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The Washington crew program is all about tradition. The white blades of Husky oars have cut through the water on the Nile in Egypt, in South America, the Soviet Union, on the Thames in England, across the United States as well as on their home on the Montlake Cut. UW rowing is all about great competitors, great races and great coaches. Bronze plaques, immortalizing some of the great Washington coaches, hang in the Conibear shell house. Tributes to Hiram Conibear, Al Ulbrickson and Dick Erickson keep the history of the program alive and stand as a reminder of the great champions and tradition that is Washington Rowing. Current Husky men's rowing coach Bob Ernst is a proud caretaker of the history and tradition of Washington Rowing. Ernst, who hails from southern California and graduated from UC Irvine, was a 27-year-old coach at his alma mater when he first caught the eye of former Husky men's Coach Dick Erickson. Ernst's upstart team from UC Irvine nearly upset the Huskies in the spring of 1974 and Erickson wasted little time offering him an assistant's position coaching the Huskies. Ernst coached the freshman men from the fall of 1974 to the spring of 1980 before taking over as the women's head coach. Ernst became the men's head coach in 1987 when Erickson retired. Now in his 33rd season of coaching at Washington, including his 20th year as the Husky men's coach, Ernst continues to have the same passion and dedication he had when he first arrived in Seattle. He has had many successes over the years including the distinction of being the only collegiate coach to have coached both the men's varsity and the women's varsity to a National Championship. He also coached the 1984 women's Olympic eight to a gold medal win in Los Angeles. The most recent racing season (spring, 2006) saw the Huskies' freshman eight and open four collect gold medals at the IRA national championships. Ernst was honored as the 2004 Pac-10 Coach of the Year, his 10th such honor, after helping the Huskies to the Pac-10 team championships with golds in the varsity eight, junior varsity eight and varsity four events. The Huskies also beat California for the second year in a row in the varsity eight at the Pac-10 regatta, and at the IRA regatta in June, the junior varsity eight and the four with coxswain both the gold and the varsity eight won the silver. He was named the conference's top women's coach in 1987 before winning as the men's coach from 1990-93, 1995-97and 2003. In 2003, Washington celebrated its 100th season of rowing. During the 2003 season, Ernst directed the men's varsity eight crew to its first Pac-10 championship since 1997. Both the varsity and junior varsity eights finished the season with silver medals at the IRA Championship. The varsity four won the IRA title. The Huskies also posted a runner-up performance in the junior varsity event and won the gold in the varsity four. The Huskies capped their centennial season at the prestigious Henley Royal Regatta in England. Washington triumphed against a strong international field to win the Ladies Challenge Plate competition. All along the way, Bob Ernst has directed the Huskies to stellar results and historic moments. None were more significant than what happened in June of 1997. That season, the Washington men reached the pinnacle of their sport, as the varsity, junior varsity and freshman crews all won gold medals at the prestigious IRA championships. It marked the first time since 1950 that the Huskies had accomplished the feat. Washington's 1997 Varsity Challenge Cup victory at the IRAs was the 11th such title in Husky history. The junior varsity crew picked up its 10th all-time victory in the Kennedy Challenge Cup as did the freshmen in the Stewards Cup. It capped an undefeated season across the board for the Huskies. What made the weekend even more special was the fact that the Husky women's team won the inaugural NCAA rowing championships in Sacramento, under the direction of Jan Harville, whom Ernst had coached as an Olympian. "That is probably the most significant day in the history of Washington rowing, for me," said Ernst. "In the 25 years I've coached here, to have the men and women both be national champions on the same weekend - that's special." Under Ernst, the varsity men have won a variety of events, including: Six Copley Cup titles (San Diego Crew Classic); 14 Windermere Cup titles and 10 conference championships. In addition, Ernst's freshman crews won five Pac-10 titles from 1975 to 1980. He has been honored by his peers as Pac-10 Coach of the Year 10 times and was recognized locally as a finalist for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer Sports Star of the Year award in 1982. Under his guidance, the Husky women brought home UW's first national team championship when the junior varsity and varsity both earned titles in 1981. Both crews successfully defended their titles the following two seasons (1982, 1983) and the varsity women went on to claim three more national