Just before the term began this Fall, Steve Gladstone and Joel Scrogin, the two coaches-in-residence at California Rowing Club in the wake of Tim McLaren's departure, took off for Yale. Why would Gladstone take the Yale job? That's the subject for an entirely separate debate. But where does all this leave CRC?
Only two years ago, CRC was an elite sculling training center, much like Pocock has become in the Pacific Northwest, and under the guidance of Tim McLaren, athletes wanting to develop their talents in the post-collegiate rowing atmosphere of California (typically a wasteland when compared to the East Coast) finally had an opportunity to do more than just bash out 1,000 meter pieces in Masters VIIIs. The program was working very well, and produced an Olympic Men's 2x much earlier than originally planned, made up of former Cal oarsman Elliot Hovey and his counterpart Wes Piermarini. Then, in the wake of the Beijing Olympics, Mike Teti decided to take on a new role, as Steve Gladstone stepped aside at Cal in order to help the CRC with its athlete development. Teti's move left a power vacuum on the East Coast, and McLaren, who had already produced an Olympic-caliber boat, took the reigns, though he was initially reluctant to leave his role at CRC entirely. After a lot of behind-the-scenes squabbling, we were left with Gladstone at CRC (along with Scrogin), and McLaren as the US National Team Head Coach, Mike Teti having landed quite successfully at Cal. It seemed for a short while that we had reached a new status quo. Then Gladstone and Scrogin left.
CRC has the capability to be every bit as good as the OKC TC that has sprung up over the past two years (click here for an article on OKC), but there is no one filling the role of Head Coach, and, as a result, not very many athletes getting the experience they'll need to be competitive should they wish to continue their rowing careers at a higher level. There are still athletes present, however, as CRC is next door to one of the most dominant forces in all of collegiate rowing, and perhaps that alone will sustain the remnants of a once-powerful presence until someone finally steps in to develop it once again. I understand that there is currently a search going on for the next man for the role, but in the meantime resources and athletic potential are being wasted. For these reasons, more and more athletes are finding themselves with no option but to move to Oklahoma City -- all one need do is take a look at the results from US Trials to get a sense of the shift.
Why is it that California, with its ideal climate for rowing, year-round sun, and abundance of rowable waterways cannot sustain a training center for elite athletes in the sport? Is it purely that Princeton has traditionally been the seat of rowing in the US? Why is it that the US is unable to sustain a club rowing climate like that of England, despite the growing knowledge of the sport due to the expansion of women's athletic programs over the past 15 years? In my view, it is ridiculous to ask athletes to move cross country for no pay, with no guarantee of making a squad, and then expect to wind up with the most talented pool of oarsmen -- the limiting factors are too great, and until something changes, or places like CRC are rebuilt with a view once again toward development, we will continue to get torched in most boat classes by countries with one tenth the population size of the US. But hey, we sure can row the VIII.