Kevin Sauer finished his 17th year as the head coach of the Virginia rowing program in 2012 with the one thing that had eluded him throughout his coaching career. The First Varsity Eight won the national championship to clinch Virginia its second NCAA Championship on Mercer Lake in West Windsor, N.J.
In the 17-year history of varsity program, the Cavaliers' Varsity Four boat had won at the national regatta four times and the Second Varsity Eight three times, but the First Varsity Eight had never accomplished the feat.
Two years after winning the school's first national team title in 2010, Sauer led the Cavaliers to their 12th Atlantic Coast Conference crown and led the program's premier boat to its first title after finishing runner-up three times, twice in the last three years.
A year after they won their 11th Atlantic Coast Conference Championships and finished sixth in the team standings at the 2011 NCAA Championships, the Cavaliers started the year off with a win in the Championship Eights at the Head of the Charles and the top collegiate boat in the Championship Fours.
For his efforts, he was named the National Coach of the Year by the Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association (CRCA) for the second time and five Cavaliers were named First-Team All-Americans, the most in school history.
Renowned as the architect of one of the most elite rowing programs in the nation, Sauer added another accomplishment to the already impressive list in 2010: winning his first NCAA Championship.
A runner-up at the national championship three times prior to 2010, Sauer finally experienced the sport's ultimate triumph when the Cavaliers finished in first place in the team standings. Held in Sacramento, Calif., on Lake Natoma, the NCAA Championships also marked the seventh individual boat national champion for Virginia - the 2010 Varsity Four. At the conclusion of the season, Sauer was named the National Coach of the Year by the Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association (CRCA).
Virginia is one of just six schools to claim the NCAA Championship (Brown, California, Harvard, Stanford and Washington are the others) and one of four schools to compete in at least 14 NCAA Women's Rowing Championships.
Sauer has been in charge of the UVa women's rowing program since its inception as a varsity sport in the fall of 1995. Before that, he coached both the men's and women's club teams at the University beginning in 1988.
He is a eight-time ACC Coach of the Year, a four-time CRCA Regional Coach of the Year and in 2010 led his squad to its first-ever No. 1 national ranking.
Eight of Sauer's crews have been crowned national champions.
Due in large part to Sauer's tireless devotion to Virginia women's rowing, the Cavaliers made an immediate impact at the Division I level. In just its second season of varsity competition in 1997, Virginia finished fourth at the inaugural NCAA Rowing Championships.
The following year, UVa's Second Varsity Eight finished first at the 1998 NCAA Championships, leading the Cavaliers to a third-place finish overall. At the 1999 NCAAs, the Second Varsity Eight defended its national title and the Cavaliers tied for first overall but were awarded the second-place trophy by virtue of a tie-breaker. Virginia won silver medals in both the Varsity Eight and Varsity Four races at the championship regatta.
In 2000, UVa hosted and won the first ACC Women's Rowing Championship, while finishing third overall at the NCAAs. Virginia won its second consecutive ACC Championship and made its fifth consecutive NCAA appearance in 2001. UVa continued to win the ACC title in 2002 and 2003, finishing fourth at the NCAA Championships in 2002 and sixth in 2003. UVa won the ACC championship for the fifth consecutive year in 2004 and tied for sixth in the team competition at the NCAA Championships. In addition, the Cavaliers' Varsity Four won the NCAA Championship in that event. UVa won its sixth consecutive ACC championship in 2005 and finished second at the NCAA Championships. Virginia defended its national championship in the Varsity Four and also won the NCAA Championship in the Second Varsity Eight. In 2006, Virginia captured its seventh consecutive ACC championship, sweeping every race.
The Cavaliers continued their winning ways in 2007, sweeping all four events en route to their eighth consecutive ACC Championship. UVa then made South/Central Regional history by winning every race in which it competed. The 'Hoos capped off their season with a second-place finish at the NCAA Championships, their third national runner-up finish in nine years. The Varsity Four captured its third NCAA title in that race.
During Sauer's tenure, the Cavaliers have had 39 All-American citations and 57 All-ACC honorees. Additionally, 17 Virginia rowers were named to the ACC's 50th Anniversary Rowing Team. In 2006, a league-high 16 Cavaliers were named to the inaugural Academic All-ACC Team.
Over the past 17 seasons, Sauer's first varsity eight has compiled a 698-160 record (.814 winning percentage). He was honored as the ACC Coach of the Year in 2000, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2012, and the South Region Coach of the Year in 2005, 2007, 2010 and 2012.
During the summer of 1998, he coached the United States' team at the Under-23 World Championships in Ioannina, Greece. Former UVa rower Andrea Saathoff was a member of that team. In July 2007 in Strathclyde, Scotland, Jennifer Cromwell rowed for the U.S. at the Under-23 World Championships, while Sauer helped coach the quad that won gold. In the summer of 2008, he took the reins of the women's eight Under-23 national team that won gold in Brandenburg, Germany. That boat included Class of 2008 rower Kelsie Chaudoin.
Also in the summer of 2008, former UVa rowers tasted the ultimate success as Lindsay Shoop (Class of 2004) and Melanie Kok (Class of 2007) earned medals at the Olympics in Beijing, China. Shoop won gold with the U.S. women's eight, while Kok was a bronze medalist with the Canadian lightweight double.
Sauer was the coach of the women's quad at the 2009 United States Under-23 national team, a crew which featured former Virginia rowers Amanda Chase (class of 2009) and Desiree Burns (2010).
Sauer laid the groundwork for the current success of UVa women's rowing by serving as head coach of the women's and men's rowing club teams in 1993, and the women's in 1994 and 1995. In 1993, the women's lightweight and heavyweight fours won silver and bronze medals, respectively, at the National Championships. In 1995, the women's four was the national champion. Beginning in 1988, Sauer also coached a number of successful men's crew club teams at Virginia.
Before coaching at Virginia, Sauer served two stints as head coach at Purdue, his alma mater, from 1979 to 1982 and from 1986 to 1987. Under his direction, Purdue crews won the 1981-82 Midwest Championship and placed third in the 1986 Dad Vail. From 1983 to 1985, Sauer served as freshman coach at Yale, where his crews posted a 22-5 record.
A native of Indianapolis, Ind., Sauer received his bachelor's degree in marketing and finance from Purdue in 1976 and was a member of the U.S. National Rowing Team in 1975 and 1977. While at Purdue, he rowed for the United States in the 1975 Pan American Games. He also competed in the 1977 World Rowing Championships. Sauer continued his involvement in international competition as the rowing, canoe and kayak course contractor for the 1984 Olympics, the 1987 Pan American Games, the 1990 Goodwill Games and the 1996 Olympics. He also coached the U.S. Rowing Development Camp in 1997 and served as a technical advisor for U.S. Rowing during the 1988 Olympic year.
From 1997-2000, Sauer was a member of the High Performance Committee for U.S. Rowing, which makes plans for the coaching, selection and training of the national and Olympic rowing teams. In 2001, he was elected to serve as the South representative for the Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association, a position he held until 2008.
Sauer and his wife, Barb, reside in Charlottesville. The Sauers have two children, Nick and Kelly, who also live in Charlottesville. Nick and wife, Lindsay, have a son, Kevin, while Kelly and husband, Mark, have a daughter Colbie. Coach Sauer is the only one that does not have a University of Virginia degree.