Davis named inagural rowing head coach

Mark Heller

Whether it’s good or bad, nobody quite knows, but Title IX was stirring in the Sports Pavilion on Tuesday. So too, were Women’s Athletics Director Chris Voelz and Wendy Davis.
Davis, 42, was officially ushered in Tuesday as the new women’s rowing coach. Rowing is the newest sport to rise from Title IX at the U, and, beginning next fall, the 12th women’s varsity sport.
“We wanted someone who has had success, experience and an ability to build a program both in the short term and long term,” Voelz said.
Done and done. Davis has been coaching crew for 18 years, starting at her alma mater, UCLA. After leaving the Bruins, where she was a team MVP, she went to Stanford and then to Yale, where her team was in the top five each of the four years she was there.
Oh, and she has also coached national rowers for the 2000 Olympics.
Other than crew, soccer and hockey are the two newest sports under Voelz. All three have one thing in common — Associate Athletics Director Donna Olson became a travel agent.
Said Voelz: “We sent Donna out to a rowing association meeting out East to let everyone know we were serious, just like soccer and hockey.”
“Donna going out to a crew convention out east peaked my interest in Minnesota,” Davis said. “That is what got me here.”
Minnesota is the seventh Big Ten school to add crew to its roster, joining Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin. The first-ever Big Ten championships are this weekend in Madison. The first NCAA championship was in 1997.
Given the size and location of the Twin Cities campus, and the classroom reputation of Voelz’s department, Davis feels she’s in an ideal situation.
“I consider myself to be an educator,” Davis said. “It’s all about teaching excellence. My classroom puts me on the Mississippi River … With 39,000 students we’ll be able to find some incredible athletes. I tried out for the tennis team at UCLA and didn’t make it, but I always wanted to be in sports.”
The crew team is expected to have 20 available scholarships over the next five years. Those may or may not be full-rides. They could probably use more, given that almost 20 members of the current U team — a club crew team — were in attendance.
Some of them probably came from workouts. Crew will primarily be a spring sport (when the Mississippi melts), but there will be a “head race” season in the fall.
With crew being the 12th women’s sport and the men’s athletic department having 11 varsity sports, the last question of the day was about possible unhappiness on the men’s side of Title IX.
“I expect a few thank-you cards,” said Voelz. “This means Minnesota need not touch any men’s program. I always prefer to look at the glass as being half-full. They have talked about men losing opportunities. I see women who never had opportunities.”

Mark Heller covers softball and welcomes comments at [email protected]