WVU Rowing Looks Far And Wide For Its Recruits
Even in normal times, recruiting for women’s rowing is often overlooked and misunderstood.
West Virginia University is one of 89 schools with a Division I women’s rowing team. The NCAA allows a maximum of 20 full scholarship equivalencies for each D-I program, and those grants-in-aid can be cut into various portions. For instance, a team could use those 20 full scholarships by slicing each into a half and providing 40 student-athletes with a partial grant-in-aid. That’s a simplistic formula, obviously, as usually such equivalencies aren’t all doled out at the same rate, but you get the idea
Rowing is afforded more scholarships than any other NCAA women’s sport, topping the maximum allowed in basketball (15), cross-country/track (18), swimming & diving (14), soccer (14), gymnastics (12), volleyball (12), tennis (8) and rifle (3.6, co-ed sport).
Rowing also typically has the largest roster for a college sports program with most schools featuring around 50 on their women’s crew team. WVU this year had 51.
But where do those Mountaineer rowers come from? After all the state of West Virginia has just two high schools that sponsor rowing as a varsity sport – Parkersburg High and Parkersburg South.
Thus WVU rowing coach Jimmy King typically has to look out of state for recruits. This year’s Mountaineer team featured just five in-state natives, and interestingly none were from Parkersburg.
King’s search for athletes has brought him rowers from 17 different states and three foreign countries (Canada, Belgium and Pakistan).
“A lot of our team is currently made up students from Ohio, because there is a lot of rowing in Ohio,” explained King, who has 10 members of his team from the Buckeye State. “After that, we get a majority from the surrounding areas – Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and New Jersey. Then we also have tapped into Florida in recent years and are continuing to recruit that area.”
These crew members are divided among different boats and different levels. WVU, which first started its varsity rowing program in 2000, fields novice four-person and eight-person boats, as well as varsity fours and varsity eights. It will also have as many as three of each of those, so you can have nearly 50 Mountaineers on the water for various races during a weekend event.
Most of those who come directly to WVU as scholarship student-athletes will have had significant rowing experience at the prep level. Many of the walk-ons, though, especially those from the state of West Virginia, outside the Parkersburg area, will not have been on crew teams in high school but were usually athletes in softball, basketball, track, etc., looking to try another sport.
“Every collegiate program has its recruited student-athletes, just like all the other sports,” explained King, who is in his 11th season as WVU coach. “We signed five in the fall, two more this winter and then we have two other (letters of Intent) out now to student-athletes who we expect to sign with us. That will probably wrap it up our recruiting class.
“We also have walk-ons who will join the team,” he added. “They are a huge component of novice program, which we use for development. They are usually people who have excelled in other sports but may not have much rowing experience. That makes up much of our novice component, and it’s important to any collegiate program.”
Certainly little is normal in the world today, and that definitely goes for collegiate rowing as well.
“There are a lot of what-ifs right now because of our current situation, but we can’t fixate on those,” noted King. “We’ll deal with them when we get there.”