BOB MILLIKAN, UNC CREW FACULTY ADVISOR
It was 1993 when Bob came to UNC and in his usual unassuming way, showed up at the boathouse and offered to help. Former longtime coach Michael Nicholls still remembers the day. For over sixteen years Bob was involved with the crew on many different levels. According to Steve Bradley-Bull who was Sports Club Director at the time, “Bob was the mainstay during a lot of transition and was essential for the program to survive to this day. He stepped in where he needed to be, and where he felt he could best serve the organization.” He mentored students as well as coaching them, was great at listening, and provided leadership when needed. Bob started as assistant to the head coach. In the fall of 1997 during a time of turnover he took over the men’s team, coaching both the novice and varsity crews until another coach came in the spring of 1999. Bob then became novice coach. Adam Cottrell, Novice Coach accounts, “We started the Millikan Cup in 2007 under the advice of then head coach Cameron Fraser and then team president Jake Soberal. It's traditional for teams, especially among the Ivys, Pac 10 and Eastern Sprints conference schools, to contest cups in dual or tri (2 or 3-team) races in the spring. As UNC usually hosts a few dual races and we did not traditionally race for a cup, Fraser and Soberal thought it would be good to get one started and appropriate to name it after Bob, who along with Mike Nicholls and Sam Wheeler was one of a few people to have a large impact on the UNC teams over a long period of time.”
Millikan Cup Regatta
This year’s Millikan Cup Regatta was the biggest yet. Head Coach Micah Boyd sent out invitations to rowing teams throughout the region and everyone was eager to participate. The ten teams present were UNC, Duke, NC State, Wake Forest, Davidson, High Point, UNC-Wilmington, Triangle Rowing Club, Raleigh Rowing Center and Carolina Masters. Like the world premiere of Millikan Symphony, many friends, colleagues, former veterinary school classmates, and crew alumni came to the regatta to celebrate Bob. It was a wonderful event, and UNC won the Millikan Cup! Visit the Gallery by our event photographer Andrea Canter here. See race results here.
45th UNC Men’s Crew Alumni Reunion
That evening was the alumni reunion dinner. So many alumni rowers came up to me and wanted to tell their Bob stories. It was the most meaningful part of the event for me. Bob made a deep impression on them as their coach and mentor in ways they never forgot. He led by example and some of the lessons learned were profound. Along with being an amazing coach he helped them in their lives outside of crew.
Stephen Shaw, alumni class of 2001, gave a moving presentation about Bob. Sam Wheeler, alumni class of 1990, spoke about the Crew Foundation and hopes for the future of UNC Men’s Crew. Present also was the current team, dressed in their formal crew jackets. I enjoyed seeing them reading the program, learning about Bob – someone they had never known – but who greatly impacted their team’s legacy.
Late that night when my family was sitting in the bar at The Carolina Inn, a group 5 guys came up to me who had rowed with Bob, and each other. They were 5 out of the 8 in their boat. They came from all over the country to be there and honor Bob. It meant the world to me.
ROWING FOR BOB
After following the UNC Men’s Crew for 3 seasons, it was time for me to get in the boat. This summer I took Learn to Row classes at Minneapolis Rowing Club and am now on the Novice Team! It is very special for me to have Michael Nicholls, who coached with Bob at UNC over 20 years ago, as my coach. Rowing is much harder than it looks. I knew there was a lot of technique involved from riding in the launch with UNC coaches at practices, but I had no idea what it actually took to catch together, keep the boat balanced, and maintain good form throughout the stroke sequence. Needless to say I’m still learning! It is a wonderfully challenging sport and a great joy to be a part of a team. Our first big race will be Head of the Des Moines, a 3 mile race. Time to step up the erging!
In music circles I’m pretty much known for my fedora. On the water, it’s my NC cap. When my teammates ask me about it I proudly tell them about Bob, and how it is because of him that I row. Today is Bob’s birthday. Today, like at every other practice, I will be rowing for Bob.