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Originally published May 1, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified May 14, 2007 at 9:01 PM

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UW crew coach on hot seat

Evidence is mounting that it will take a strong end-of-the-season performance by Washington women's crews, particularly the varsity, to...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Evidence is mounting that it will take a strong end-of-the-season performance by Washington women's crews, particularly the varsity, to save the job of coach Eleanor McElvaine.

The 11th-ranked Huskies were defeated by 12th-ranked California last Saturday on Montlake Cut to cap a month that started with a loss at Washington State.

Influential alumni are known to be unhappy with the program under the fourth-year coach, who was a distinguished Washington rower and longtime UW assistant.

Jeff Compher, the executive associate athletic director who oversees UW rowing, said Monday that the administration will "let this season play itself out," then will review the situation.

"Everybody wants to see improvement and results," Compher said. "She [McElvaine] feels as strongly about it as I do or anybody in our administration."

Compher said it was "premature" to speculate about McElvaine's future. McElvaine could not be reached for comment.

Washington has fired one coach already this school year — women's basketball coach June Daugherty, whose team was 18-13 and made the NCAA tournament. Daugherty was fired shortly after her team's season ended.

The Opening Day Regatta is Saturday, and Huskies men's and women's varsity boats will race against Purdue and Waikato University of New Zealand in the featured Windermere Cup races.

The Pac-10 championships are May 13 in Rancho Cordova, Calif. The Huskies hope to advance to the NCAA Championships, May 26-27 at Oak Ridge, Tenn. Washington is one of just three schools in the nation to be invited to all 10 previous NCAA title regattas.

McElvaine will have one year remaining on her contract after this season. Her base salary this year is $65,160.

McElvaine was the Huskies women's novice coach for 13 seasons, then succeeded Jan Harville in the summer of 2003 when Harville retired.

With McElvaine at the helm, the Huskies:

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• have failed to make the final heat of the six-boat NCAA championship race for varsity crews,

• have failed to win a Pac-10 varsity or junior-varsity title,

• lost their first dual varsity race to Washington State in 2006, then got beat by the Cougars again this year,

• are 0-4 against California in a series in which the Huskies had won 13 consecutive duals

In McElvaine's defense, the 2004 crew she inherited wasn't considered strong. Also, there is more competition for good rowers than ever because of the sport's growing popularity.

However, standards are high at Washington, which is considered one of the nation's premier rowing schools. Varsity women's crews have won 11 national titles. The men's and women's rowing programs are housed in an $18 million facility on the edge of Lake Washington.

McElvaine, 44, is a graduate of Everett's Cascade High School and is in the Husky Hall of Fame as a member of the 1983 national championship women's crew.

She was named U.S. Rowing's woman of the year in 1993, when she was coach of the women's national development team. She was coach of the U.S. national junior team in 2000-01.

Craig Smith: 206-464-8279 or csmith@seattletmes.com

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