Commentary: A 41st, and final, Pac-12 title is major for UW Men's Rowing Team

Starting tonight, there will never be another team crowned "Pac-12 Rowing Champions" again. Which means it was highly appropriate that, not only did the Husky men’s rowing team win the final conference title, but their Varsity Eight won the very last Pac-12 Championship men’s race.

This afternoon, for the 41st time in school history, the Dawgs won a Pac-12 Championship. They won the varsity eight, second varsity eight, third varsity eight and varsity four finals to hold off the two-time defending conference and national champions from Cal. They now set their eyes on a 20th national title in school history, 101 years after winning their very first one.

Of all the sports and rivalries affected by a change in conference, the one between Washington and Cal might be the one most overlooked.

The Pac-12 men’s rowing championships have been held 64 times, and won by just three schools. Either the Huskies or Bears have won the last 34 years. And we all know the rivalry goes back much further than that.

We were all reminded of that in the film version of "The Boys In The Boat," based off the novel by Daniel Brown, who just happens to be a Cal alum.

But there’s also a feeling that this group of rowers has embraced the added attention and thrived off any additional pressure, between the movie release and this also being an Olympic Year.

Just two weeks ago, the men’s varsity eight beat the under-23 Italian National Team by two boat lengths in the annual Windermere Cup. They did so with six of the actors from "The Boys In The Boat" on hand, witnessing the spectacle for the very first time. Head coach Michael Callahan noted that it was "one of the biggest crowds I’ve seen on land for a long time. It’s awesome to have Seattle here just supporting the team so well. Rowtown, USA… it’s awesome."

Two weeks from now, the Huskies will once again be a slight underdog in the IRA National Championships, ranked slightly behind Princeton in the most recent poll. They’re also one of the many schools trying to deny Cal a third straight national title.

And given their recent string of success, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if they got it done.

To remind everyone, this week marks the official end of the Pac-12 era, as the conference hosts its final championship ever – a baseball tournament in Scottsdale, Arizona. To me, it’s been a surreal past couple years, witnessing the transitions we’ve seen in collegiate sports, from NIL, to TV contracts, to alliances and backroom meetings and deals between schools, leading to lawsuits and court cases – basically stuff I never thought I’d see.

But to me at least, there’s still a purity about the sport of collegiate rowing that I hope never gets touched: A group moving in unison, disregarding personal fatigue for the sake of the team, and sometimes overcoming insurmountable odds.

From the early 20th century until now, that’s been the story of Husky rowing. A story that added another triumphant chapter today, and just might do it again in two week's time.


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