PORTLAND, Ore. — The Great Northwest Athletic Conference announced Thursday that women's rowing will become its 17th championship sport beginning in the 2019-20 academic year and the University of Central Oklahoma will join the league as an affiliate member.
Central Oklahoma rowing, the 2018 and 2019 NCAA Division II national champions, will now have a home following 11 seasons as an independent in the emerging sport. The GNAC is only the second DII conference to sponsor rowing, joining the Sunshine State Conference.
UCO will join full-time GNAC members Seattle Pacific and Western Washington, as well as fellow affiliate member Humboldt State.
"We are excited about the opportunity to join the GNAC for rowing," UCO athletic director Eddie Griffin said. "It gives our student-athletes more opportunities to win not only a conference championship, but also to earn all-conference accolades, as well as more academic awards. The GNAC is one of the best rowing conferences in the country and we are glad to get the opportunity to be a part of that."
With the sponsorship of women's rowing, the GNAC can now lay claim to 12 of 18 national championships. Western Washington won eight consecutive titles in the early 2000s, Central Oklahoma has won the last two, and Humboldt State also has two championships earlier this decade.
Central Oklahoma began rowing competitively during the 2007-08 season. UCO made its first national championship appearance in 2012, sending just its Varsity 8+ boat from 2012-14. In 2015, the Bronchos made their first team appearance and earned national runners-up in both 2016 and 2017 before winning national titles in 2018 and 2019.
The Bronchos have won the national title in the eights in each of the past three seasons after finishing second in 2016. UCO won its first national title in the fours earlier this month.
Central Oklahoma has also produced 18 All-Americans in just 10 seasons of rowing. The 2018-19 All-Americans will be announced later this summer.
The Great Northwest Athletic Conference will host a women's rowing championship in the spring of 2020. Plans for that event and what it will look like and when it will happen are still being finalized.
Central Oklahoma will remain a full-time member of the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association in each of its other 14 varsity sports. UCO has won 15 MIAA Championships since joining the league in 2012.