BY CHIP DAVIS | PHOTO COURTESY UCF
The University of Central Florida has hired Mara Allen to be the next head coach of the Knights.
Allen, who has been on the University of Texas staff for the last eight years, coached the Longhorns’ four to victory at the 2023 NCAA Championships. She takes over a troubled program as UCF joins the Big 12 Conference on July 1.
“We’re going to focus mostly on the culture, moving forward, and getting better,” Allen told Rowing News from her native San Francisco as she prepared to move to Orlando. “And then if we do that, things will be good.”
“We’re really excited to welcome Coach Allen to UCF,” said Terry Mohajir, vice president and director of athletics. “She has coached and competed at the highest level, winning a gold medal with the U.S. National Team, two national championships as one of the top assistants in the country, and two as a student-athlete. Those experiences, combined with her familiarity with the Big 12 and her ability to communicate and motivate, will make her the perfect fit for our rowing program.”
Allen’s predecessor at UCF, Becky Cramer, resigned in April after a leave of absence. A group of alumnae wrote a letter and circulated a petition protesting the circumstances of the change. In it, they lauded Cramer, supported contemporary rowing’s high training volume and regular erg tests, and criticized the increasing precedence of a few malcontents’ complaints leading to coaches’ terminations.
With its move to the Big 12 Conference, UCF is going all-in on NCAA Division I athletics, including women’s rowing.
“That’s one of the things that was really attractive about the position,” said Allen. “And how supportive the administration is of not just athletics but the rowing team. The athletic director is very much behind having a successful rowing team. It’s been exciting to hear and to be given anything we need to be successful. So it’s just a matter of hard work, and attitude, and getting the culture right.”
Allen rowed and won two NCAA Division I national championships at Cal with Coach Dave O’Neill and then joined his staff when he went to Texas, where the team won two more.
“I can’t say enough good things about my time there.”
Accepting the UCF job offer was the hardest decision she’s ever made, Allen said.
“It’s a great opportunity at UCF. Take the challenge, and see what’s possible.”