For Temple's Gavin White, this Dad Vail regatta may be last as Owls' coach

Posted: May 12, 2012

Gavin White likes the idea of staying busy, especially at this time of year, when he can again take part in the Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta wearing the Temple colors - this year for the 38th time as an Owls rower, assistant coach or head coach.

White, who has led the Owls to 19 heavyweight eight titles at the Dad Vail, is in his 34th season as Temple's crew boss and still enjoys coaching. But health issues have raised the possibility that the 74th regatta, which begins Friday on the Schuylkill, could be his last as coach.

White, 60, was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease in 2002 and said he has been "able to sort of fight it off" with exercise. Then in 2010, he underwent surgery to help stimulate activity in his brain. More recently, he has needed the help of a cane and a walker to get around.

"That's the most noticeable thing to people who haven't seen me in a while - the walker," White said Thursday. "But it doesn't affect me in the boat. In the boat, you sit down."

The fact that Temple is building a new boathouse on the river is a reason to stick around, he said. But asked about if this could be his final season, he replied, "I can't say right now."

"I'd love to coach a year in the new boathouse," he added. "It's tempting. I'd like to hang on to do that, but I'm not sure it's practical. [Retirement] has crossed my mind as a possibility after this year, but I think I've got one more in me."

The list of White's achievements as Temple's head coach probably could stretch the length of the Schuylkill's 2,000-meter course. Of the 19 heavyweight eight gold medals won with White at the Dad Vail, 13 came in succession. He has taken seven boats to the Royal Henley Regatta. He has coached the U.S. national rowing team five times and led the men's four at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

"His career at Temple is not confined to just rowing," said Jason Read, an Olympic gold medalist who rowed for White and now coaches the Owls' women's crew. "His presence on campus has been monumental. . . . When I think about it, he's one of the faces of Temple athletics."

The Temple men's season was marred last month by an accident involving sophomore Fergal Barry, a native of Ireland and a member of the heavyweight eight boat, who was struck by a hit-and-run driver while biking to practice. Barry suffered serious injuries and is not rowing, although he is back with the team.

"He's an excellent rower, a really tough kid," White said. "When we lost him, that stung for a while. It really affected the kids. They finally got used to the idea he's not going to be in the boat, and we're starting to pick up speed again."

The Owls have been in the Dad Vail heavyweight eight final 25 times in the last 27 years, and their coach said they have a chance to pick up their first win in the competition since 2004. Michigan is back to defend its championship, one of "six or seven schools that can win it for sure," according to White.

Read, who was named women's head crew coach last August, is glad to be back at the Dad Vail, where he has said winning "is not a goal, it's a requirement." He is encouraged by the team's finish at last week's Atlantic Ten championships, a tie for third.

"We've been training the girls really hard, and they're really tired," Read said.

It will be a busy weekend for Read, who is scheduled to receive his masters degree in criminal justice with a homeland security specialization during St. Joseph's graduation ceremony on Saturday.

"It's pretty exciting," he said. "I'll be racing from graduation down to the river Saturday morning to catch our varsity eight semifinal."

See the Titan. The Titan boat that was used recently for the first eight-man Transatlantic crossing will be displayed throughout the Regatta at the finish line. Presentations by the crew are scheduled for 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Friday and noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Saturday.

Quinlan honored. St. Joseph's head women's coach Gerry Quinlan will receive the Matthew Ledwith coaches award as the top coach from the previous year's regatta. Quinlan, in his 13th season at St. Joe's, guided the Hawks to a gold medal in the second varsity eight and a bronze medal in the varsity four last year.


Contact Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or jjuliano@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @joejulesinq

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