by Sparks editorial staff

This is an interview with Kevin Harris, head coach of Tulsa University women’s rowing. The subject is “growth of collegiate women’s rowing in the Midwest.” Coach Harris has been at the helm of Tulsa’s rowing program for the past 12 seasons. Tulsa competes in Conference USA.

What are the challenges facing Midwest teams today?

I still think it’s kind of a hard road here in the Midwest. Some of that is geographical. The teams are so spread out in this part of the country. It’s not like Boston where there are 6-7 colleges rowing and 20-30 high schools within a certain range in addition to masters clubs. Here, it’s Tulsa and 90 miles away its Oklahoma City and then 100 miles north is Wichita State and Kansas. So it’s little bit tougher since people aren’t aware of what the sport is. But, when they see it, they recognize it.

How has the general attitude towards Midwest rowing changed over the years?

I think the biggest change is that people really respect these athletes. They know that if they’re going to line up against Texas, Oklahoma, or Kansas that there is going to be a competition there. They’re going to have to go fast. We’re here to compete.

At the collegiate level, how do conference match-ups impact the growth potential for Midwest rowing? How does that impact our ability to get Midwestern schools into the NCAAs?

The conference alignment is actually a very positive thing for schools. Before there was no real path for schools in this area and it didn’t matter what conference they were from. Many of the more traditional powers fought it originally because people worried that schools that were undeserving or not fast enough would be there. Instead, everyone is getting faster. It’s not always obvious and it probably won’t be in NCAA results for the next 3-4 years, but the bottom level of the 87 teams is actually moving toward the middle and the middle is moving toward the top. That’s when you start to see the “Cinderella’s.” It’s a little more difficult to do in rowing, but there is one out there. It’s coming. It’s just a matter of who, when, and where.

Are there any big advantages of rowing in the Midwest compared to the coasts?

I would say no. Every place has their challenge. We kind of have the best of both worlds in some respects. We have four seasons and we are able to be on the water more than most.  I don’t know if there is a particular advantage in terms of geography. If there is an advantage, it is more in the opportunity itself of being able to row at a high level.

Forecast the future of collegiate rowing in the Midwest for 2024. What’s going to happen? 

Number one, I think the Midwest teams are going to get faster. I’m hesitant to say that there’s going to be a lot of “expansion” in the Midwest. I would like to believe that there will be, but one of the things that’s hampering that right now, is the turmoil within the NCAA… Mostly it’s a money issue, it’s an expensive sport and there is only so much that schools are going to be able to balance between the education piece and the athletic piece. Here at Tulsa, we are very lucky. There is no doubt about that.

The report above shall not constitute an endorsement of any kind (direct or indirect, expressed or implied) by Kevin Harris or the University of Tulsa of any product or service and has been found in compliance with NCAA rules by NCAA and legal professionals.

The Growth of Rowing in the Midwest: One Coach's View.
One coach speaks about the growth of college rowing in the Midwest.
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