With the exception of 1964, a college boat won every Olympics Trials in the eight oared boat (8+) from 1920 through 1968. And in an amazing streak, all of the boats from 1920 through 1956 won gold medals. College boats also have had some success in the four man events (4+) and (4-) and the pair (2-).
Beginning in 1972, the United States has chosen its eight from a national selection camp. Numerous college athletes have made Olympic boats, but they were not specifically representing their University either at the camp, or at the Olympic trials for some of the smaller boats.
Below is a list of college boats that represented the United States at the Olympics:
Collegiate men's rowing consists of two squads, a varsity and a freshman team. The varsity squad typically fields a Varsity Eight (8+), a Second Varsity or Junior Varsity Eight (8+) and a Varsity Four (4+), but on occasion can field other boats. The varsity eight is the most prestigious boat, and teams try to make it the fastest boat possible. Oarsmen who don't make the varsity eight are usually placed in the Second Varsity eight followed by the Varsity Four. The term 'Junior Varsity' as used in rowing is a historical misnomer. It is not a separate team or squad like a typicial junior varsity team, but the substitutes for the varsity boat. Coaches often trade rowers between boats during the season trying to make the fastest Varsity 8 possible. Most major regattas use the term second varsity when referring to the second boat fielded by a college.
If a regatta has a point system for determining the overall champion, it is based on the showing of the Varsity 8, the Second Varsity 8, the Varsity 4, and the Freshman 8 plus other boats. The unofficial championship of Division I men's rowing is the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) Championships, which are located on the Cooper River in Camden, New Jersey around the end of May or beginning of June.
Women rowers compete at the NCAA Rowing Championships in a Varsity 8, a Second Varsity 8, and a Varsity Four. Most teams also field one or more Novice Eights for novice rowers who have never competed at the collegiate level. Points are awarded for the overall championship based on the performance of those boats. Although NCAA National Championships only provide races for the aforementioned varsity boats, head races and regattas such as Head of the Charles, Pac-10 Championships and others allow a wide variety of competition for less-prominent boat classifications such as pair, sculls, and lightweight racing.
There has been a spectacular growth in women's rowing over the past twenty-five years. In 1985 the FISA and Olympic course distance for women was increased from the previous 1000 meters to 2000 meters (the same distance raced by men), marking significant progress in public perception of women's strength, endurance and competitive drive. Universities that have never had a men's team have added women's rowing to the athletic department and are providing funding and athletic scholarships for the expensive and demanding sport, contributing to a noticeable increase in the success and competitiveness of many collegiate women's rowing teams. This, in part, is to comply with Title IX; many of the football powers use women's rowing to help balance out the large number of scholarships awarded to male football players.
In rowing, taller, heavier individuals have a significant advantage. It is based on the same physical principle that causes boats with more rowers to go faster. To allow average-sized rowers to best compete against their peers, the rowing governing boards have set-up a category for lightweight rowing. For men, the maximum weight is 160 lbs. with a boat average of 155 lbs., and for women the weight limit is 130 lb.
There are races for both men's and women's lightweight rowing. However, many of the smaller colleges have limited sized programs and simply field open weight boats, which include rowers who would qualify as lightweights. And many of the larger university where the competition to make a boat is intense, do not have lightweight programs, and if they do, it is often an underfunded club sport. For women, the NCAA Rowing Championships do not have a lightweight event.
The exception is the Ivy League/EARC schools, who often have excellent well-funded men's lightweight teams. The lightweight men's events at Eastern Sprints and the Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championship are fiercely contested.
Lightweight events have recently been added to the Olympics and it is possible that this might increase funding for these teams.
Since rowing is such a technical sport, there is a separate category for novices (rowers with less than one year of experience). This is usually combined with freshman rowers, who may have rowed before in highschool, but it is their first year in collegiate rowing. The Freshman squad is sometimes open only to college freshmen. However, people who start rowing after their freshman year normally join the novice team as well. The novice squad usually fields a freshman eight oared boat (8+), and if the team is big enough, a second eight, and/or a 4 oared boat (4+). In some collegiate conferences excluding the EARC and Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA), collegiate freshmen/novice can also compete as part of the varsity squad.
There are also several large regattas, such as the San Diego Crew Classic and the Eastern Sprints, which may be on the schedule. In this case, the teams compete in either flights, in which the winner is final, or a series of heats and semifinals before the winners move on to the finals. Sprint races begin with all teams lined up and started simultaneously, as opposed to the time trials in the fall.
