How NCAA rowing works
The GIST: Rowing isn’t just for romantic musicals on the water — it’s a cutthroat collegiate competition. While men’s rowing (the oldest intercollegiate sport) is very popular, the fellas declined to join the NCAA, meaning only the women are NCAA-sponsored.
The crew: One of the NCAA’s Emerging Sports for Women success stories, rowing boasts 146 programs, 91 of them in Division I (DI), with an average of 47 athletes per team. Those massive rosters help schools satisfy Title IX requirements, which, in turn, led to the sport’s exploding popularity over the past 20 years. Ladies flying these boats to the moon somehow.
How it works: There are some low-stakes competitions in the fall, but the big show is the spring season, with 2km dual events between two (or occasionally three) teams, plus larger tourneys, aka regattas, sprinkled in throughout.
- Each event has three different races: I Eights, II Eights, and Fours. The first two are the A- and B-teams of eight-person boats (plus the coxswain)…and you can guess what Fours are. Team points are earned based on each boat’s finishing place.
- Men’s and women’s club-level rowing, governed by the Intercollegiate Rowing Association, feature other types of boats and races, like sculling and lightweight racing. The NCAA doesn’t mess around with that — only open-weight, sweep rowing here.
The rowing machines: Unlike some otherNCAA water sports, rowing’s 26 nattys have been won by eight different programs in all corners of the continental U.S. The smarty-pants at Brown lead the way with seven ’ships, while Washington, Cal, and Ohio State have five, four, and three, respectively.
- But over the last three years, the power has belonged to Texas, who won their two titles back-to-back in 2021 and 2022, and the current champs, Stanford, who turned the Texas tides by rowing to their second-ever trophy in May.