BERKELEY – Al Acosta, a 1993 University of California, Berkeley graduate who became a five-time National Coach of the Year leading the Stanford women’s lightweight team, has been named head women’s crew coach for the Golden Bears.
Acosta, who grew up in Berkeley, attended Berkeley High School and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Cal with a degree in fine arts in 1993, started the Stanford lightweight program in 2001 and guided the Cardinal for 13 consecutive years. He led the squad to four straight IRA national titles from 2010-13 before the school posted a runner-up finish this past spring. Acosta was honored as the National Lightweight Coach of the Year for the first time in 2008 when Stanford earned a bronze medal at the national regatta, as well as for each of the team’s national championships.
“It is always exciting to welcome back a Cal graduate to our athletic department,” Interim Director of Athletics Mike Williams said. “Over the course of his career, Al has a proven history of creating an environment where student-athletes can be successful and grow on the water, in the classroom and in life. I believe that Al is someone who can maintain and build upon the momentum a high achieving program overseen by Dave O’Neill the past 16 years, and we look forward to supporting Al as he puts his own stamp on the program. He is highly respected throughout the rowing community, and he received high marks from the student-athletes and alumnae who were involved in the search process for his vision for Cal crew.”
In 2013, Rowing Magazine named Stanford as the “Crew of the Year” as the top collegiate rowing program in the country. In addition to on-the-water success, Acosta’s student-athletes have achieved a 100 percent graduation rate during his tenure.
“I would like to thank Mike Williams, Teresa Kuehn Gould and Jenny Simon-O’Neill for giving me this amazing opportunity to help lead Cal women’s crew,” Acosta said. “I would also like to thank all of the student-athletes, coaches and administrators that I’ve worked with for the last 13 years at Stanford. I’m truly thankful for the impact they’ve had on my life. This is the only job that I’ve ever considered leaving Stanford for and I hope it is the last job I’ll ever have.
“I understand that there are huge shoes that Dave O'Neill left to fill,” Acosta added. “I also understand the role that Cal women’s crew plays on campus and in the rowing community, as well as the place it holds in the history of collegiate women’s rowing. I’m honored to be entrusted with carrying on the legacy that Dave built for 16 years. By far the highlight of the interview process was meeting the team and the alums and hearing their concerns. It was inspiring to hear that the team is focused on two things: maintaining a strong team culture and winning the national championship. I’m confident in my ability to help Cal women’s crew achieve these goals, but I’m also well aware of the work and the challenges that lie ahead. I’m looking forward to getting to work as soon as possible.”
Prior to accepting his role at Stanford, Acosta worked with the country’s top junior programs, the Oakland Strokes rowing program, for eight years. He served as head girls’ coach from 1994-96 and as head boys’ coach from 1997-2001. His boys’ varsity eight captured California state titles in 1998 and ’99 and finished among the nation’s top three in 1997, ’98 and ’99. In addition, Acosta was the head men’s master’s coach for the Lake Merritt Rowing Club in Oakland from 1997-2001.
On the national level, Acosta served as chair of the Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association Lightweight Committee from 2007-09. He has also been a head coach and associate head coach at national team development camps for both high school boys and college women.
“I’d like to welcome Al back to his roots,” Cal head men’s rowing coach Mike Teti said. “Not only do I look forward to working with him, but also learning from him. He’s had unprecedented success in all his coaching endeavors and we look forward to him bringing that expertise to Cal. I would also like to say that Dave was a great partner here and I wish him nothing but the best.”
Acosta and his wife, Linda, have two children and reside in San Francisco.
Acosta replaces Dave O’Neill, who departed earlier this summer to become head coach at Texas after 16 seasons at the helm of the Golden Bear program. He produced NCAA team championship squads in 2005 and ’06, 12 top-four national finishes and eight Pac-12 titles during his time in Berkeley.