Performing well in these races is the most important selection criteria for the various post season invitation rowing championships. If the crew is in a league, the dual race and regatta results will also typically be used in determining the team's seeding for the league championship. The lightweight division becomes more prominent during the spring. Many head races lack separate categories for heavyweight/lightweight, but many spring races have a separate weight category for lighter rowers.
Since the 1920s, when the West Coast crews, notably California and University of Washington began to attend and regularly win, most crews considered the Intercollegiate Rowing Association's championship (know as the IRA) to be a de facto national championship. Two important crews, Harvard and Yale, however, did not participate in the heavyweight divisions of the event. (After losing to Cornell in 1897, Harvard and Yale chose to avoid the IRA, so as not to diminish the Harvard-Yale race. It soon became part of each school's tradition not to go). And beginning in 1973, Washington decided to skip the IRA because of change in schedule conflicted with it finals.
Even though rowing is the oldest intercollegiate sport, the men have always chosen not to join the NCAA. If they did, the NCAA would sponsor a championship, but it would also force the sport to abide by NCAA rules and mandates. Notwithstanding, collegiate crews generally abide by NCAA rules, and they also have to abide by athletic conference rules, which mirror the NCAA rules.
In 1982, a Harvard alumnus decided to remedy this perceived problem by establishing a heavyweight varsity National Collegiate Rowing Championship race in Cincinnati, Ohio. It paid for the winners of the Pac-10 Championship, the Eastern Sprints, the IRA and the Harvard-Yale race to attend. It was a finals only event and other crews could attend if they paid their own way and there was room in the field. The winner received an expense paid trip to the Henley Royal Regatta as a prize. After 1996, however, the race was discontinued.
Given Washington's return to the IRA in 1995 and the demise of the National Collegiate Rowing Championship, the IRA again was considered to be the National Championship. In 2003, Harvard and Yale, after an absence of over one hundred years, decided to participate.
The first women’s collegiate championship was held in 1980 at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. This race was open solely to collegiate rowing teams.
Since 1997, the NCAA has hosted an invitational rowing championship for women. Unlike the former women's collegiate championship, the NCAA does not have a championship race for women's lightweight rowing. In response, the IRA hosts a women's lightweight event.
The NCAA currently hosts championships for Division I, Division II and Division III colleges, Division II and III having been added in 2002.
NCAA Division I requires colleges to enter two eight-oared shells and one four-oared shell in the team championship. The championship is restricted to 12. Four other colleges are selected to enter an eight-oared shells tournament. The NCAA Division II championship consists of an eight-oared shells and four-oared shell competition . The Division III championship involves both varsity and second varsity eights in the same event.
On the women's side, the conference is called the Eastern Association of Women's Rowing Colleges (EAWRC). It's Eastern Sprints, held on the Cooper River in New Jersey, are highly competitive, but because of the huge growth in women's rowing, the Aramark Central Region Championships and Pac-10 Championships are deep and highly competitive as well.
|Lightweight Men||Heavyweight Men||Openweight Women||Lightweight Women|
|--||Boston University||Boston University||--|
|--||George Washington||George Washington||--|
|Humboldt State||Humboldt State|
|Lewis & Clark||Lewis & Clark|
|Pacific Lutheran||Pacific Lutheran|
|Puget Sound||Puget Sound|
|Seattle Pacific||Seattle Pacific|
|Western Washington||Western Washington|
|Connecticut College||Connecticut College|
|Mass Maritime Academy||--|
|--||Mount Holyoke College|
|Coast Guard||Coast Guard|
|UMass Lowell||UMass Lowell|
The Colonial Athletic Association is a small conference composed of several universities and colleges in the mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states. The Kerr Cup Regatta serves as the conference championships; however, non-conference schools participate in the regatta as well. The Kerr Cup is hosted by Drexel University and takes place on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia. Though the winner of each race is awarded medals, points trophies are awarded to conference schools only. The winners of the men's varsity 8 are awarded the Thomas Kerr Cup, while the winners of the women's eight receive the Lela H. Kerr Cup.
|Men (Open Weight)||Women (Open Weight)|
|George Mason||George Mason|
|Old Dominion||Old Dominion|
|William and Mary||William and Mary|
The Liberty League is a small athletic conference composed of small to medium size private colleges and universities in upstate New York. The Liberty League Rowing Championships is the conference championship and is held every April. It is usually either hosted by Skidmore College at Fish Creek, NY or by St. Lawrence University at the St. Lawrence River in Waddington, NY.
|St. Lawrence||St. Lawrence|