Joel Furtek enters his fourth year as the head coach of the Canisius College rowing program. A former assistant coach at Central Florida University, Furtek serves as head coach of the varsity women's program, while also overseeing the men's club rowing team.
In his first three seasons as rowing coach, the Griffs have grown from a brand new program to a contender in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. In 2014-15, the Canisius Varsity Four won conference gold, coming in first in the MAAC Championship. In 2012, Furtek's Varsity Eight won MAAC Crew of the Week four times en route to claiming MAAC Crew of the Year honors at the end of the season.
The Griffs have been contenders at the conference championship, since joining the league, with a third place finish in 2012-13, fifth in 2013-14 and most recently a ffith-place finish last season.
Aside from their strong finishes at the championship, Furtek's boats have recieved conference aclaim, as the Blue and Gold varsity eight earned All-MAAC honors in 2013, while the varsity four earned All-MAAC accolades in 2015.
Likewise, Furtek was honored by the Conference during the 2012-13 season, as he was named women's coach of the year, as the squad finished the highest it ever has in the MAAC Championship with a third-place showing.
The Griffs have seen success in the classroom under Furtek as well, with 15 student-athletes being named Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association Scholar Athletes since he's started the program. In addition, the Griffs have earned 30 MAAC All-Academic awards during his tenure.
"Joel Furtek's coaching credentials and his experience of starting and building varsity rowing programs made him an outstanding choice to be the first coach for our new program here at Canisius College," Canisius Director of Athletic Bill Maher said at the time of his hiring. "We believe that Joel will do an excellent job in developing a high-quality rowing program and leading our women's team as we transition from club to varsity status."
The Utica, N.Y. native is no stranger to starting a collegiate rowing program, as he helped launch the varsity rowing program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1997. In his five years at UNC from 1997-2002, Furtek directed the start-up and operation of the school's Division I rowing team, put into action training and academic programs and recruited student-athletes and staff. In addition to those responsibilities, he was in charge of all fundraising efforts for the Tar Heels rowing program while maintaining equipment and inventory. Under Furtek's guidance, the UNC Varsity 4+ won the bronze medal at the NCAA Tournament in 1998.
Prior to his time at Central Florida, he spent one season as the rigger/boatman and assistant coach at the University of Miami. During his time with the Hurricanes, he was responsible for the maintenance of all racing and athletic equipment, as well as designing and improving all equipment and accessories needed for the team. After the Miami head coach resigned prior to the start of the 2009 spring season, Furtek led the second varsity eight team to its best finish in program history at the ACC Championships with a third-place showing.
Furtek began his collegiate coaching career in 1993 as the head novice coach at the University of Virginia. As the novice coach, he directed the recruitment, training and student-athlete development efforts, along with building awareness and interest around campus in regards to future rowing team members. His hard work and determination at Virginia resulted in multiple Southern and Central Champion crews and eight National Championship medals for the varsity program.
"Any coach loves the idea and the challenge of building his own program, and I am more excited about this opportunity than any of my other previous coaching positions," Furtek said. "There is a strong legacy of rowing at Canisius College and I am well-aware of the great alumni support system. When you add in the proximity of the tremendous West Side Rowing Club, the beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright Fontana Boathouse and the leadership and vision from the Canisius administration, there is a great emphasis on the program. The key pieces that a new coach would generally need to work on are already in place here and I am very excited about the chance to build a successful rowing varsity program."
Prior to joining the coaching ranks, Furtek was the coxswain at the lightweight selection camp and open-team trials for the U.S. National Team in 1993. He was at the camp that produced a World Champion 4-lightweight team. He also placed second in the open 4+ event at the national team trials.
Following his stint as a rower, Furtek was served as the sports technician for the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. There, he installed and removed rowing, canoe and kayak venues and provided on-call support to the Olympic venue during the Games. He also assisted in planning the original bid packages for the Olympic contract.He graduated from Yale University in 1990 with his bachelor's degree in history. While at Yale, Furtek coxed for four years in the collegiate sport and earned two varsity letters. In his final season, Yale was the undefeated national champion and went on to race at the Henley Royal Regatta in England. In 1990, he received the Babcock Award for outstanding spirit, while also being honored with All-Ivy accolades.