Oklahoma City University coach Mike Knopp brought rowing to the school with the formation of a club team in 2000 and the state's first varsity program in 2004.
Under his watch, the success of the program has continually increased with multiple rowing champions and members on the U.S. Under-23 national team. He is also one of the original driving forces behind the Oklahoma Regatta Festival.
Knopp spoke with The Oklahoman about this year's festival, the program at OCU, and future additions on the Oklahoma River.
Q: Now that the festival has wrapped up, how did you feel it went this year?
A: “It turned out to be a really great event this year. I think one of our best ever. It was the largest event we've had from the perspective of the number of participants. The weather was mostly great, the water was great. Everything turned out well.”
How are things going with the program at OCU?
“This year is our 10th anniversary as a program, and we also launched this regatta with the rowing program. We've seen the program grow with the regatta. We have a very strong men's team and a great women's team. We are really beginning to be very competitive, not just regionally, but nationally. We have a program that is reflective of the world class facilities here.”
You've played a major role in the growing popularity of rowing in Oklahoma. Have things gone as smoothly as you expected over the last 10-15 years?
“It's come along faster than I think I envisioned it. I always thought there was something special with this river, but to see how well it's been received from people outside our community has been great. Now we're getting international recognition with the world championships next year, and that's obviously really great for the city.”
There's been several additions to the venue here on the Oklahoma River, what's coming next?
“In less than two years we're going to have a white water center, which is going to be a world class white water rapids facility right along the boathouse district down here. I think that'll just continue building on what has been a tremendous opportunity to bring world class athletes to our city.”