th women’s sport at Minnesota, bringing in up to 80 new members.
One of the biggest changes next year will be the funding allotted to the women’s rowing team. Currently, all members of the team have to pay for their involvement, including all travel costs.
Voelz said that the budget dollars for this year are minimal, but for the 2000-2001 season, the total could be as high as $600,000.
The majority of the money will go toward a competitive schedule, scholarships, coaching staff and equipment.
And it’s the equipment that will cost the most, initially. Boats can cost up to $16,000 each, with the oars costing as much as $300. Eight rowers occupy each boat in competition.
In 2000, Minnesota will join current Big Ten varsity teams at Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin. The first Big Ten rowing championships will be held in spring 2000, before Minnesota has a team.
The women’s athletics department will be holding an informational meeting on October 18 for all University students interested in gaining a spot on the 2000 roster. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at the Sports Pavilion and will contain valuable information such as current NCAA and Big Ten academic requirements.
“Everyone is really excited about the change,” Brent said. “It’s long overdue.”

Brian Stensaas is a general assignment writer and welcomes comments at [email protected]