Dietz Calls It Quits

American sculler Jim Dietz training on the rowing machine for the 1972 Olympic Games. According to rumour, his mother really disliked this image of her son. Photograph © Co Rentmeester.

20 May 2019

By Göran R Buckhorn

Coach Jim Dietz hangs up his megaphone.

In the beginning of May, Jim Dietz, the University of Massachusetts women’s head coach, announced that he was retiring. The UMass Athletic Department immediately started a national search for his successor. In the meantime, Andrea Landry is acting head coach. Dietz has led the Minutewomen since the varsity programme began in 1994-95.

‘I want to thank Coach Dietz for his dedication in building a nationally prominent rowing program at UMass over his tenure,’ said Ryan Bamford, director of UMass Athletic Department, according to UMass sports website. ‘Jim has certainly left his mark in the rowing community as an athlete and coach and we have been fortunate to benefit from his leadership for the last 24 years as a varsity program. We wish Jim well in retirement.’

In a statement, Dietz said: ‘I feel extremely confident that UMass will continue to be a force in women’s rowing. I am fortunate to leave a legacy of loyal alumnae with a true knowledge and love of our sport. I feel confident they will continue to provide direction and support to our team. I wish the team continued success!’

Under Dietz leadership, the Minutewomen – Maroon and White – have won 16 Atlantic 10 Championships, including 12 in a row between 1996 and 2007. Among other prominent achievements during Dietz tenure were winning the San Diego Crew Classic in 1995, the Women’s Henley Regatta in England in 2003 and 16 Dad Vail Championships. ‘Dietz leaves a legacy of Olympians, World Championship medalists, and numerous crew coaches and referees throughout the U.S., it stated on the UMass sports website.

Jim Dietz at the induction into the Rowing Hall of Fame in 2010. Photo: Göran R Buckhorn.

Dietz rowed collegiately under Ernest Arlett at Northeastern before graduating in 1972. Throughout his competitive years, he managed to win a heap of medals: he took 45 United States and 37 Canadian national championship titles. He was a member of nearly all U.S. national teams from 1967 to 1983, including the U.S. teams going to the Olympics in 1972 and 1976; missing out on the games in 1980 due to USA’s boycott of the Moscow Olympics. Dietz competed at seven World Championships – in 1974, he won a silver medal in the single sculls. He also won medals at the Pan American Games in 1967, 1975, 1979 and 1983.

Jim Dietz was inducted into the National Rowing Foundation Rowing Hall of Fame in 2010. The same year, Dietz was elected vice president of USRowing. His term of this position ended earlier this year.

Jim Dietz speaking fondly about his old coach Jack Sulger at the 2012 Rowing History Forum. Photo: Göran R Buckhorn.

I was present when Dietz was inducted into the ‘Hall’. I was also in attendance two years later, in March 2012, for the 6th Rowing History Forum, held at Mystic Seaport Museum. Allow me to quote myself from an article about that forum:

After lunch, […] Jim Dietz […] literally dashed in through the doors to give a whimsical, hilariously funny talk about his club, ‘New York Athletic Club’, or so it said in the programme. Instead, his presentation soon slid in to a tribute to one man, Jack Sulger, an Irish New York policeman, who was a six-time national champion oarsman, and Dietz’s rowing coach at New York A.C. Sulger carried his service revolver at all times, it seems, and at least once, he used it to keep law and order when a fancy fast boat with a water-skier came too close to the ‘kids’’ race course.

Sulger, who was a manager of the U.S. rowing team, director of the U.S. Olympic Committee, and president of the N.A.A.O., had, according to Dietz, an old-fashioned way of what was right and wrong, and whatever that was, it was always to Dietz’s and his fellow rowers’ advantage, because first and foremost, rowing should, at that age, be fun! They don’t make them like that anymore…

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