Brown University men's rowing

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Brown University Rowing)
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Brown University men's rowing
Brown University Boat Club Rowing Blade.svg
University Brown University
Athletic director Jack Hayes
Head coach Paul Cooke (17th season)
Conference Ivy League
1 Division
Location Providence, Rhode Island
Facility Hunter S. Marston Boathouse
Area of Competition Seekonk River
Nickname Bruno or Brunonian
Colors Seal Brown, White, and Cardinal[1]
Conference championships
'72 '84 '87 '93 '94 '00 '08 '09

The Brown University men's rowing team represents Brown University in men's intercollegiate rowing and is the oldest organized intercollegiate sport at the university.[2] Since its revival in 1949, the Brown University rowing program has become one of the most successful collegiate rowing programs in the world, winning men's and women's national titles, as well as championship titles at the world-famous Henley Royal Regatta in London. In addition, the program has produced 32 Olympic rowers.[3]

Brown rowing is characterized by its home course, the Seekonk River, and its historic rivalry with Yale and Harvard. The Brown rowing blade is half white (on bottom) and half brown (on the top).


The early years (1857–1886)[edit]

Brown rowing was founded June 4, 1857, with the establishment of the University Boat Club, and consisted of a single six-oar shell, the Atalanta. According to the Encyclopedia Brunoniana, on September 11, 1857, the Brown Paper wrote:

"...She was there received by the club, borne to the water's edge and launched on the waves of Narragansett Bay with enthusiastic demonstrations from an assembled crowd." – The Brown Paper, September 11, 1857[2]

Described as "a cumbersome lap-streak, weighing three or four hundred pounds,"[2] the shell only competed once, in a race on July 27, 1859, against Harvard and Yale at Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester, Massachusetts.[4] Because the boat weighed almost 150 pounds (68 kg) more than the Harvard and Yale boats, Brown lost the race, finishing over five minutes behind the victorious Harvard crew.[3]

It was not until eleven years later, on June 17, 1860, that Brown won against Harvard and Yale, claiming its first and only race between 1857 and 1950. According to Harold Amber's book, Ever True: The History of Brown Crew, Brown, in a spectacular series of events, recovered from a collision with an Amherst boat, executed a pristine turn, and overtook Yale and Harvard to win by six lengths.

However, after that 1860 race, little changed over the next 26 years, and Brown suffered defeat after defeat, mishap after mishap; on November 8, 1874, the college boathouse caught fire and burned down, the club was almost constantly in debt, and interest in the program fluctuated so much that often there were not enough oarsmen to fill a boat.[2] By 1886, the university had given up crew in favor of directing athletic funds towards baseball.

The revival (1947–1949)[edit]

The topic of Brown crew was brought up off and on for many years, but there was concern that a revival of crew would draw too heavily from the pool of track athletes and might also create a heavy financial burden on the university.[2]

In 1947, two former prep-school oarsmen, James Donaldson and Harlan Bartlett, began to rebuild the program. With ten other students who had previous experience in rowing, the twelve oarsmen bought an old eight-oared shell from St. Andrew's School in Delaware for $100.[3] With their new boat, rented boat space at the Narragansett Boat Club, and volunteer coach, Robert O. Reed, the crew began practicing on the Seekonk River.

"The Cinderella Crew": Brown gains recognition[edit]

In 1951, ’52, and ’53, a handful of victories brought the team some attention, but it was not until Gordon "Whitey" Helander took the reins in 1958 that the program gained recognition. At the time Helander was a student at the Rhode Island School of Design.[4] Under his coaching, Brown won the Dad Vail Regatta in 1959, 1960, and 1961, with an undefeated 1960 season.

In 1960, the undefeated team entered Olympic trials. Although it lost out in the second heat, this Brown crew, previously dubbed "The Orphans of the Seekonk", was re-christened "The Cinderella Crew".[2]

Following the 1961 season, in which the crew posted a 5–1 record, fifth at Eastern Sprints, and seventh in the IRA, rowing became an officially recognized and supported intercollegiate sport at Brown University.[3] That August, Brown crew hired its first full-time coach, Victor H. Michalson, and in 1962 it became a regular member of the Eastern Association of Rowing Colleges.

"We Are the Champions" (1993–1995)[edit]

In 1993, the Brown crew team had a perfect season. The eight-man crew consisted of Igor Boraska, Paul DiGiacomo, David Filippone, Gus Koven, Jamie Koven, Xeno Muller, Tony Padula, Chris Sahs, and coxswain Brian Madden. The team went undefeated, won the Eastern Sprints, the IRA (Intercollegiate Rowing Association) Championships, and the national heavyweight eight championships.[5] To finish it off, they captured the Ladies' Plate at the Royal Henley Regatta on July 4. Five of the eight members of the team went on to represent their respective countries in the Olympics.[3]

The Cooke era (1996–present)[edit]

In 1996, Paul Cooke was named head coach of the freshman team, and in 2002 became the head coach of the varsity team. Under Cooke, the Bears have maintained their reputation as one of the most formidable rowing schools in the nation. The 2007–2008 team won an Ivy League championship title as well as a top-10 finish in the IRA Regatta. In 2008–2009, Brown documented a historic season, finishing second in the Champ 8 at the Head of the Charles, sweeping the heavyweight events at Eastern Sprints, placing third overall at Nationals, and capturing the Ladies' Plate Challenge Cup at the Henley Royal Regatta in London.[6]


The Seekonk River is the home course of the Brown University Rowing team. Considered to be one of the tougher courses in the Ivy League, the Seekonk is known for its difficult rowing conditions, particularly heavy wind and waves, as well as a strong current. Many have attributed Brown's rowing success in part to the harsh conditions in which the team often practices.


  1. ^ "Brown Bears 2012 Style Guide" (PDF). Retrieved April 1, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Mitchell, Martha. "Rowing". Brown University Library. Retrieved 17 October 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d e Ambler, Harold (2010). Ever True: The History of Brown Crew. Providence, RI: Brown University Sports Foundation. p. 651. ISBN 978-0-9845146-0-1.
  4. ^ a b Horn, Huston. "The Untouchables". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 22 October 2011.
  5. ^ University, Brown. "Brown Men's Crew History" (PDF). Brown University. Retrieved 16 October 2011.
  6. ^ University, Brown. "Paul Cooke". Brown University Athletics. Retrieved 16 October 2011.