Wisconsin's already-strong rowing tradition was bolstered in 1996 with the hiring of Chris Clark as head coach of the men's rowing program. The 2002 Independent Rowing News College Coach of the Year, Clark quickly established himself as an architect of winning crews after taking over the reins from 28-year head coach Randy Jablonic.
Clark brought the Wisconsin program to the peak of collegiate rowing during the 2008 season when the Wisconsin varsity eight took home the school's first national championship since 1990. The crew would later be named "Crew of the Year" by Row2k.com voters, as well as "Best of 2008" by Rowing News and the EARC Heavyweight Crew of the Year. Clark was also named EARC Heavyweight Coach of the Year that season.
Wisconsin rowing, however, has been among the nation's elite during Clark's entire tenure. The coach led the Badgers to recapture the Intercollegiate Rowing Championship's Ten Eyck Trophy in 1997 after a nine-year absence. The trophy, which annually recognizes the school scoring the most total points in the IRA national competition, was retained by the Badgers in 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002, indicating Wisconsin's dominance on the national scene. Over that stretch, four UW boats won national titles in 1999 and 2000, three boats won grand finals in 1998, two in 2001 and one in 2002. Two more boats won titles at the 2003 IRA.
In addition to titles, Clark's crews have won numerous medals at the IRA during his coaching tenure, including a current streak of 10 consecutive years with at least one boat capturing a medal. Some of the highlighted seasons include three silver and two bronze medals at the 2006 competition, two silvers in 2007 and the varsity eight gold to go along with three bronze medals in 2008. His open four crew had a three-year winning streak with bronze or silver medal placements each year from 2010-12. Clark's 2011 and 2012 teams also found success with the second varsity eight taking home bronze in 2011 and the lightweight four taking home bronze in 2012 and 2014, and silver in 2013. His boats have tallied 17 gold, 18 silver and 20 bronze medals for a total of 55 medals in IRA competition.
From 1946 through 1999, the Badgers won two Eastern Sprints titles, but have won 19 golds in the past 15 years under Clark. Wisconsin won the varsity eight title in 2002, the school's first since 1946, which helped Clark earn 2002 EARC Heavyweight Coach of the Year honors. In 2008, Clark led the Badgers to unprecedented success as the team won the Rowe Cup as team champion at Eastern Sprints for the first time since 1946, and won the varsity eight and second varsity eight titles at the event. Coupled with the IRA varsity eight national title, the year gave the program its first conference and national championships in the same year.
Prior to becoming head coach, Clark served as UW's assistant men's rowing coach from 1994-96. His freshmen crews were undefeated in cup races during his coaching tenure. His eights finished third twice and fourth once at the Eastern Sprints. At the IRA, his eights were third twice and finished second in 1997. The freshman four with coxswain placed third in 1995, won in 1996 and was second in 1997.
Clark came to Wisconsin from the U.S. Naval Academy where he served as freshman assistant for one year before becoming the assistant varsity coach and interim freshman coach during his second and final year.
Clark's rowing experience reads like a map of the world. While earning an associate's degree from Orange Coast College (Costa Mesa, Calif.) in 1979, spending one year at Stanford University (Palo Alto, Calif.) and earning his bachelor's degree in political science in 1983 from the University of California, Clark won Pacific Coast Championships in 1978, `79 and `82. He has rowed and medaled in regattas in the U.S. and nine foreign countries from 1979 to the present.
As a member of the U.S. National Rowing team, Clark earned a silver medal at the 1983 Pan American Games, and rowed to a seventh-place finish at the 1985 World Rowing Championship. He rowed with the Oxford University Boat Race Crew in 1986, while attending University College Oxford and obtained a special diploma in social studies in 1987 from the school.
Sought after at the international coaching level, Clark coached the American team at the 2002 Under-23 World Championships (formerly Nation's Cup) to gold in the men's eight. Clark also led the United States contingent during the summers of 1996, `97 and `98 after directing his men's eights to medals each year at the U.S. championships. In 1996, the U.S. captured gold at the Under-23 World Championships and in 1997 and 1998, the silver medal.
Clark has coached at the senior level as his U.S. men's four with coxswain won the gold medal at the 1999 World Championships in St. Catharine's, Ontario. He also led the United States to another gold medal in the men's eight at the Pan American Games in Winnipeg.
In 1998 and 1997, Clark coached the coxed pair to a bronze medal and the coxed four to two fourth-place finishes at the World Championships, respectively. In 1997, Clark was named the Developmental Coach of the Year by the U.S. Olympic Committee.
Clark and his wife Jane, a 1992 graduate of the UW Law School, have three sons, Jack (12), Charlie (9) and Henry (4).