Bob Ernst, Millennium Hall of Fame

December 25, 2000

Richard Dunn

Here, we have Newport Harbor and the Upper Newport Bay, but rowing

paradise for many is based at the University of Washington.

With Puget Sound as a playground, the Huskies have a rich rowing

history and a long-respected crew program that enjoys as much

international power as any institution in the country.

For Bob Ernst, a former Costa Mesa High and Orange Coast College


football and aquatics standout, the opportunity to coach crew at

Washington -- without ever having rowed for the Huskies -- was like

winning the coaching lottery.

"At a place like this, in rowing you can do whatever you dream of,"

Ernst said. "Wanna coach the Olympic team? Wanna go one-on-one with the

Soviets? Harvard? This is the place where they think rowing is big time."

Ernst, in his 28th year as Washington's head crew coach, didn't start

rowing until his junior year at UC Irvine, where he played on the

Anteaters' first athletic team (men's water polo) and was instrumental in

coming up with the university's distinct mascot.

Then, following a stint in the military, Ernst returned to UCI as the

varsity rowing coach in 1970. But, after five campaigns and much success,

the Anteaters "couldn't afford to pay me."

When a position at Washington opened up for a freshmen crew coach in

1974, Ernst said he "couldn't get here fast enough."

Two years later, Ernst coached his first U.S. Olympic rowing team at

the 1976 Montreal Games, while he was still the Huskies' freshmen coach.

"What a great place to live, and they like rowing here. Rowing and

football," Ernst said. "Me and (Washington football coach) Rick

Neuheisel. I think they like him better, but he's a real good guy.

"It's fun coaching here. For that kid who went to Costa Mesa, you

couldn't dream any bigger, wanting to play football at Orange Coast

College and getting to do that, then sharing locker rooms here with the

(Husky) football and basketball coaches."

Ernst was the U.S. national rowing coach for 17 years and coached in

four Olympic Games, three times as head coach. In 1984, his celebrated

U.S. women's eight captured the gold medal at the Los Angeles Games.

But before Ernst landed in "rowing heaven" in Seattle, Wash., and won

numerous championships, he was a swimmer and water polo player at OCC and

UCI, following legendary former coach Al Irwin to open the new Irvine

school in 1965.

As members of the Anteaters' first athletic team in '65, they were

allowed to pick the school's mascot.

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