championships, in 1984, 1985 and 1987. In his final season as the women's coach, Ernst's rowers swept the top three races at the national championships, winning gold medals in the varsity eight, JV and varsity four races. The UW women claimed a total of six national titles in seven years while he directed the program. His 1981 women's varsity was inducted into UW's athletic Hall of Fame in 1989. The 1982 and 1983 women's crews were 2001 inductees into the Husky Hall of Fame. Ernst has also brought international recognition to the program. Four times in his span as head men's coach, he has taken Husky crews to the Henley Royal Regatta in England. He took Washington rowers to the Henley Royal Regatta four times since becoming the head men's coach and he helped to build the internationally recognized Windermere Cup Regatta. National crews from Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, China, Egypt, Czech Republic, Germany and the United States have competed at the Opening Day festival. Ernst also had the opportunity to coach outside the college ranks. He coached the U.S. National Team from 1976 to 1988, and traveled with the team to Amsterdam, New Zealand, Belgium, Germany, Yugoslavia, Seoul and Switzerland. He had the honor of coaching on four Olympic Teams, in 1976, 1980, 1984 and 1988. At the 1984 Games in Los Angeles, he directed the women's eight-oared crew to the only Olympic gold medal in its history. His Olympic accolades extend beyond the water. In 1996, Ernst worked with NBC providing TV color commentary for the rowing events at the Atlanta Games and he served as the course announcer at the rowing venue for the 2000 Games in Sydney, Australia. While Ernst's honors are numerous, the accolades collected by his rowers are just as plentiful. Over the last 27 years, many of his student-athletes, both men and women, have gone on to compete on national and Olympic teams. Ernst coached former Washington women rowers Kristi Norelius, Shyrl O'Steen and former coxswain Betsy Beard in the gold medal winning eight in 1984. Norelius also rowed on the 1980 Olympic team and competed on the 1981, 1982 and 1983 National teams. Ernst also coached O'Steen and Jane McDougall on the '82 and '83 National teams. Norelius, O'Steen and McDougall won the silver medal in the eight at the 1982 World Championships. And, former rower Susan Broome (an alternate on the 1984 Olympic team) won a silver medal in the pair at the 1985 World Championships. Ernst also coached former rowers Chris Campbell, Broome and coxswain Beard to a silver medal at the 1987 World Championships and at the 1988 Olympic games in Seoul. Many of the men who rowed for Ernst were also successful on the international front. Al Forney, Charlie Clapp, and Ed Ives (all former freshman rowers for Ernst) rowed on the 1984 Olympic team and won silver medals in the four without coxswain, the eight and the four with coxswain respectively. Brad Lewis won the gold medal in the double skulls and Bruce Ibbetson, who rowed for Ernst at UC Irvine, won a silver medal in the eight in 1984. Canadian Blair Horn, another former freshman rower for Ernst, won the gold medal for Canada in 1984 in the eight. Mark Schneider rowed in the four without coxswain in the 2000 games, and in the bronze medal winning four without in the 1996 games. Phil Henry and Bob Cummins won the gold medal in the eight at the 1997 World Championships. Former men's coxswain Sean Mulligan earned a gold medal in the men's four at the 1999 World Championships. Canadian Dave Calder competed in the eight in the 2000 Olympics, became a World Champion in 2003 in the eight and represented Canada in the pair at the 2004 Olympic Games. In 2003, Steve Gillespie competed in the double skulls and Matt Deakin won a gold medal in the four at the World Championships. Deakin became an Olympic Champion in 2004 at the Athens games, winning the gold in the men's eight. Current freshman coach Michael Callahan represented the U.S. as a spare on the 2004 Olympic team. Ernst is proud of all of his former rowers and considers himself lucky to have coached such great athletes. Ernst, who began his coaching career at his alma mater, earned a bachelor's degree in biology from UC Irvine in 1967 and his master's degree in sports administration from the University of Washington in 1979. He was inducted into Irvine's athletic hall of fame in 1984 and the national rowing hall of fame in 1994. A 1963 graduate of Costa Mesa (Calif.) High School, Ernst attended Orange Coast College for two years, where he played center on the 1963 national championship junior college football team and competed in swimming and water polo. He transferred to UC Irvine and continued his swimming and water polo career. Ernst was also a member of Irvine's rowing program in 1966 and 1967 and was team captain as a senior. Ernst, 60, resides in Edmonds, Wash. with his family.

Ernst news and features:
Bob Ernst is Pac-10 Crew Co-Coach of the Year - (June 22, 2004)

Last Updated: February 13, 2007

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