UC Davis threatens to cut women’s rowing

As we all know, California is in financial crisis, and California schools from elementary to university level are suffering. Arts and athletics programs are being cut, and women’s teams are especially vulnerable. This is a tragic situation for women, resonating far beyond sports. Being on a team is a crucial part of an education; students learn basic leadership skills, discipline, confidence, ethics, how to work with others– basic life skills that serve them throughout their lives and careers.

Women’s sports are always the first to go, because they generate less revenue then men’s sports do. Obviously, its a viscous circle. Only when more money is invested in training young female players, providing them with the best equipment and practice spaces, launching PR campaigns to inspire players and audiences, will women athletes finally get the kind of coaching, leagues, and PR they deserve. And only then can women’s leagues reach their capabilities and get real opportunities to bring in large revenue streams. We need to stop tossing off a deeply entrenched catch-22 with the line, “No one cares about women’s sports.”

Darcy Ward cares very much. She’s a varsity rower at UC Davis on full athletic scholarship. She’s also a pre-med student. Here’s her team’s story:

To Whom It May Concern,

When our Women’s Varsity Team at UC Davis was told that our program was at stake for being cut from the University, we believed it was our obligation to share our passion for this sport in hopes to salvage it. We contact you out of pure love, and solidarity. We believe our story should be heard as a call-to-action. The decision will be made in early April and we must act now.

Before 1973, the idea of female rowers was unheard of. These stereotypes lead women to work through discrimination to prove that women are allowed to participate in sports. Women’s participation in sports is possible now because of law Title 9 that mandates college athlete must have equal number of females as males which rowing helped create. Since that time, UC Davis has built one of the most competitive female rowing teams on the west coast. The program has been around for thirty-three years and has excelled beyond its expectation by moving into a new level of competition-Division 1. The women’s rowing team competes in the Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association and San Diego Crew Classic, two of the most prestigious races in the country. What makes our team so special?

Women's crewRowing News

Women’s crew

Our coach enforces us to believe we are strong and before we take out our boats we say “My name is_________ and I am a strong female rower.” Her name is Carissa Adams and believes women deserve the greatest opportunities in life. Our mission statement says, “Each day we strive to go beyond our expectations. We rise to the challenge with confidence, pride, and positive attitudes. We empower and engage one another through a network of trust, support, improvement, and respect. We work as a team on and off the water.” There are 60 strong women rowers who never stop trying, constantly work together and encouraging one another to just keep striving for more. The sport of rowing teaches women to become strong and smart leaders for the future, by working as a team and conquering unbelievable goals while balancing the rigorous academia of college. We need to keep building strong females in our society.

Here are a few women out of many on our team with unique stories.

Becca loves rowing because it gives her not only a physical outlet, but she loves the way it forces you to connect to the other eight women in the boat. Eight women have to be able to move in synchronies with each other, and the product is so rewarding: a beautifully set boat, the single noise of every single oar feathering at the exact same time, and just the feel and run of the boat. That’s why she loves rowing. She is a strong female rower.

Caleigh is a 4’11” coxswain, the voice and brain of the boat. On a 5’8″ average rowing team, she has learned how to make her small body transform into a strong and confident voice on and off the water. She is a strong female rower.

Brittani started rowing her freshman year as a walk on. Now she is a third year rower, stroke seat of the V8, and captain of this team. Rowing has been the hardest thing that she has ever done, and she can say that she is a better person for it. She has never felt so strong and capable before (physically and mentally). She has also met a group of amazing women that have become trustworthy teammates and life long friends. She is dedicated to this team and proud to be a part of its legacy. She rows for her teammates and herself. She is a strong female rower.

Emily who is 5’3 was discriminated because of her size. Coaches thought she was unable to compete against the “stereotypical” rower. Now she competes in the (V8) varsity eight keeping up with the Big dogs. She is a strong female rower

Brittney and Brooke are twins who dropped out of high school. They were at a disadvantage in society because their parents didn’t have the tools to support them to achieve going to college. They entered a community college with nothing to lose and everything to gain. Now they row here at UC Davis because of the discipline, the opportunity, and the chance to create a new way of life. They are strong female rowers.

Maggie never gives up. In high school she rowed for years and no one believed that she could reach her potential, but she never quit. Finally, during her third year of rowing, she found the power within her and became the varsity stroke. The stroke is the leader of the boat. She sets the pace and stroke for all seven women behind her and each rower trusts and looks up to the stroke. Now when she looks back, she never thought she would be rowing for NCAA division one. She is a strong female rower.

Jessica has become more self-confident, more driven and more focused than she ever was before joining rowing. Upon joining the Women’s Rowing Team at UC Davis, she was greeted with friendly faces and a warm yet, extremely competitive nature. This past year she has made new friends, pushed herself harder both mentally and physically than ever before and; in turn, discovered a new family that she would do anything for. She is a strong female rower.

Robyn is a Pisces who was born to love the water. Her parents sailed the world, fell in love, and upon Robyn’s arrival her parents give up their sea legs for land legs to support their new family. Now, she enjoys rowing more than any other water sport and appreciates its international community of athletes and supporters. She is a strong female rower.

Paige started rowing with her mom for fun and then tried out for the local team. As she continued in the sport, she fell in love and she learned to be more disciplined in every aspect of her life and how to approach a challenge. Rowing is unique because as a team and a boat you must all strive for the same goal. Today, she can’t imagine her life without rowing. Rowing has taken her further in life than she has ever imagined because of the opportunities and experiences it has given her. She is a strong female rower.

Danielle joined college homesick and overwhelmed, even contemplating dropping out. However, one day she was approached by rowers who asked her to Row! Her confidence to pursue sports in college was challenged. Beyond what she expected, joining the women’s rowing team allowed her to truly reach potential. The team became her family and she gained a sense of confidence she has never had before. Each day she is finding new ways to push herself to bigger and better things, learning not to settle for mediocre. Thanks to this team, this sport, she has learned to be dedicated to things bigger than just herself. She is a strong female rower.

The UC system is in a huge financial crisis. The UC Davis chancellor has just mandated the athletic department cut up to 12 sports. This means the UC Davis women’s rowing team is at stake for being cut. We have potential to save our team, keeping the opportunities alive for people that come after us.

Now the crisis begins.

The women’s rowing program at UC Davis has a long-standing 30-year plus track record of athletic excellence and a strong tradition of producing accomplished women who have become valuable assets to their communities throughout the U.S. and the world. The women’s rowing program also reflects well on the university putting it in a class that is equally attractive to prospective students and parents as many of the Ivy League colleges and Universities who offer strong programs in women’s rowing, and it will continue to help attract many talented young women long into the future.

There is no obligation to this letter, but I feel that you support the core of what women’s rowing at Davis strives for everyday. If we raise enough money our team can be saved and the potential for future women to develop into powerful and passionate people through rowing at UC Davis. Please donate to save UC Davis women’s rowing so that our future generations have the opportunity to achieve great things. Here is a video on Youtube that will give you a sense of the passion we have for rowing at UC Davis:

Here is the website where you can donate risk free and all the donations go to the UC Davis Rowing Fund must be used for rowing. If the program is cut, the University will return your donations.


The UC Davis Women’s Rowing Team