Rowing dedicates new boat to Conradt
April 11, 2009
AUSTIN, Texas -- Rowing coach Carie Graves managed to start all this with a question.
"Are you game?" Graves asked of Jody Conradt.
With Conradt, forever a fearless pioneer, isn't the answer always yes? And so that's how it came to be that Conradt went for a row Saturday morning in the new carbon-fiber varsity eight shell that now bears her name.
It's tradition under Graves to dedicate new boats after prominent Texas leaders, like Barbara Jordan, Ann Richards and Donna Lopiano. Conradt is now the eighth person to earn that distinction, but after christening her boat with a champagne bath, and watching the varsity crew sprint up and down Town Lake, Conradt held true to her groundbreaking, trendsetting persona.
At Graves' urging -- although it really didn't take much -- Conradt became the first honoree to actually go for a ride in her own boat.
With Graves encouraging her to "feel the power," Conradt took a seat at the front in the stroke position. The irony is that the stroke is responsible for establishing the pace and rhythm for the entire boat, and Conradt is a rookie.
Once away from the dock, the rowers gave Conradt a quick, 30-second tutorial.
"And then she seemed to get it," said junior Nancy Arrington. "It looked like she knew what she was doing."
Doesn't it always?
Saturday served as a reminder of that. Aside from the smiles and laughter, it was a moment to once again remember the graceful leadership that Conradt provided The University of Texas.
She's known to everyone as a basketball coach, one who guided the Longhorns to the first undefeated season in NCAA history and who retired from the game with 900 victories to her name.
She's known as a teacher, mentor and friend.
But few remember that Conradt, while still leading the basketball team, was also Texas Women's Athletics Director from 1992-2001. During that time, her steadying hand helped usher the women's program into the post-Title IX era.
Conradt administered the addition of three women's varsity sports, and rowing was one of them. Since rowing came to UT in 1997, Conradt has been an admirer of the sport she calls a "throwback." It's the ultimate team sport, because if one rower gets out of sync the whole boat will flip.
But to Conradt, these Texas rowers also embody a higher competitive ideal. They often perform without fame or fanfare, but do it because they love their team and take pride in wearing "Texas" on their uniforms.
Perhaps that's why Conradt delighted in rowing among them Saturday, when she was once again rightfully honored as the ultimate team player and team builder.