Crew rows to raise equipment funds

Audrey White

Texas Crew members said passion for their sport gets them up each weekday at 5:15 a.m. for practice. They took that passion to the West Mall on Monday and Tuesday to raise awareness and funds for their sport.

The team’s 50 members collectively rowed 801 miles — the distance between the two farthest points in Texas from Brownsville to the north part of the Panhandle — on a set of rowing machines, called “ergs.” The Texas Crew team has conducted the Row Across Texas fundraiser for years in hopes of attracting attention and donations through a letter-writing campaign to let alumni, friends and family know about their efforts.

Because men’s crew is not an NCAA sport, the team receives no funding from the athletics department. NCAA does sponsor women’s rowing, so women can choose between the NCAA team and club team. It costs Texas Crew about $150,000 to pay coaches, fund travel to competitions and purchase the equipment they need each year, and the $15,000 they received this year from the Division of Recreational Sports as a club team barely scratches the surface, so every team member must pay $700 per semester in dues.

“All our operating costs come from dues and the allocation that we get from RecSports,” said Texas Crew captain Tyler McDonald, a biochemistry and psychology senior. “The money we get from fundraising helps us grow as an organization and lets us expand our fleet and buy new boats.”

Row Across Texas raises between $20,000 and $50,000 each year. The team hopes to raise enough money this year to buy a new eight-man boat for their varsity men’s team. The team has to regularly buy new boats to replace out-of-date equipment, since newer boats are faster and more efficient, said varsity men’s team member Zach Boven, a Plan II and business honors sophomore.

In addition to raising money, the fundraiser helps the team recruit new members and educate the campus about the team, Boven said.

“You make good friends, get in good shape, the competition is incredible because we get to race some of the best athletes from around the country,” he said. “It’s something a lot of people don’t know about because [the sport is] not as big in Texas. Row Across Texas is something we do as a team to show the University that we have dedication to our sport and show our gratitude for everyone’s support of our team.”

Such student interest and dedication keeps Texas Crew and other club teams alive, said RecSports assistant sport club coordinator Chad McKenzie. RecSports can only allocate $200,000 total to various club teams, and they look to give the most support to teams that show the most passion and interest in their sport, he said.

“These students do this because they absolutely love the sport, and their funding comes from them,” McKenzie said. “We have athletes in our clubs that could play NCAA sports at other schools, but they came to UT to get their education, and we are glad to be able to support their interests in our club teams.”