Dave O’Neill Named Head Rowing Coach at Texas

(Image via University of Texas Athletics)
(Image via University of Texas Athletics)

AUSTIN, Texas – Dave O’Neill, who led the University of California women’s rowing program to two NCAA team titles, 12 NCAA top-four finishes and four NCAA individual event crowns, has been named the head rowing coach at The University of Texas.  The announcement was made Thursday by UT Women’s Athletics Director Chris Plonsky.  O’Neill replaces Carie Graves, who helped launch the UT rowing program in 1998 and announced her retirement last month after 16 seasons.

“I would first like to congratulate coach Carie Graves on a wonderful career, and I wish her the best in retirement,” O’Neill said. “I give her a lot of credit for really laying the groundwork of a really successful Texas Rowing program.  I’m aware of the potential in this program.  I think there are some challenges ahead, but one thing I’ve learned is life is all about how we handle those challenges.  I’m looking forward to getting started and getting to work.

“I was really impressed with Chris Plonsky and her leadership,” O’Neill added.  “I had the chance to sit down with Steve Patterson and was really impressed.  I recognized first and foremost at UT that it’s all about the people.  There’s a really good vibe and a real good energy within the UT athletics department.  I look forward to being part of something really special here.”

A two-time National Coach of the Year, O’Neill took the Golden Bears to the NCAA Championships in each of his 16 seasons at California and won NCAA team titles in 2005 and 2006.  Cal added NCAA runner-up finishes in 2013 and 2014 to go with eight additional top-four NCAA team showings under O’Neill’s guidance.

O’Neill led Cal’s varsity eight boat to NCAA titles in 2005 and 2013 and the varsity four to NCAA crowns in 2011 and 2014.  The Golden Bears’ varsity eight placed among the top-three at seven NCAA Championship regattas and set an NCAA record en route to a national title in 2005.

Under O’Neill, Cal’s second varsity eight boat posted nine top-three finishes at the NCAA Championships.  O’Neill’s varsity four won the 2011 NCAA title and added a second NCAA title last month. The seven-time Pac-12 Conference Coach of the Year led California to nine Pac-12 team titles in the last 11 seasons.

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O’Neill’s influence has impacted the sport at the U.S. national and international levels as well.  Nine of O’Neill’s Cal rowers have raced for their respective senior national teams, and 11 have competed for under-23 national teams.  Former Golden Bear Erin Cafaro rowed for the USA’s women’s eight at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2012 London Olympics.  O’Neill has four additional rowers on their respective nation’s Olympic teams.

O’Neill is in his second stint as the lead coach for the U.S. Women’s Under-23 National Team after serving in the same capacity in 2006 and 2007.  The U.S. won gold in the women’s eight at the 2006 World Rowing Under-23 Championships and gold in the women’s quadruple sculls at the 2007 World Rowing Under-23 Championships.  Under O’Neill, the U.S. women’s four won silver at the 2009 World Championships.  Notably, he was the only collegiate coach on staff for the U.S. at the 2012 London Olympics. O’Neill also was a senior U.S. national team coach in 2009 and 2010.

“In the rowing world we’ve all noticed the potential of the Texas program for years,” O’Neill continued.  “UT is a great school with a wonderful athletics department.  For me, the impact of having the support of UT athletics behind you was really powerful.  And when Texas Athletics does something, they do it right.  I know that once we get things going that it could be something really great.  The Texas brand makes this a destination school to which you can attract talented people from across the country.”

O’Neill led the women’s rowing program at Boston College for seven years before taking over at Cal.  His teams won races at the Big East Regatta, the New England Championships and the Champion International Regatta.

O’Neill was a founding member of the Boston College men’s club rowing program during his freshman year at the school.  He medaled at the U.S. Rowing Nationals, the U.S. Olympic Festival, the CRASH-B Sprints and the Canadian Henley. O’Neill earned a bachelor’s in history from Boston College in 1991.

James Schleicher

James Schleicher is the publisher of Horns Illustrated magazine. He's also a fifth generation Texan and lifelong Austinite. Follow @HornsIllus twitter to keep up with all things Horns Illustrated.

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