The Bucknell University crew program was firmly established in the early 1980’s, yet Bucknell’s crew history goes back to 1873 when the first crew club was founded by David Jane Hill. Hill would later become President of the University.
The co-ed program was revived by Randy Leavitt in 1983, who became interested in rowing after participating in a summer program at Dartmouth College. The team rowed initially on a section of river close to Bucknell’s campus – wading the boats directly into the water from shore since there were no docks! Randy initially acted as both a rower and a coach, but shortly thereafter was able to recruit Bob Target and John Creighton to volunteer their time to coach the team.
The program remained primarily run by students with volunteer coaching throughout the 80’s, competing at prestigious regattas up and down the east coast including the Head of the Schuylkill and Head of the Charles, as well as hosting an annual home race on the Susquehanna.
The team was able to relocate to the Northumberland Boat Club waterfront after getting in touch with John Skotedis, owner of Tedd’s Landing restaurant in Selinsgrove. The Skotedis family generously allowed the program to install docks and share the area, with John eventually becoming the program’s head coach.
John was the head coach of Bucknell Crew from 1986-1992, during which time the program’s foundation was built. The men’s and women’s club team, established in 1983, flourished under John’s leadership. With his guidance, the team successfully achieved varsity status in 1990, won it’s first Dad Vail medal in 1991, and had it’s first alumnus compete at the Olympics in 1992 (Cindy Ryder). Most importantly, John’s leadership and friendship provided an invaluable life for those who rowed under him. John continued to be an integral part of supporting the development of rowing at Bucknell University as well as the Central Pennsylvania Rowing Association.
Under John’s leadership in the fall of 1990 when the crew clubs were incorporated into the athletic department and became full varsity programs, The Men’s Lightweight 8 and Men’s Heavy 4 earned the first medals for Bucknell at the Dad Vail Championships. Since then, it has achieved success in the, the men’s novice lightweight eight (Dad Vail silver), the men’s novice 8 (2007 Dad Vail gold), and the men’s pair. That crew went on to win petite finals at IRAs finishing 7th in the country. In 1995 and 1996 The lightweight men also earned gold and silver medals at the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Regatta.
In 1996, Stephen Kish was named head coach and the program underwent a number of important changes. Three home events were added to the schedule, as well as a winter training trip, which improved the level of competition for the team without jeopardizing time needed for academic excellence. Coach Kish led boats to bronze, silver and gold medals at the Dad Vail Regatta as well as silver medals at the Champion Regatta. Through his efforts the program grew with the construction of a boathouse, an increase the team’s racing equipment, and additional coaches to the staff. Coach Kish is now the Head Coach of Women’s Rowing at Bucknell.
In 2002, men’s crew was reclassified as a club-varsity program in response to the University’s commitment to achieving gender equity requirements in athletics. Longtime volunteer assistant Derek Updegraff was named the new head coach of men’s crew. Under Coach Updegraff’s guidance and with the help of committed alumni and team members, the men’s program had an extremely successful inaugural season, capturing Mid-Atlantic regional championships in the varsity lightweight 8 and novice 8. Coach Updegraff led the team through the spring of 2005 before accepting the head coaching position at the Univeristy of California Santa Barbara.
The 2005-2006 season began under the leadership of newly named Head Coach, Paul Bugenhagen. Coach Bugenhagen was quoted saying “My immediate goal is to get the word out that there’s something special happening in Lewisburg, the culture of our rowing team is evolving and developing some of the same characteristics and tendencies that all great programs possess. There’s enthusiasm for the training program and towards the process of becoming champions, as well as the development of real courage and toughness when it comes to overcoming all the obstacles that exist when you’re trying to own the dream.”
Under Coach Bugenhagen’s leadership, the team expanded to include full-time assistant coach Al Monte and consistently put at least four full eights on the water during the spring season. The team’s fleet has also expanded to include numerous small boats for use on winter and spring training trips, and the team entered competition in the ECAC well as the newly-formed American Collegiate Rowing Association (ACRA). Coach Bugenhagen led the team to the medal stand at numerous championship regattas including the Dad Vail, ECAC and ACRA – including a gold medal in the Heavyweight Novice 8 event at Dad Vails in 2007; and in the Varsity 8, a silver medal at ACRAs in 2010 and bronze at ECACs in 2011.
In 2011 Coach Bugenhagen accepted the head coaching position at Hobart, and Al Monte became headcoach of the Bucknell Men’s Crew program. Coach Monte had previously led the Bison freshmen to winning seasons in 2009 and 2010, with his freshman winning the ECAC National Championships in 2011. With Monte coaching the Varsity, Scott Waters joined the Bison staff to take on the freshman coaching responsibilities.
In 2014 Coach Monte accepted an assistant coaching position at Dartmouth and Dan Wolleben, longtime assistant coach of the Bucknell Woman’s Rowing, became the head coach. Additionally in 2014, Kyle Dowd became the assistant coach and took on the freshman coaching responsibilities.