In the last post, I discussed the differences in age categories based on juniors, collegiate, and master’s rowing. Collegiate rowing is further broken down into different subcategories. Rowing, like any other sport, can be broken down by gender; however unlike other sports there are actually differences in how the sport is regulated based upon gender. Women’s rowing is a sport recognized by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). What this means is that the NCAA governs and regulates the rules of the sport for member teams. The NCAA also provides a national championship arena in which the best teams are selected to compete. Teams that are members of the NCAA are divided into Division I, Division II and Division III. The differences in funding and recruiting ability are the same in rowing as they are in any other NCAA sport. In rowing, the major difference between Divisions is the definition of what constitutes a “team”. In Division I a team is considered a first 8+ boat (rowing lingo reminder: the + designates that the boat has a coxswain), a second 8+ boat, and a 4+ boat. For Division II a team is a considered an 8+ and a 4+. A division III team is comprised of a first 8+ boat and a second 8+ boat.
Some schools’ with rowing programs choose not to join the NCAA. These teams are considered club sports. A club rowing team receives little if any funding from their institutions. Theses teams are not allowed to participate in certain regattas such as the NCAA championships.
Also in rowing, there are lightweight teams. For lightweight women’s rowing, athletes must weigh less than 130lbs and all the rowers in a boat must have an average body weight of 125lbs or under. Lightweight rowing is not recognized by the NCAA.
Men’s rowing is not a sport recognized by the NCAA. Men’s rowing is only ever considered a club sport. Although they are considered a club sport, some division III institutions offer men’s rowing the same funding as the women’s division III team and consider the men’s rowing team an intercollegiate sport within their institution. Within men’s rowing there is also a lightweight category, participants must weigh-in under 160lbs with a boat average at or below 155lbs.
It must be noted that participation of teams in the NCAA does have any influence on the teams strength or speed. In men’s rowing many teams have very strong alumni support which allows them to have the budget of an NCAA division I women’s team. However, the various divisions verses club in women’s rowing does generally correlate to the strength and speed of a team. It is not always a given rule that a Division I team will be faster than a Division III team, and that a Division III team will be faster than a club team. As I previously said the Divisions and club status simply control the budget for coaches and equipment, the ability to recruit, and restrictions on the amount of time a team is allowed to practice. The determination to win and dedication to the sport is always up to the athletes of a team.