|College:||Santa Clara, '83|
The longest tenured rowing coach in school history, Mike Connors
will begin his 12th season at the helm of Sacramento State’s
women’s rowing program in 2013-14. Connors, who is the fourth
women’s rowing coach in the program’s 19-year
intercollegiate history, has a total of 24 years of head coaching
The 2013-14 season will also mark the program’s first in Conference USA, and the Hornets will be eligible for an automatic qualifier into the NCAA Championships for the first time. Previously, Sacramento State has been a member of the Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association (WIRA) since gaining intercollegiate status in 1995, and the WIRA Championship have doubled as the program’s conference championship event. However, WIRA is not recognized by the NCAA as a conference, and does not garner any kind of automatic qualifier into NCAA postseason competition.
Connors has led the Hornets to three WIRA team titles over the last eight years (2006, 2007, 2009), including the varsity eight crown 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 80-35, and the second varsity eight is 52-31 over that same time frame. Sacramento State rowers have combined for 33 all-conference selections under Connors, including 21 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.
In his 10 years as the Hornets’ head coach, both the varsity eight and second varsity eight have medaled at the WIRA Championships seven times, and the novice eight six times. The Hornets’ top three boats have combined for five gold medals, seven silvers, and eight bronze medals over that time frame.
In 2010, Sacramento State’s varsity eight seemingly got better every week, culminating in a WIRA title as well the program’s second-ever championship at the Dad Vail Regatta in Philadelphia. The Hornets’ top boat had entered the WIRA Championship as the No. 4 seed before winning the grand final by a three-quarter boat’s length. That year’s performance capped one of better seasons in school history for the program’s top boat as the varsity eight claimed both the WIRA and Dad Vail gold medals in the same year for the first time in school history. In addition, Sacramento State’s second varsity eight placed second in its race at the Dad Vail Regatta, the highest finish in school history.
In 2009, Sacramento State’s varsity eight finished the year with a 10-4 dual-meet record, punctuated by a silver medal at the WIRA Championships. In addition, the crew defeated Texas for the first time since 2000. The Hornets’ varsity eight also defeated Causeway rival UC Davis to win the Jean Runyon Cup for the 10th time, and in the process, clinched the Causeway Cup championship for Sacramento State. The novice eight won a bronze medal at the WIRA Championships, marking the first time the boat had medaled in the event since 2006.
In 2008, Sacramento State’s varsity eight (5-2), second varsity eight (5-1) and novice eight (4-2) combined for a 14-5 dual-meet record. In addition, the team’s varsity eight finished ahead of 38 other entries and won silver at the Dad Vail Regatta in Philadelphia. The team’s second varsity eight medaled (bronze) at the WIRA Championships for the fifth time during Connors’ tenure, and each of the team’s top three boats reached the WIRA grand final in their respective events.
After taking over a program that was in a rebuilding phase in 2002-03, Connors quickly elevated Sacramento State to one of the elite teams in the Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association. That included a school-record varsity eight time of 6:35.9 over 2,000 meters and a gold medal at the 2006 WIRA Regatta, the program’s first gold in the event since 2001. The 2006 WIRA Coach of the Year, Connors’ varsity eight crews won 30 consecutive dual meets (dating back to 2003) until that streak was broken in 2007.
In 2005, he 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 fact, the varsity eight went 8-0 and won all but one of its dual races by at least eight seconds. Each boat medaled at the WIRA Championships with the varsity eight winning bronze, the second varsity eight taking home silver and the novice eight winning its first-ever gold medal.
In 2004, he coached Sacramento State’s varsity eight to a 7-0 dual-meet record, the program’s first-ever gold medal at the Dad Vail Regatta, and a silver medal at the WIRA Championships. In addition, the Hornets’ second varsity eight took home the gold at the WIRA Championships for the first time in program history.
In his first year with the Hornets (2003), Connors took over a program that had lost 13 letterwinners from the previous season. Despite a varsity eight which featured seven newcomers (including three novice rowers), Sacramento State’s top boat raced to a fourth-place finish at the WIRA Championships and an eighth-place finish at the Pac-10’s.
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 over 100 members dedicated to junior/high school rowing.
The 27-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.