Texas rowing dedicate two new boats to influential Longhorn women

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When the Longhorns hit the water for the San Diego Crew Classic this weekend, they will have two new boats.

This week, before the start of its first regatta, Texas rowing dedicated two of its new boats to influential women in Texas athletics. 

The first boat, which was dedicated Tuesday, will be named “Tina Bonci” in honor of the longtime head athletic trainer and co-director of sports medicine. On Wednesday, the team dedicated the second boat to alumna Ruth Stiver, who was the first Longhorn rower in school history to be named an All-American. 

Bonci, a nationally renowned pioneer in the field of sports medicine, was a staple of Texas women’s athletics until her death in March 2014 because of a rare form of cancer. 

“She was an incredible woman who left a great legacy,” senior captain Casey Redman said. “I got to know her on a personal level when I first came to Texas, and I can truly say that she has forever impacted my life.”

Bonci was known for forging close relationships with the students she treated. At the time of her death, Bonci was still a full-time employee with Texas athletics and was highly regarded for her unwavering devotion to student-athletes and consummate knowledge of sports medicine. 

Bonci was hired at Texas in 1985 and wrote the entire training-room manual — a set of guidelines and procedures that is still in use today. 

“She faced a pretty courageous battle with cancer, but, honestly, you would have never known when you were talking to her because her work ethic and the compassion for her athletes never changed,” Redman said. “Even in the face of extreme adversity, she always put others before herself. We are all really honored to be rowing in a boat dedicated to her and her memory.”

Traditionally, new boats are named after influential women in Texas, such as Barbara Jordan, who has a boat named in her honor. 

More recently, this criterion has been expanded to include influential figures in the UT community and in Texas athletics, such as Jody Conradt, former women’s basketball coach and women’s athletic director, and Lynn Wheeler, former associate athletic director. 

Head coach Dave O’Neill said the idea to name the boat after Bonci grew out of discussions with the team captains. Unlike lengthier dedications in past years, this year’s dedications were held after rowing practice and were kept much shorter and simpler.

“It was a very organic process,” O’Neill said. “It wasn’t like, ‘Here’s a vote, and here’s a naming committee.’ I like to keep things relatively simple and not lose sight of what the main thing is.”

The dedication to Stiver on Wednesday comes at an appropriate time, as the Longhorns are trying to return to the NCAA Championships for the first time since 2004. Stiver was on that crew, and she helped lead Texas’ first varsity eight boat to its first two appearances in the NCAA Championships during her junior and senior seasons in 2003 and 2004. 

“I want the team to get that connection that it doesn’t have to be Kay Bailey Hutchison, but it can be someone who’s influential in the UT community [and] UT athletics but also Texas rowing,” O’Neill said.