1969 - 1979

1969 (Photo Album)
In 1969 Rich Stager came up with an idea to initiate a Rowing program at Washington State University. Stager found Ken Abbey, and together began the story of Cougar Crew. Stager's dad donated all of the materials to the construction of a new shell house at Lower Granite Dam. Stager, along with Abbey's status as Vice President of Business Affairs, obtained the site for the first Cougar Shell House and construction began by Cougar Crew Oarsmen. Boyer Park was the chosen location at Lower Granite Dam, and the Shell House was designed to be portable in the event that the location would move to a new location above the dam. Abbey had started a Crew team at the University of Oregon, so he had the experience necessary to jumpstart yet another team.

1970 (Photo Album)
After one year, the Cougar Crew Shell House was completed by the oarsmen. Cougar Crew is the oldest sport club in WSU history.

1971 (Photo Album)
In 1971, Ken "Struck" Struckmeyer arrived. He saw a poster on campus for Cougar Crew. When he went to an informational meeting with both Ken Abbey and Bob Oarr, he was looked over and it was determined that he would be a good asset to the team. They were thinking that Struck would be a strong rower, but when they came to the realization that he was a faculty member, they decided that he could become a coach.

1972 (Photo Album)
With the onset of a powerful windstorm, the Cougar Shell House blew down. With the help of Stager, the roof was lifted off and replaced, and the rest of the Shell House was remodeled.

The WSU Cougar Crew attended their first race in Seattle against Oregon State. They won, making it their first win in Cougar Crew history. The Seattle Times reported that the Beavers "needed a sail and running lights because they were so far behind." The University of Washington was also there and raced in white, while WSU raced in black. Both Oarr and Abbey decided that black wasn't too "Cougar-esque" and made solid red the new racing color.

Later that year, while rowing in a wind storm, the Red Baron was split in half. Heading toward the bridge, the wind picked up and the coxswain made the decision to turn the Red Baron around at bridge. Moments later, the next thing Stuck saw was two fours made out of an eight!

Later that year, caught in another wind storm, the Titanic returned to the Shell House underwater. Some thought it impossible, considering the immense density of the double bottom wooden boat (about 350 lbs.). When the boat got close to shore, the coxswain told bowman, Tim Sailor, to jump out of the boat because the water was shallow. After Sailor disappeared for several moments under water, it was determined that the water was clearly not shallow.

1973 (Photo Album)
In 1973 the Cougar Crew team began regular competition. (More info please...)

Trips to Wisconsin were frequent. The Crew raced with red oars with a black chevron at Wisconsin, but when a race official questioned why the oars did not reflect WSU's school colors, a gray tip was added. Painfully, the heavyweights were always second to Wisconsin.

The train trips to Wisconsin were always an outlet for entertainment and fun. One rower, Brad Sleeper, was a runner. Upon landing in Wisconsin, Sleeper was always the first to jump off the train and run around on the platform. Struck thought this was justified, that after the extensive sitting time Brad needed to stretch his legs and move around a bit. It turned out that he was scoping out the best places to buy beer.

"Zeiler" played strip poker with "Snake Action."

Black Thursday-I was there
By Philip Irvin

It has been suggested that I write up an account of Black Thursday, an event in the distant past of the WSU rowing team, because, I was there.

I was considering joining the fledgling WSU rowing crew when the shell house collapsed in a windstorm, crushing all of the shells and, I thought, the idea for a rowing team.

Now the design for the shell house was a class competition/class project for a WSU architecture class. It was chosen as the very best design that all of the class members could come up with and the plans had been reviewed and approved by the instructor. When the structure did such a spectacular failure, nobody in that architecture class could find employment in their field and most went on to be either stucco installers or diesel mechanics. Regardless the team reconstructed the shell house, likely without any advice from the Architecture department, begged some additional hulks of boats from the UW and was back on the water.

The team was able to sport three boats; a "senior" boat for the elite of the team, such as they were, a lightweight boat and a freshman boat for whoever was left over. While you would think it a ridiculous claim if you were to see me now, I starved myself down and rowed in the lightweight boat.

Don't you hate it when a person says, "I don't mean to brag . . .?" Certainly I want to brag. One time in a race in Bellingham our boat actually came in fifth out of sixth. A stellar accomplishment for the team. These were the heady days for the club when we believed that, apart from victory, anything was possible. As our shell house was by the construction site of the Lower Granite Dam we could, proudly and with all certainty, proclaim, "We're the best crew by a dam site!"

For spring vacation 1973 we stayed on campus and participated in a training regime. During the morning we rowed on the river. I can still hear the melodious voice of our coxswain singing out a stream of encouragement that began, "Power ten!" After the morning workout we would return and climb the stadium stairs. We would go up and down and up, down, up, down. To provide some mental variety we could sing to ourselves, "100 bottles of beer in the wall." I still don't know how climbing stairs was supposed to improve our rowing finesse but there were stairs and someone had to ascend them to justify their existence.

This regime continued until Thursday morning. In those days there was no Internet to check the weather throughout the day and, after checking the forecast in the newspaper in the morning, you could not even be certain that there even would be any weather at all later in the day.

