May 7, 2012
Watch Clark's Press Conference
MADISON, Wis. - Men' rowing head coach Chris Clark met with the media at Monday's weekly news conference. Archived video of Clark's appearance can be found above, while a complete transcript can be found below.
Chris Clark: Thanks for having me here again and having me last, as usual, you always save the best for last.
I want to say, Bebe has a good squad. I don't care you could sense that, Andy. It isn't just good now, though, it's been building up. Watching it. I know this is about men's right now but it's building.
In the next few years expect a lot of good things from them. They have some real good athletes walking around, tall, long. They're going to be good. As she said, we don't have a lot of control, especially when we push them off and then we wait another 30 minutes to even talk to them. But it's going to happen.
You're looking for trends in rowing. No one can expect to win in any sport all the time. But if you're near it a lot, then eventually it's going to happen. The same thing for them.
And the home course, I don't know anything about a home course. We row all over the place. That seems to be the topic that we've been on today. So I've decided I'm going to keep this as simple, straightforward as we've ever had here. Of course I just started.
Question #1: Can you talk about the strength of the conference heading into the conference championship; you have a lot of teams ranked in the top 20?
Clark: I'd say it's a little bell curvish, like a lot of things often are. Harvard, they've been good for a long time here. I'd say they're certainly they're the favorite, along with Brown, and there's a midpack, which is where we are, and there's not a lot of distinguishing results to imagine that you can make much of a prediction. We've been in the grand finals 13 of the last 15 years. And this is one year that I would say getting to the grand final would be hard, real hard.
We have, among other teams, Yale and BU. BU who we beat by just a little a week and a half ago. We have Yale who is good and also Navy. But only two advanced. There's 18 boats in the event. Just getting to the finals is difficult. It's going to going to be hard.
It's been about a month, seems forever, as the other coaches will tell you that we've had this selection going. In other words, you're very serious about putting together a first eight. It's only been a month, but it feels like two months. Every day has been a different lineup.
Today we had a different lineup based on where we were rowing. The boat is set up in such a way that sometimes you can't just get in and row it. Looked as good as they've ever looked. So that's not coaching. That's dumb luck.
So I think I'll go with it. You go with a hot hand, they look good. Actually for the first time the entire year, the first eight looked like a first eight is supposed to look, which is good, fast, dominant, in control at all times.
You see it in other sports. But I have not seen it once the entire year until day. Hopefully it wasn't just a fleeting moment just to tease me and they'll go back to normal. Hopefully not.
Question #2: How unusual is it that today you're sitting here today thinking about 100 different lineups and trying to figure things out as opposed to those are my best eight and I'll stick
Clark: Last year, for example, we had only one switch the entire year and it was this week. And part of it is the bodies we have.
I don't go to the other press conferences, so I don't know exactly if other teams think the same way we do. But we think in terms of classes.
My senior and junior classes are very tough guys, but they're not big rowing bodies, like an NBA team of all 6'3", 6'4". You need the length. And the length is sophomores, freshmen. They're not ready to be on the varsity.
The only way you can be successful at that size is row impeccably. That's not part of our repertoire at this point. Very tough. Two of the races we won have just been by inches. They could have easily have lost, but they didn't, they're pretty relentless.
If we get a little lucky, and they start rowing well together. You need length. You hear it in NBA all the time. We do exactly the same thing, the longer the better.
And I've got maybe 10 or 11 guys, 6'4", 6'5" or over in the boathouse, but they're all young. That doesn't do us much good. That is somewhat unusual, to answer your question. Very unusual. Unsettling.
Not that I get unsettled that much, but I get mad. I don't know if that's the same thing. It isn't, okay. All right.
Question #3: As far as mix matching lineups and seeing who you want in the boat, how does that affect expectations at all? Does it for you guys as far as what you would consider a good weekend coming up?
Clark: We look at it overall. All of us have multiple boats in this. We want everybody it's very odd when you have first, second, third, fourth boats, because you want the first boat to go out and dominate.
You don't want the second boat to be pathetic either. You'll cheer on the first boat, but right next to them are the second boat.
I'm kind of cheering against my own people. So it does we want everybody to do well, at least not give anything away. I've said this before many times, that there's people die out on the water by suicide, not by homicide. That's generally the way it works. You hate to see that when somebody self inflicted.
