The campus of Rollins College, being situated on the bluffs overlooking beautiful Lake Virginia, provides a natural setting for student activities on the lake. The early records tell of boating as being one of the primary activities of the College community. The addition of Lyman Gymnasium in the 1890's provided an expanded physical activities program.
As the curriculum evolved early at Rollins, it was evident that the faculty believed in the principles of developing a student of "sound mind" and "sound body". They included athletics and physical training in the curriculum.
During the fall of 1894, the Rollins Athletic Association (RAA) was formed to provide an administrative organization for conducting sports activities. Boating (sailing, canoeing, row boating) was scheduled as well as Track & Field, Football, Swimming, and Baseball.
Rowing with racing shells began on campus in the fall of 1903 when two eight-oared boats were given to the College. The report of the gift in the SANDSPUR hinted at the possibility of women's crews being formed to use the shells.
At the South Florida Fair in Tampa in 1904, two Rollins crews raced in competition for the Brown Cup. This was the first competition in rowing held in Florida. This cup race was later moved to Lake Virginia. The spring issue of the SANDSPUR in 1905 carries a picture of a Rollins Crew on Lake Virginia.
Rowing did not flourish as an activity on campus until the 1920s, although reference is made to a race between two men's dormitories, Pinehurst and Lakeside, in the spring of 1909. The two shells stored on Lake Virginia had to be carried down the canal connecting Lake Virginia to Lake Osceola, the site of the race. The records indicate that an unfortunate incident occurred at the conclusion of this race. An overly curious launch driver struck the stern of one of the shells shearing off several feet of the boat. The following year the Brown Cup was revived with competition held between dormitories.
Dr. Hamilton Holt announced on May 7, 1927, that rowing was going to be added to the Athletic Program. He had secured a pledge of two shells from northern colleges and services of a coach as well. In 1927 Cornell University presented Rollins with two eight-oared shells. Dr. Holt, with the help of the student body and other friends of the Athletic Program, secured funds to erect a boathouse on Lake Maitland. Chares Chase, a former coxswain for Yale, was the first coach of Rowing at Rollins. The first practice was held in November 1927. The Rowing Program as we know it today officially became a part of the Rollins Athletic Program in 1928.
The first exhibition race between Blue and Gold crews was held on February 22, 1928 in Palm Beach as a feature at the Washington's Birthday Regatta sponsored by the Palm Beach Yacht Club. A race with the Asheville School in Asheville, N.C., on May 4, 1928 was arranged by Coach Chase. The race was in four-oared shells at a distance of 3/5 of a mile. This was a challenge to Rollins oarsmen since thy practiced in eight-oared shells. The winning Rollins Crew covered the distance in 3:26 minutes.
Rowing as an athletic activity at Rollins was officially established and came into national prominence in the late thirties. Coach Chase left Rollins following the 1928 season. " Buz " Warner '29, carried on as a temporary coach. Prof. Cecil Oldham took over the program in 1931 coaching through 1933. Races were held on Lake Maitland during his years of Tenure.
When Dr. Udolpho Theodore Bradley took over the duties as coach of the rowing program in 1934, Rollins crews were not experienced in the intercollegiate competition having had only two races in 1933. Brad, as he was affectionately and respectfully called by his athletes, expanded the racing schedule.
To raise the rowing program to the level of importance in the Athletic Program that Dr. Bradley had wished, required innovation. The interest level of faculty and students had to be heightened. Brad, with the cooperation of the Athletic Director, Jack McDowall , introduced rowing into the newly established intramural program in the fall of '35. This was Brad's "farm system", and it paid dividends. A special note here is that the Women's Athletic Association introduced crew to the women's intramural program in the fall of '36 of which Dr. Bradley coached. The 1937-'38 rowing year is when women's rowing was officially started at Rollins. Elizabeth Harbison Spear is considered the founder of women's rowing at Rollins.
The win over Manhattan College on the Harlem River with Sally Stearns as coxswain in 1936 definitely made Rollins crew conscious. Sally was the first ever woman coxswain in a men's boat in the sport of rowing. The men's varsity eight disguised her as a boy in the race against Manhattan College.
The first intercollegiate crew race ever staged below the Mason-Dixon Line was held on Lake Maitland on April 3, 1937 with Rollins defeating Washington & Lee.
The following year saw great progress in the program. A JV crew was established which provided Rollins with two powerhouse crews. The first intercollegiate regatta in the South was held on April 2, 1938 with Rollins defeating Marietta College and Washington and Lee.
Dr. Bradley was instrumental in establishing the Dad Vail Rowing Association in 1939. (Follow this link to see the "Dad Vail Story" http://www.dadvail.org/dvhistory.html) The "Dad Vail" represents the small college rowing powers and is a stepping stone to the International Rowing Association. Single-handedly, Brad built up the sport of rowing in the South, thus earning the title of ' Dean of Rowing in the South.
With " U.T." in the naval service during WWII, the crew program was discontinued till 1947. In the first race held following the war years, Rollins defeated Washington & Lee.
For the next seventeen seasons, U.T. Bradley's crews continued the winning tradition. A highlight of Brad's career was his taking the crew to the Henley Regatta in England in 1963.
Warren Hume, '39 a Trustee of Rollins said of Brad, "It is not oars or the shell that makes a great crew, but rather the individual who is dedicated to putting together a tremendous effort for a great result. Brad always put the stress on the individual, whom he has helped to develop, as much as anyone at Rollins."
Upon his retirement from active coaching in 1965, Brad was named Faculty Director of Rowing by Dr. Hugh F. McKean , President of Rollins. He was succeeded as coach of rowing by his assistant coach, James P. Lyden , '60.
Jim Lyden was the coach of Rollins from 1966-1980. In his time as coach, Lyden took crews to The Royal Henley Regatta in England in 1973 and in 1976.
Coach Lyden was instrumental in the process of making the women's crew a varsity sport at Rollins. Through his hard work and perseverance Women's Rowing at Rollins College became a Varsity Sport in 1976.
The U.T. Bradley Boathouse that now houses the rowing team on Lake Maitland was built in 1975 and dedicated on October 11 of that year.
Since then Rollins Crews have continually competed in national and international competitions. The team has traveled to such races as; Opening Day Regatta (Seattle, WA 1991), Champion Regatta ('92, '93, '94, '95), Head of the Charles ( Boston, MA '94), San Diego Crew Classic (San Diego, CA ' 96), IRA Regatta (Camden, NJ '97), Royal Henley Regatta ('97) and have continued to participate in the Dad Vail Regatta.