It was a glorious morning and we rowed up the river more than previous mornings. Once we had gone as far as we could, the weather started turning ominous with increasing black clouds and wind. We rowed furiously back to the shell house (as if our coxswains were allowing a leisurely row before) and came to a spot of seriously choppy water near the shell house. The first of the three boats went through escorted by the coach’s launch to help if there was difficulty and the launch returned. By now the water was much more choppy and the second boat that I was in went through. The shell was swamping and, as shells are so close to the water anyway, it was difficult getting our oars out of the water to row. A difficult experience and likely a harrowing one for everyone else on the crew but me.

By now the waves were so choppy that it was too risky to row the third boat back so crewmembers were ferried to the dock. I volunteered to go back with Coach Bob Orr to tow the remaining shell.

Upon returning the shell, we tied a rope to an outrigger. The word, "we" in the preceding sentence can be the royal we (i.e. "me"), it could refer to Bob Orr and myself; it could refer to the whole team or even all the students and staff at WSU. The point to be remembered in this use of "we" is that culpability for what happened should be as diffuse as possible.

Now there are two ends of an outrigger, the end close to the shell and the end away from it. If a rope is attached to the end close to the shell and towed, the shell has a reasonable chance of gracefully cutting through the water when towed. If the rope is affixed to the outside end of the outrigger, the shell will turn perpendicular to the direction of tow and cut through the water with all the grace and beauty of a 90-foot wide gang-plow. I might add that there is nothing between the near and far end of an outrigger to prevent an obstinate rope from sliding between these points.

Further it should be pointed out that all rope I have ever come in contact with has been terribly stupid. You can explain to a rope where it is supposed to be tied and it will sit there as if totally oblivious of what you are trying to communicate; this rope was more thick than most.

So when I tied the rope to the proximal end of the outrigger and the shell was towed, the stupid, obstinate and, I might add, cowardly rope slipped from the near end of the outrigger and proceeded to the outside edge and the shell tried to cut a deep swath through the water rather than a narrow groove.

As this was not working we, (as in "Bob Orr and I,") went back to reattach the rope. With slack on rope the shell sensed a newfound freedom and flipped upside down.

Now a shell is made to sit in the water only one way and consists of a paper-thin shell and only sufficient structural members to support the shell and the interface with the oarsmen. When placed upside down and exposed to waves from the opposite direction, the skin of the shell did not know what to do and started falling apart. Any efforts at towing were doomed. The remains of the shell were dragged to the shore, the rest of the team were alerted to the predicament and they came along the shore to our aid.

Most of the crews of three shells carried the remains of one back to the shell house along the riprap on the shore. As everyone else had shoes on and I had only socks I was at a bit of a disadvantage in helping but, for some reason, I really didn't feel like standing out from everyone else at that point.

We got back to the shell house finishing up somewhere around 4:30 at which time Coach Bob Orr shouted a command that everyone there clearly remembers to this day: It will forever be associated with these events. He announced, "Afternoon practice is cancelled."

And for those of you who were also there and remember things differently I reply: You embellish your story your way and I will embellish mine my way. That's my story and I'm sticking with it.


Steward's Cup

1974 (Photo Album)
Washington State edges Minnesota's Varsity L8+ by two feet for the Midwest Championship.


Midwestern Sprints

1975 (Photo Album)
No current information...


Crew Pamphlet


Lightweight Crew

1976 (Photo Album)
WSU Cougar Crew attended the West coast Western sprints in Berkely, California. The team stayed in a Bay Area hotel on University Avenue. During the check-in, a group of prostitutes wandered by. Rower Lendertson, a Palouse native, stood dumbstruck and mumbled, "we don't have anything like this in the Palouse!" To add to the fun, women's coach Gene Dowers' dad, who was a Baptist minister, slept in a camper in the hotel parking lot, among the street walkers working the corner.

The men and women stayed in separate venues. While the men were enjoying their prostitute crawling hotel on University Avenue, the women stayed at Kari Buringrud's place, called the "Cougar Hilton." The Buringruds referred to each other as "Bears," such as "Ma Bear," "Pa Bear," etc. Because Kari was getting thrown into any available water at every opportune moment, she was called "Aqua Bear." May we note that Aqua Bear has not yet returned to class day.

1977 (Photo Album)
WSU V8 finishes 4th at the Pac-10 Championships. (When did we start Pac-10 competition?) At the Western Sprints, all of the Pac-10 coaches had a meeting at the University of California. It was voted to establish the Pac-10's own race, the Pac-10 duels at Redwood Shores. Struckmeyer was completely on board with this idea to fuel competition among Pac-10 universities.

1979 (Photo Album)
No current information...

1978 (Photo Album)
WSU V4 won the IRA National Championships in Syracuse, NY with the legendary "Meat Wagon" consisting of John "Yumbo" Holtman, Doug "D'Engle" Engle, Chris "Squish" Gulick, Rich "Flip" Ray, and Al "Horseshack" Fisher as coxswain. Coaches Dave Emigh and Struckmeyer rigged the boat wrong for the first race, so the crew raced the first 2000 meters at a rate of 37-38. The crowds and other teams were stunned that WSU could maintain a rate that high. The other crews determined that if they were to win the race they should race at a rate equal to or above WSU’s pace. When the crew returned to shore, they realized the mistake and the coaches rerigged the boat to better fit the crew. WSU was in 2nd place at the 1000 meter mark, but pulled ahead and finished with open water, the crew looking back at Syracuse in last place.


IRA Champions


Freshmen 8+


Carrying Struck

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