Harvard promotes Charley Butt as crew coach

Harvard didn’t need to look beyond the length of an oar to find its next heavyweight crew coach, naming Charley Butt, its longtime lightweight mentor, to succeed Harry Parker, who died in June after more than half a century at the helm of the nation’s most storied rowing program.

“This is a pivotal time for the Harvard rowing community,” athletic director Bob Scalise said Tuesday. “We know that Charley Butt is the right person to guide us through this transition.”

Transitions at Harvard’s Victorian boathouse are rare. Butt is only the ninth heavyweight head coach since the college took up the sport in 1852 and only the fourth since 1946. Parker, who assumed the job in 1963 after serving as freshman coach, had become so ensconced and so eminent that the question for decades had been, “After Harry . . . who?”


Butt, a Rutgers graduate, world medalist, and Henley champion oarsman who became Parker’s Crimson colleague in 1985, seemed a natural choice as his successor.

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His lightweight varsities were as dominant as their heavier Harvard confreres, winning 15 Eastern Sprints titles and nine national championships, including the last two.

“I am delighted to carry on the tradition that I was able to join 28 years ago,” said Butt. “That tradition is one of excellence, emanating from Harvard’s Newell Boathouse.’’

John Powers can be reached at