BY ED MORAN
PHOTO BY SPORTGRAPHICS
Wisconsin men’s coach Chris Clark said the idea of forming a national men’s rowing coaches association has been talked about for years. But until 2020, when all collegiate sports shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there didn’t seem to be much time to actually pull it all together.
But with this year’s long interruption, Clark and Northeastern University’s head coach John Pojednic, with a big hand from Intercollegiate Rowing Association Commissioner Gary Caldwell, have taken the time necessary to complete the idea and formed the Intercollegiate Rowing Coaches Association (IRCA).
The association, which will represent men’s rowing coaches who work in schools that have varsity men’s rowing programs, began official business Tuesday afternoon with its first meeting, which was, fittingly for 2020, held on a Zoom call.
“I’ve talked about this for years,” said Clark. “But we started talking about it in earnest maybe a few years ago. I remember talking to other coaches and there were different levels of enthusiasm. But everybody seemed to be into it. And then we did absolutely nothing.”
But that changed with the Pandemic shutdown and when issues that affected all collegiate sports began being debated and men’s rowing found that it did not have an official association to represent them.
“What really sparked this was in May when all sorts of things in athletics were hitting the news,” Clark said. “And one thing was this concept that some NCAA schools were trying to get a waiver to drop below the 16-sport minimum required to remain an NCAA institution and the implications that would bring.”
So, Clark and Pojednic stepped up the effort to organize and decided to bring Caldwell into the planning. Tuesday, the fledgling association launched its official website and began the business of getting the word out, growing membership, and preparing for what issues there are ahead for men’s rowing.
“The closest thing to a men’s collegiate coach’s association is the IRA coaches group,” Caldwell said. “But that only represents the schools that are part of the IRA, and among the colleges that sponsor men’s varsity rowing, only two-thirds of them are IRA members and the other third are not,” Caldwell said.
“So, you have a group that doesn’t have an organized voice at all. This provides an opportunity for the 51 IRA member schools and the 25 other schools that have men’s varsity rowing to have a unified voice on an area of concern to all of them,” he said.