Daily Collegian Features UMass Rowing Team
May 4, 2006
Amherst, Mass. - Dietz brings crew to prominence
By Joey White, Collegian Staff
Trivia question: Can you name the most dominating team in the Atlantic 10 Conference?
The answer is the Massachusetts women's crew team. On April 22, UMass won its 11th consecutive A-10 Championship. The 11-championship title streak is the longest in any sport in A-10 history.
The Atlantic 10 was the first conference to have a women's rowing championship, starting in 1996, which means that the Minutewomen have won every single title.
Quite the big accomplishment. And to whom does the program owe a great deal of gratitude for its success?
Head coach Jim Dietz, who has been the only crew coach in UMass history, even before it came to be a varsity sport here.
Dietz joined the existing program in 1995, which had been a club team since the 1970s, with intent of making the leap into the varsity world.
"Basically, UMass made me an offer I couldn't refuse," Dietz said. "It was on the onset of women's rowing taking off as an NCAA varsity sport."
It was former UMass athletic director Bob Marcum and Tom Carhart, a big supporter of the club team, who approached Dietz with that "offer he couldn't refuse."
In his previous nine years before making the move to Amherst, Dietz was the head coach of the Coast Guard Academy program. He was in charge of the overall program, which consisted of over 90 student-athletes.
Dietz is not only known in college competition, but is also known worldwide.
His rowing experience started in 1964 when he competed for the New York Athletic Club. This is where his life's successes in rowing started.
In high school he won all the United States and Canadian Scholastic championships from 1964-67, and he also won the first Junior World Championship in single sculls in Ratzeburg, Germany in 1967.
In all, Dietz has won 45 United States and 37 Canadian national championship titles.
He was a member of the 1972, 1976 and 1980 U.S. Olympic teams and coached the U.S. Olympic teams in 1988, 1992 and 2000, all of which, he admits, has added to his success for UMass.
"[All those accomplishments] helped teach me to be a better coach," said Dietz, seven-time A-10 Coach of the Year. "And to not be controlling, but to sit back and watch."
He does more than watch, as most of his athletes have never rowed before, and he has led some of girls to Olympic status.
Both Sara Jones (1996) and Sarah Lauritzen (1997) competed on the 2000 and 2004 U.S. Olympic teams.
With his experience and accomplishments and his athletes' inexperience, Dietz still strongly believes that the girls who compete for him are the biggest reason for the success of the Maroon and White.
"I think it's the type of person you get coming to the University of Massachusetts," Dietz said. "Ninety-seven percent of our team are walk-ons. They were good high school athletes in other sports - never rowed before - that have been able to make the transition."
These athletes, whom you may never see because you are sleeping, are up at 4:30 every morning to train. Commitment is a strong word, a backbone, to these girls.
"It's a sport that's driven by the athletes," Dietz said. "I think all of our coaches have a real sense of what it takes to win and can teach the technique that it takes to win, but it's the athletes that push themselves to achieve that success.
"They don't want to be the team that loses the first A-10s."
No Minutewoman team has failed that task yet.
But Dietz's Minutewomen not only succeed in the waters; they also succeed in the classroom.
The crew team has consistently added up 28 percent of UMass's A-10 Commissioner's Honor Roll selections. The program has also produced a league-leading 21 A-10 Academic All-Conference performers, nine Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association National Scholar Athletes who have earned a total of 15 citations and four U.S. Rowing Association Academic All-Americans.
UMass is in prime location for success in crew, as it's only seven miles away from the Connecticut River, and - depending on traffic - only a 12-minute commute to the boathouse.
"We have a perfect training venue where we're not interrupted all the time," Dietz said.
"Our geographical location also adds to the success of the program. We don't have to travel far to face good competition. I wouldn't want to be like Texas and have to fly to all our races."
New England is big in rowing history and is where you'll find a lot of your competition.
"I think my time here at UMass has been very fruitful. We've brought UMass women's [crew] to a level of prominence," Dietz said.
The only failure that Dietz is upset about in his 12 years in the program is the lack of a new boathouse for the team.
"We're recruiting against Harvard and BU ... we drive down to their boathouses, and we look like we're still a club program."
The lack of support hasn't stopped the success of the Minutewomen yet, who will be defending their Eastern College Athletic Conference title this weekend in Worcester.
Maybe sometime in your stay here at UMass, you could make the short drive to the river and check out the best team the University has to offer. And maybe you would like to be part of something special, a winning family, and join the Maroon and White.
"I think after 12 years and your alumni start showing up at your races pushing baby carriages - I think that adds to the success of your program," Dietz said. "Not only have they made the transition of being good athletes, but now are doing great things."
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