Coach - Randall T. “Jabo” Jablonic
A rower and IRA champion in the Badger varsity eight in 1959, Jabo was named freshmen coach in 1960. For eight years, Jablonic led the freshmen program, with his frosh winning an IRA title in 1964.
In the fall of 1968, Jablonic succeeded Norm Sonju as head coach at Wisconsin and became the longest serving varsity coach ever – a total of 27 years. During Jabo's head coaching reign, his crews brought home four varsity eight Challenge Cups (and another six second place finishes) from the IRA's, three junior varsity eight IRA titles and five freshman IRA titles (not counting 1964, when he won as the freshman coach). When, in 1973, Jabo's crews swept all three eights titles, the headlines in Syracuse read, “Wisc!…Wisc!…Wisc!” His crews also won Wisconsin 's first nine Ten Eyck Trophy's from 1972 to 1988, which included 28 boats winning titles in the IRA's. An impressive record of success!
In addition to his winning record and loyal following by many Wisconsin-rowing alums, Jabo leaves a long trail of interesting anecdotes and newspaper accounts during his time at the helm. From being saved by a human chain of his own rowers after falling through the ice in search of golf balls, to “rounding up” errant cows seeking to swim from the boathouse to Picnic Point by slapping the water with a single oar in an attempt to “turn the herd,” Jabo's legacy includes a series of fond remembrances among a large number of his athletes.
Sometimes controversial, often stubborn, always devoted, Jabo was focused on two things: motivating his teams to excel through persistence and, like many before him, ensuring the future of UW crews regardless of the barriers. His efforts to protect the future started early in his career as head coach. Along with the support of the alumni in the early 1970's, Jabo defended the team – “athletes who sit on their butts and cross the finish backwards” – against near elimination when low UW gate revenues threatened all athletic budgets.
Coach Jablonic also supported the formation of women's rowing at UW. He openly shared the boathouse and encouraged the early women's crews at UW. His enthusiasm was rewarded in 1986 when UW men and women swept the varsity eight events at the Cincinnati Intercollegiate Rowing Championships Regatta, shocking crews from the west and east coasts alike.
In 1991, less than a year after Jabo's varsity had won the varsity eight race at the Syracuse IRA's and their second National Collegiate Championship in Cincinnati, Jabo and the alumni were again called upon to defend crew. Five sports were eliminated. Through his efforts as a rallying spokesman and fund-raiser, crew again was saved.
Jabo's love of the sport was contagious and many that pulled in his boats continued on as members of the U.S. National Teams. The Wisconsin men's crew program has put Badger rowers in each of the last 9 summer Olympics since 1968 and Randy Jablonic coached every one!
Jablonic retired following the 1997 season. The Jablonic Award honoring the outstanding UW freshman rower each year was initiated in 1999. In addition, the Jablonic Trophy, another recognition of his contribution to UW rowing, is passed to the winner of the annual dual race between Wisconsin and Boston University.