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Head Coach Brooks Dagman in the Spotlight
Feb. 20, 2018

SAN DIEGO - Brooks Dagman walked about a UCLA hillside quad his freshman year in 1981 and stumbled across a fair. Tables were set up near the student union, clubs and athletic teams casting the recruiting lure.

One of the teams: men’s rowing.

Dagman’s father rowed at Washington. He was curious. He also stood a fraction under 5-feet-11, modest as elite rowers go.

“You’re kind of not what we’re looking for,” someone told Dagman.

But he joined about 100 wanna-be rowers for the first test, four laps around the track. Advantage, Dagman, a distance runner in high school. He dusted all but one or two runners.

“I went from the dog house to the penthouse,” said Dagman, who weighed about 150 pounds at the time. Lightweight boats average 155 pounds per rower, so Dagman was a perfect fit. Little did he know it at the time, but Dagman was about to embark on his career path.

On Saturday, USD, UCSD and Orange Coast College will drop their boats into Mission Bay to compete in the City Championships. Dagman is USD’s men’s coach, now is his 27th season at the position.

After losing 10 seniors from last year’s program, the expectation was that this would be a rebuilding year. Nineteen of the 31 athletes on the roster are freshmen. But a strange thing happened in the reconstruction process. The freshmen are coming around quickly.

“Many of these freshmen turned out to be tremendous student-athletes,” said Dagman. “Young athletes often times are a very egocentric bunch. Especially in this day and age it’s a bit trickier getting them to buy into the group effort.

“I’ve been deeply impressed with what these young people have been willing to do.”

Captains on this year’s team include seniors Will Graf, Sam Stephens and Jack Orr.

Dagman rowed at UCLA for three years, then coached as his alma mater for six years. In a bit of serendipitous timing, UCLA dropped its club program at the same time USD was looking for a rowing club director.

Dagman interviewed. It was a 12-hour process.

“I left just being thoroughly impressed,” Dagman said. “I had no idea there were people who cared that much about athletes and a rowing program.”

In 2009, Dagman led the Toreros to national prominence. The eights boat placed second in the Cal Cup at the Crew Classic. Later that season at the Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association, the varsity fours earned a silver medal with the eights taking home a bronze.

The performance earned the team an appearance in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association National Championships. The eights went on to finish ahead of Penn at nationals.

“I literally had to walk about and peace out for a few minutes,” said Dagman. “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.”

Asked if he cried, Dagman said “Oh my gosh, yes. You had some human beings that just took it to the top level. They went as far as they possibly could go and left nothing.”

At 54, Dagman has been involved in the sport for more than three decades. As to why the sport has enamored him so, he said, “Rowing, for me, represents one of the ultimate team sports where you have to submit to the group in a way that doesn’t happen a lot of times in the ball sports.

“In rowing, more than anything, you’ve got eight people where everyone has to submit to the team effort. There are no all-stars. It’s primitive in a way. It’s useful to teach not only leadership but what real teamwork is.”




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