The longest tenured rowing coach in school history, Mike Connors will begin his 14th season at the helm of Sacramento State’s women’s rowing program in 2015-16. Connors, who is the fourth women’s rowing coach in the program’s 21-year intercollegiate history, has a total of 26 years of head coaching experience. In addition, Connors is now the second longest tenured coach for any intercollegiate sport on the Sacramento State campus.
The 2014-15 season marked the rowing program’s first in the American Athletic Conference after spending the 2013-14 academic year in Conference USA. Connors was instrumental in getting the program into both conferences as Sacramento State had not competed in an NCAA-recognized conference from its first year of intercollegiate status (1995) until making the jump to Conference USA. Prior to the 2013-14 season, Sacramento State had never been eligible to earn an automatic qualifier into the NCAA Championship.
In the program’s inaugural year in the American Athletic Conference last season, the Hornets responded by finishing third out of the eight teams at the conference championship. The Hornets beat out crews from Temple, SMU, San Diego State, Connecticut and Virginia. In fact, Sacramento State brought home medals in all four grand finals it competed, which included winning gold in the varsity four, and bronze in the varsity eight, second varsity eight and second varsity four.
During its lone season in Conference USA, the Hornets placed sixth out of 11 teams at the Conference USA Championship, finishing ahead Kansas, Old Dominion, San Diego State, West Virginia and Alabama.
Connors has led the Hornets to five Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association (WIRA) team titles over the last 10 years (2006, 2007, 2009, 2014, 2015), including varsity eight crowns in 2006 and 2010. In addition, the team’s varsity eight, second varsity eight, novice eight and varsity four each medaled at the WIRA Championships in 2011 for the first time in school history, and then accomplished the feat again in 2012.
During Connors’ tenure, the varsity eight has posted a dual-meet record of 93-49, and the second varsity eight is 66-45 over that same time frame. Sacramento State rowers have combined for 37 all-conference selections under Connors, including 23 that received first team accolades. In addition, five Hornets (Holly Hopkins twice, Janine LaCrosse twice, Aimee Chenard, Laura Harder and Stephanie Brow) have been named to the all-West Region team.
Also during his tenure, the second varsity eight has medaled at the WIRA Championships nine times, the varsity eight on eight occasions, and the novice eight seven times. The Hornets’ top three boats have combined for seven gold medals, nine silvers, and eight bronze medals over that span.
Academically, over the last two years, the Hornets have seen a combined 10 student-athletes receive the National Scholar-Athlete Award, an honor handed out by the Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association for academic excellence. In fact, Sacramento State student-athletes have earned the prestigious award a combined 36 times during Connors’ 13-year tenure.
Other highlights from Connors’ career at Sacramento State include the varsity eight winning the 2010 and 2004 Dad Vail Regattas, the second varsity eight posting its highest finish (2nd) at the 2010 Dad Vail, a varsity eight victory over Texas in 2009, a V8 school-record time of 6:35.9 at the 2006 WIRA Championship, a 2006 WIRA Coach of the Year award, and a 30-consecutive dual meet winning streak for the varsity eight stretching from 2003 until 2007.
In 2005, he also oversaw a program that had its varsity eight, second varsity eight and novice eight boats each post undefeated dual-meet records (a 24-0 combined record) for the first time in school history. In 2004, just one season removed from taking over a program that had lost 13 letterwinners from the year before, he coached the varsity eight to the program’s first-ever gold medal at Dad Vail.
Prior to his arrival at Sacramento State, the Spokane, Wash., native spent four years (1998-02) as the head men’s rowing coach at UC Davis. During that time, Connors guided the Aggies’ varsity eight to a WIRA title in 2001 and a second-place finish at the same event in 2002. In addition, the Aggies’ top boat became the first UCD varsity eight crew to compete at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association National Championships in 2001.
He also guided UC Davis’ second varsity eight to a WIRA championship in 2001 and a silver medal at the WIRAs in 2002. During his tenure with the Aggies, a total of 11 student-athletes received all-WIRA honors. Connors coached the UCD men’s novice crew for two years (1996-98) and led the novice eight to a silver medal at both the 1997 and 1998 WIRA Championships before being promoted to head coach.
Prior to his time with UC Davis, Connors served as head coach of the Oakland Strokes Rowing Club (1994-95). The club has well over 100 members dedicated to junior/high school rowing, and is one of the biggest clubs in the United States.
The 29-year coaching veteran spent seven years as the head coach of the Santa Clara women’s rowing team (1986-92). Under his tutelage, the Broncos won the gold medal in the novice four at the 1987 national championships, becoming the first and only national championship boat for the Santa Clara women’s rowing program. He also coached the varsity four to a WIRA Championship in 1991.
Connors earned a bachelor of science degree in management from Santa Clara in 1983 and a master’s degree from his alma mater in finance in 1988. He spent four years rowing for Santa Clara (1979-83) and was elected to the school’s Hall of Fame as a member of the 1982 lightweight eight. That boat won the Western Sprints (now the Pacific Coast Rowing Championship) in 1981 and 1982, and is the last Santa Clara crew to compete at the Henley Royal Regatta in England. He was also a member of the varsity eight squad which won a bronze at the Western Sprints in 1981 and 1982.
Connors was named Most Valuable Oarsman during his junior and senior years and was named team co-captain in 1983.
Connors and his family reside in Fair Oaks, Calif.