In the fall of 1981 eager students with the help of Cincinnati area rowers William Engeman and Harry H. Graves founded the University of Cincinnati Rowing Team. Initially the team was an entity within the Cincinnati Rowing Foundation, an umbrella organization that encompassed Cincinnati Rowing Club, Outdoor Co-operative (Cincinnati Junior RC) and Xavier University and the Cincinnati Training Center. Founding members Tom Ritter, Steven Baker and Tom Stork took on the great task of developing the structure for both men’s and women’s rowing representing the university, although they commuted to Lake Harsha to train the team had early success at the Dad Vail regatta where medals were earned in the first few years. The Bearcats also began competing within two leagues the Southern Intercollegiate Rowing Association and Midwest Sprints.
In 1983-1984 the team made several steps towards developing a nationally competitive by securing the services of Weislaw Kudja and Zenon Brabej two former Polish Olympians. In conjunction with the newly formed Elite Training Center at Coney Island, the team began training in a new fleet of Empacher Shells with the first professional coaches in the team’s history. Weis and Zenon brought a scientific approach to the team’s training that yielded development and brought National Championships to the Men’s Fours, Lightweight Women’s Eight as well as appearances in the finals of the Men’s and Women’s Eights in Dad Vail finals. During this period the National Championships were brought to East Fork Lake with the assistance again from Bill Engeman and patronage of Mrs. Joni Herschede. In addition to the great advances the Cincinnati Rowing Foundation began work to develop a downtown training center featuring several boat bays, weight training facilities, indoor tanks as well as full amenities. The Montgomery Inn Boathouse on the Ohio was the product of this development, unfortunately due to Army Corps Regulations docks were never secured and the facility remains to this an indoor site for the Bearcats.
In 1989 the Men’s Varsity Eight had an unprecedented year setting a course record at the Head of the Hooch, medaling at SIRA regatta and making the finals of Dad Vail regatta. Following the ’89 season Weis moved on to another coaching position and the Bearcats moved the Licking River Boathouse located inside the levee in Newport Ky. After the departure of Weis, Tim Royalty took over as Head Coach leading the Bearcats to a National Championship in the Women’s Four in 1994 and a National Championship in the Women’s Lightweight Eight in 1991. In addition Kelly Salchow ’94 went on to national team success and appearances in the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games. Coach Royalty also was instrumental in directing the team to become a member of the Champion Rowing Series, which has evolved into the ECAC Championships. In 1999 the University elevated the level of the Women’s Team to varsity status and Coach Royalty was named the first Head Coach of the Women’s Rowing.
Following, the splitting of the team, Ben Albright ’98 took over as Head Coach of the Men’s Program. Ben was instrumental in elevation of the Men’s Team to compete as a varsity program despite lack of official support from the University. Ben organized the modification of the Club Sports Board to ensure that Men’s Rowing could attain Semi-Varsity status. Through his diligence the rowing program maintains active grade monitoring, mentoring and development of the team’s equipment. Coach Albright also negotiated the generous support from Student Activities and fostered growth in the general infrastructure of the team. Coach Albright also led the team to a Midwest Championship in the Lightweight Varsity Eight and a Team Championship at the MACRA Regatta. The Varsity Lightweight Eight also received rankings in the US Rowing Collegiate Poll in 2000 and 2001. In 2002 Coach Albright could no longer juggle the long hours of Engineering at Cinergy and coaching full time and orchestrated the hiring of a full time coach.
In 2002 Patrick Schulkers became the 5th professional coach of the team. Schulkers led the team until 2004. During his time he led the Bearcats to the final of the SIRA regatta in the Freshman Eight twice and revitalized the Bearcats Varsity Eight, which also made two appearances at ECAC Regatta.
In 2005 Brent Figg took over as Head Coach of the Bearcats. In 2005 the Bearcats sent four athletes to the US Rowing Development Camp in Princeton, NJ and Tony Geara represented Lebanon in the Pan-Arab Games. In the spring of 2005 the Bearcats won the petite finals in both the Freshman Eight and Varsity Eight at the SIRA regatta, they also won the Grand Bucket and defeated MIT and Boston College. The Bearcats also qualified for the ECAC regatta. In addition to the return to the ECAC Regatta the Bearcats went on to make their first appearance in the IRA National Championships in the Varsity Four where they finished 9th in Nation. Following the IRA, the Bearcats took another unprecedented step and attended the Royal Henley Regatta in Henley on Thames in the Prince Albert Challenge.
In the summer of 2009 Keith Young became the seventh head coach in the history of the University of Cincinnati crew. In his first season as head coach, two Bearcat rowers were accepted into national training programs. Additionally, under his watch a Bearcat Rower Alumni group has been formed, bringing together rowers from the first team to recent graduates. This huge step forward begins to solidify the team as a family of rowers from many generations.
The Summer of 2012 the Team welcomed the return of Rolf Linder to the program. Rolf is now the head coach of the UC Rowing club and is committed to guide the team to not only excel in rowing, but to excel in school and life.
As the Bearcats look to the future and prepare to build on the strong history and tradition they continue to push forward with the same mentality of hard work and commitment that has sustained the team thus far. Throughout the years the team has produced several athletes who have represented Development Squads, Pre-Elite Teams and National Teams. The Bearcats have also produced several successful professionals, among them Doctors, Lawyers, Engineers and Professors. Our Alumni have designed for Nike, worked on NASA missions, worked within the TV/Film industry and much more. There is no questioning the quality of person that has come from our team, as the expectation of hard work and commitment prevail in our Alumni and current Bearcats.