Nate Fox

Texas Crew has two weeks to find storage for 28 boats and equipment after losing their home of 20 years, a Town Lake warehouse, sold earlier this month. Citing the club’s dilemma and recent departures from the team, Texas Crew team captain Ian Yeats said, “A lot of people think it’s over, but it’s not. It’ll be different.”

Photo Credit: Zachary Strain | Daily Texan Staff

UT’s Texas Crew has two weeks to find somewhere to store its 28 boats, previously housed in a Town Lake warehouse sold earlier this month. If the organization does not find alternative storage, it may be forced to put down its oars and sell the boats.

The previous land owner, Hixon Properties, allowed the crew team to store its boats rent-free for the past 20 years, asking only for utility payments and maintenance, Texas Crew coach Nate Fox said. Hixon Properties sold the land to an Austin development company, World Class Capital Group. Now the team must seek out a new practice facility large enough to hold its equipment on waterside land or be forced to sell off its fleet or reduce the size of the team.

“It’s certainly up in the air,” Fox said. “I’m lucky to have a squad that will run with it. We’re not pouting. If we were, we would be in a lot of trouble.“

Fox said the Austin rowing community has provided a short-term storage solution. He also said other area clubs have been generous and are able to offer more than the University can with this short time frame.

The team is part of UT’s Division of Recreational Sports, a program that allocates funds to competitive sports teams for students whose sports are not represented at the varsity level. It also funds those who wish to compete outside National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I athletics, the highest level for collegiate sports.

Texas Crew has about 100 members, men and women, whose dues and fundraising account for the majority of the team’s budget, Fox said. The organization received $13,000 from Rec Sports this year.

The team practices Monday through Friday and competes at a national level. Varsity attends four national regattas per year, Fox said.

The team recruits heavily each fall, and many team members come into the program as freshmen with no experience. Electrical engineering senior Nick Wood said he got his start as a freshman with no experience, then advanced to the club’s top team. Wood said he was concerned about losing the space but is confident that his team will have a good season regardless.

“It’s the equivalent of having to move back with your parents,” Wood said. “We’ll be moving in with another club. We won’t have a space to call our own.”

Texas Crew is not the first club sports team at the University to have difficulty finding a practice space, Rec Sports Sport Club Coordinator Chad McKenzie said.

“We’ve had the situation happen many times,” McKenzie said, referencing issues with gymnastics, baseball and roller hockey clubs encountered in years past. “The unique thing about rowing is the large membership and large amount of stuff they need to store.”

For example, UT Roller Hockey, McKenzie said, lost its rink in Austin and was without a practice space for a year. It squeezed in practices before tournaments in other cities.

McKenzie said he has communicated with the crew team nearly every day since it learned its space would be sold. Still, Texas Crew is an off-campus club and will need to get creative and lean on the rowing community in the short term since Rec Sports cannot give the team any immediate monetary assistance.

“The timing is bad. They are in the middle of recruiting season,” McKenzie said. “I have confidence that there is strong enough leadership in place for them to figure a way out of this box.”

Two seasons ago, Texas’ top senior club rowers graduated. Last year, a staffing change came when ex-Penn captain Nate Fox became the new varsity coach.

Despite the changes, Texas went on to win the Head of the Hooch race in Chattanooga on Nov. 6 and is now buckling down for winter training to get ready for the spring season.

The fall season has been a complete turn around for the team, and the transition can be credited to its newfound determination.

“People are coming to practice with more focus, more fire and ready to work — things that aren’t easy to do at 5:15 a.m. every morning,” said senior Tyler McDonald. “Furthermore, the rowers are putting in extra work outside of practice multiple times per week.”

The season, which began in early October, brought the Longhorns surprising success, including a first place finish in their four’s race. The team went to Boston for the Head of the Charles, the world’s largest two-day rowing event, to race their eight and beat their time from the previous season by a minute.

“At this point, a lot of us were beginning to notice our potential and realized that we may just be able to finish this season out on a good note,” McDonald said. “We came back to Austin and laid down some awesome results at our only home race this fall, Head of the Colorado.”

During the Head of the Colorado, Texas swept the pairs’ event, taking first through fourth places. McDonald battled his way to the top, overcoming a comedy of errors to finish first.

“My partner Alex Mitrowski and I ended up winning gold, even though one of my shoes had broken off of the footplate, and the other foot came out of its shoe halfway through the race,” McDonald said.

When Hooch, the team’s most important race of the fall, rolled around, the Longhorns did not quite know what to expect.

“We had done very well at our home race, but the caliber of competition isn’t as high as other races, and we were expected to win anyway,” McDonald said. “We entered our eights and our fours at the Hooch and thought we did well, but results weren’t posted until later.”

With the 7th-place finish from the previous year haunting them, the team was shocked to eventually learn it came in second, only 2.3 seconds behind Jacksonville University — the event’s winner the year prior.

“That result was a message to us that the changes we had made and the work we had put in since the beginning of the season were working,” McDonald said. “At that point, all of us in the top — Andrew Cox, Alex Mitrowski, Zach Boven, our coxswain Emily Lim, and myself — got together and decided that a gold finish in the fours race, which was 3 hours away, was something completely doable.”

After extreme practices and intense work ethics, winning the gold could not have been a more pleasant surprise for the team, especially after poor results in the same event last year.

“I probably won’t ever forget the moment when we found out our results,” McDonald said. “I’ve always heard my coaches talk about those kinds of moments, the kind of moments you’ll never forget, where you can’t exactly explain the emotions you feel. I had never quite understood what they meant. Now I know.”