Rowing in General
The University of California and its rowing program were both founded in 1868 and crew thereby became the first sport at Cal. The Cal men's crew began its dominance of national and international rowing in earnest in 1924, with the hiring of Carrol ("Ky") Ebright to lead the Bears. Over Ebright's leadership of 36 years, Cal Crew became synonymous with Olympic Gold Medals and National Collegiate Championships; in fact, the Olympic standards set by California will likely never be surpassed.
Although only 20 years as a varsity sport, the history of Cal Women's Crew is impressive. One of the top women's intercollegiate sports at Cal, women's rowing started several times earlier in the century as a club and intramural program; but women's crew began as an intercollegiate sport with a flourish in the fall of 1974. Daig O'Connell (Cal '72) the program's first coach, immediately led the Bears to early dominance of women's west coast rowing. The Bears won the Pacific Coast intercollegiate title their first year of competition, in 1975. In fact, they went on to the Pacific Coast Championship in four of their five years of O'Connell's tutelage. During O'Connell's years they truly dominated the women's events at the San Diego Crew Classic and in 1979 finished second in the U.S. National Collegiate Championships.
In 1980, O'Connell turned the program over to Pat Sweeney, a 1976 Olympic silver medallist coxswain from Great Britain. In Sweeney's first year, the Bears truly dominated. The 1980 Cal Women's Crew dominated the National Championships, possibly putting together the finest regatta ever in the history of women's collegiate rowing. They won the varsity eight, Cal's first ever varsity national championship in any women's sport, and also captured the varsity four and finished second in the junior varsity eight. Although Washington went on to dominate women's rowing from 1981-88, winning seven of eight national championships, the Bears captured national titles in the novice eight in 1984 and the varsity four in 1981. During the 1980's the Bears continued with many successes, including adding to its impressive list that now totals 12 athletes on the U.S.A. National Team. From 1988-1993 the Bears were led by John Squadroni, who twice took successful varsity crews to the National Championships, finishing seventh in 1991 and a strong fourth in 1993, in addition to defeating Washington in both the varsity and junior varsity eights in 1990.
This year will be the third under Anna Considine, considered by many to be the top women's crew coach in the U.S. In 1994, her first Cal crew showed great early speed before being slowed by injury and illness. In three years leading the Boston University's women's crew program, Anna's crews captured successive national championships in 1991 and '92, proving it won't take long for Anna to return Cal's women's crew to the top of the U.S. collegiate field.
The men's and women's crew programs were officially merged in August, 1992. Mark Zembsch was named the first ever Director of Crew at Cal, and the Ky Ebright Boathouse became home to both the men's and women's crews. The transition has been smooth, enabling the Cal crews to be poised to continue its great tradition of successes for the women and men.