Questions linger in crew coach change

Photo by Eitar Zur, Staff Photographer

Photo by Eitar Zur, Staff Photographer

by Luke Henning

San Diego State’s men’s crew team head coach Doug Perez will not return to the team next year.

Perez believes he was not asked back to the volunteer coaching position because he refused to raise money for Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s campaign.

SDSU Executive Director of Associated Students Christina Brown was not legally allowed to comment on the circumstances of Perez’s departure because of his status as a volunteer.

“We cannot discuss details relating to a volunteer coach’s appointment and or the decision to end an appointment,” SDSU Chief Communications Officer Greg Block said.

Perez said he was officially asked to leave because of a group of minor code violations.

In December, Perez said he received an email from Brown asking him if he could get some of his donors to make a contribution to Faulconer’s campaign.

Perez, who has secured almost $200,000 for the rowing team through donations, declined to help Brown and said he advised her that asking for such a favor was out of place given their working relationship.

“Everything changed after that,” Perez said.

A few months later Perez was told he would no longer be coaching the rowing team.

“They told me that it wasn’t up to debate that I wouldn’t be coming back as the rowing coach,” Perez said. “They asked me if I would accept a non-coaching role and asked if I would be comfortable doing anything else for the team, so I declined.”

Perez was a crew team member at University of California, Berkeley where he later received a Ph.D. in political science. He became an assistant professor in criminal justice at SDSU in 1978 and coached the SDSU men’s crew team from 1978 to 1985. Perez left the school to coach semi-pro football and later became the coach for the U.S. national men’s crew team. Perez returned to SDSU as a volunteer coach for the Men’s Crew Team in 2012.

During Perez’s tenure at SDSU, the rowing team increased from 13 to 60 members and overhauled their fundraising program.

Olympic rower and SDSU alumnus Aaron Pollock, who rowed with the men’s crew team in 1989 and 1990—including one season with Perez as his coach—said Perez was instrumental in his selection for the 1992 U.S. Olympic Rowing Team.

Since his time as an Olympian, Pollock has worked with the crew team as a mentor.

“After reviewing all of the available information I don’t share the opinion that there was retaliation by Christina Brown and anyone else at the university, yet,” Pollock said. “I’m disappointed that he won’t be back next year.”

Some current crew team members such as international security and conflict resolution sophomore Ryan Williams said rowing team members are worried that the controversy will reflect negatively on the team.

“This is between Perez and the school,” Williams said. “We’re trying to keep this away from us so we can better move forward.”

Ultimately Perez said he was saddened to be leaving the team.

“My life was changed profoundly by crew,” Perez said. “It’s so much harder work than the classroom. What’s important is the hard work, the discipline, and not to make excuses in life.”

Though there is still confusion about Perez’s departure many of the current men’s crew team members remain optimistic.

“We still don’t know what exactly led to his dismissal, but it has brought us all closer together as a team,” environmental science sophomore and crew team member Matt Stewart said. “We’re just trying to focus on the Fall and get ready for another great season, regardless who comes back as our coach.”

Editor in Chief Leonardo Castaneda also contributed to this report.

Photo courtesy of Eitan Zur