That happens a lot of the time. That's the worst fear for most coaches, that you just fall apart for some unknown reason. It's a noncontact sport.
So they can't board your boat and do whatever pirate people do when they board boats. It can't happen. It's generally self inflicted. We don't even like to talk about it. But I'm talking about it. I'm breaking the taboo. Hopefully they won't do that.
Question #4: You talked about not sure about your lineup all year. Are you sure about your home course yet? You talked about home field advantage this year, did you decide to go to Devil's Lake? Any other places on the agenda?
Clark: That was good. Devil's Lake was amazing. I don't know how the DNR works. I just sort of assumed that that lake is a very famous place, obviously.
I thought they would treat it as a cathedral, we can't go in here. Instead, it was wow, you want to row here, and that's great. And they did everything they could to make it easier for us to do it.
So that was amazing and perfect and I would like to hold bigger regattas there. And I think they would be supportive of it, to speak of home course. Today we were on the North Shore, which is a nice place to row. Handful of people on the lake.
Stevie was on the home course. Eric was rowing in the middle of the lake, and there were two other fishermen in the entire 9,800 acre lake. So it was good.
And I was especially loud today. I feel bad, all the people living on the waterfront, you project with your megaphone. It really is bad. We wake them up all the time. Haven't got any complaints lately. Pat Richter used to, by the way, call me every couple of months: Chris, can you tone it down a little bit.
That's about as hard as Pat got. He's such a nice guy. I've never heard anything recently. I'm sure it just doesn't get any further than the front office. You learn something every day when I'm talking.
Question #5: Should we just go down to the obligatory NCAA question?
Clark: I've been thinking about it all day actually. I realize I'm too inpatient. Things happen glacially in men's rowing in particular. You think about things that have come and gone even since men's rowing started.
Remember the Soviet Union, with all their bombs and missiles, and the Berlin Wall. Those things have come and gone and we still have our sport running exactly the same way.
There are probably a lot of other things. But the first thing is the IRA itself has become, Terry Gawlik, our administrator, who is the senior women's administrator, is on the Board of Stewards, which is good. And she's involved for the first time really organizing it in a formal manner.
And we're all moving that way. And that's about it on a prediction. And the regatta and the super structure and the bureaucracy and the protocol, et cetera, is moving in that direction.
So eventually I think the transition would be much easier because everybody would be used to it anyway. Just needs to be proposed. Gee, that was a good answer.
Question #6: Next question I ask once every four years, not every year, is the Olympics. You guys have had an Olympian like 1968. No pressure? Is there someone there that could represent the Badgers this year?
Clark: The eight the last few years have done especially poorly. And that's a strong event for the U.S. normally. So they didn't qualify directly for the Olympics last summer.
There was a qualifier in Lucerne, Switzerland, May 20th, I think. And I don't know the entrants yet, but the U.S. is entered. They have to win the regatta. That's pressure. There are other events you can be in top two, top three, but in this particular one you have to win.
And two of our guys, the twins, Ross and Grant James, graduated in 2008 are in that eight. Grant is stroking the eight and Ross is three seed. So if they win, they go to the Olympics. Fairly simple. Let's hope they do. But they're coached by Mike Teti, who was the national coach and coaching the eight and Cal.
So they're in as good hands as you possibly could have to row in that eight. They've been turning some pretty good times, and I'm pretty confident. They're good.
Question #7: You've rowed lots of places this year. What are you looking forward to, the location in Massachusetts?
Clark: A fair course. It's known as being not always unfair, but just imagine the winds, it matters. And I've got to think of the orientation there. Is it north, south, I can't remember.
You don't want winds out of the, you want a direct west that will work. But a southwest where northwest is usually not good and it portends to that southwest. It means it's more important you do well in the heat so you get a better lane. Sometimes it literally comes down to what lane you're in. That I hope.
For some reason I don't know how this worked out, the ECAC championship rowing is on Friday. Normally we arrive there, you row and you practice Friday and Saturday. But for some reason it's happening. So we have to find a place to row on Friday.
Can you imagine that? The conference basketball championship, Bo doesn't know where he's going to practice the day before the championship, two days before. High school gym down the street, we're going to do it there. But that's what we're up against.
We know that we've been one of the strongest programs in the country for a while. And so we train to defend that and to do a good job with that. It doesn't always work out. But we've got a strong team that's been pushing themselves all year long and I like our chances when we go out there.