With 40 athletes, the University of Miami women’s rowing team has the second-largest roster on campus, trailing only football.
Yet the rowers get little fan or media attention.
Andrew Carter, in his fourth year as the Hurricanes coach, said his athletes deserve recognition because they compete in one of the most physically demanding sports.
“It’s the only true power-endurance sport in the world,” Carter said. “It’s beautiful to watch.”
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Physiologists say rowing 1 1/4 miles is equivalent to playing two consecutive 48-minute basketball games.
Canes practices, which are held at Indian Creek, can go nearly four hours and generally begin at 6 a.m.
“I’ve had people pass out in the boat and hauled off in an ambulance,” Carter said of his grueling sport. “They have pushed themselves to the point of passing out — and these are unbelievably fit athletes.”
The Hurricanes train on saltwater, and it’s not unusual for them to see fish jumping on boats or dolphins frolicking nearby. Canes rowers have asked if they could go swim with the dolphins.
“I tell them, ‘This is not Sea World,’ ” Carter said, warning of the dangers.
Besides communing with nature, rowing has a rich history.
The first rowing race was between Harvard and Yale in 1852, making it the oldest collegiate sport in the country.
Schools in the Northeast continue to dominate rowing.
But UM’s conference, the Atlantic Coast Conference, will soon be the largest rowing league in the nation.
That will happen when league expansion brings in Notre Dame, Syracuse and Louisville, all of which have rowing programs. That will give the ACC nine such schools, one more than the Ivy League.
Growth in Florida
Rowing in Florida is also on the upswing, said Carter, pointing to the creation of a state-of-the-art course in Sarasota.
“That may turn out to be the best rowing course in America, and it could be ready by this spring,” Carter said. “That could allow us, in conjunction with UCF, to host ACC and even national championships at that location. We could also co-host a large regular-season regatta there.”
Carter doesn’t deny that part of why rowing exists on the UM campus has to do with Title IX.
The university does not have men’s rowing, and the 20 scholarships the women’s program divides among its rowers goes a long way toward making up for the male-female-athlete disparity created by football.
But Carter said he doesn’t care how rowing grows as a sport — as long as it does.
It’s an expensive sport, with boats ranging in prices of up to $35,000. Miami usually purchases one or two new boats per year.
But this question remains: When will those investments into the sport turn into an NCAA tournament berth for UM?
Carter said he focused his first two recruiting classes on kids with great work ethic.
Lately, he has been getting more talented rowers.
“We just got a 6-foot recruit from New Zealand whose testing scores eclipse anything we’ve had in our program,” Carter said.
“I think in the next year we can start to turn some heads. By 2014-2015, we might be one of those bubble teams as the NCAA expands to 20 teams.”