Heavyweight crew coach to leave College

by Sean Connolly and Katie Jarrett | 7/17/14 5:25pm

Head coach Christopher “Topher” Bordeau’s contract was not renewed for the 2014-1015 men’s heavyweight crew season. He departs after eight seasons as head coach and nine with the team in total. The search for a new head coach is underway.

While team performance climbed in the first years of his coaching, the team struggled in recent years. Bordeau led the team to fifth place in the 2010 Eastern Sprints, and an overall finish of eighth place at the IRA National Championship Regatta. In the 2010-2011 season, the team took eighth and 14th at Sprints and the IRAs, respectively. In the 2012-2013, the team took 13th in Sprints and 19th at the IRA. This past spring, the team took 12th in Sprints and 22nd at the IRA.

Since 2006, he has worked with two freshman coaches, but only one assistant coach, during the 2009-2010 season.

Several rowers interviewed said they were not surprised that Bordeau would not return.

It was clear something needed to change after the lack of success the past few years, John Cresap ’16 wrote in an email. Cresap said he viewed Bordeau as good coach and exceptional person.

The performance prompted some rowers to approach the athletic department with their concerns over performance at the time, Bobby Moffitt ’16 said. He said the departure was not a huge surprise.

Former heavyweight rower Quincy Darbyshire ’11 said he believes the mismatch between the expectations for the team’s performance and the results led to the decision.

“My feeling is that Topher is a first-class member of the athletic department and Dartmouth family,” he said.

Current rowers and alumni spoke about Bordeau’s passion for rowing and for the Dartmouth team.

Jesse Reisner ’12 said Bordeau’s love of the sport was apparent.

“I remember him telling a few of us once that the best part of his day was coming down to the boathouse and watching us row,” Reisner said. “He wasn’t lying. His love for the sport, his search for excellence and his demand for hard work defined his time at Dartmouth.”

Nevin Cunningham ’17 said Bordeau put his full effort into the program.

“He would radiate with pride during our successes and he carried the burden of our failures as much — and sometimes more — than we did,” he said.

Brendon Stoner ’14 reiterated this sentiment, praising Bordeau’s work ethic.

“Everything he did was in the interest of the team,” he said.

Bordeau asked a lot from his team and had one of the toughest training regimens in collegiate rowing, Nick Foukal ’10 said. While it was clear how much Bordeau cared, his coaching style may not have been a “rower’s best friend.”

Moffitt said Bordeau created a “culture of toughness” and instilled in his athletes the ability to turn weaknesses into strengths.

Darbyshire also spoke of his strong relationship with Bordeau going beyond the tough coach that the team saw during the school year. Darbyshire explained how he saw another side to Bordeau’s persona, spending multiple summers in Hanover with him.

Darbyshire said Bordeau went above and beyond to help mentor him and assist in his training while he was attempting to row at the national team level.

Bordeau was a good representative of Dartmouth anywhere the team traveled, coxswain Greg Zales ’16 said, and instilled a culture where his team was proud to be a rower for the Big Green.

Brown University men’s rowing coach Paul Cooke expressed his respect for Bordeau and said he enjoyed working with him in the Ivy League.

Looking to the team’s future, Cunningham says he is optimistic.

“With a new coach and the combined ability of the current underclassmen and the incoming ’18s, we have a bright future,” Cunningham said. “Everybody is putting in a lot of work this summer and looking forward to a fresh start with a new coach. This is the beginning of a new era for Dartmouth rowing.”

Bordeau, athletic director Harry Sheehy and men’s heavyweight freshman coach Andrew Hilton could not be reached for comment by press time.

Darbyshire is a former member of The Dartmouth staff.