Washington filled its opening for a women's crew coach by hiring someone who has won national titles, has experience coaching women and...

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Washington filled its opening for a women’s crew coach by hiring someone who has won national titles, has experience coaching women and is familiar with the university — Huskies men’s coach Bob Ernst.

Ernst, who coached the UW men to a national title this spring, will coach the women, replacing Eleanor McElvaine, who was fired after four years. Ernst will oversee both the men’s and women’s programs as director of rowing.

Michael Callahan, the men’s freshman coach, will be promoted to men’s coach.

“This is a great occasion for our rowing teams, to ensure that they will remain among the elite programs in the nation,” athletic director Todd Turner said in a statement released by the university. “[Ernst] has proven himself to be one of the top men’s and women’s coaches in the world. Michael Callahan has just been excellent as our freshman coach, and we are confident he will thrive in his new role as our men’s head coach.”

Ernst coached the UW men the past 20 years, winning national titles with the varsity eight crew in 1997 and again this year at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association regatta.

He also was the UW women’s coach from 1980 to 1987. During seven seasons, the Huskies won each Pacific Coast championship and captured six titles at the national championships. The Huskies won the women’s varsity eight national title each year from 1981 to 1985.

“It’s exciting to be able to coach the women again,” Ernst said in the statement. “I coached the women for a long time and coached the guys for a long time. I just think this is in the best interest of Washington rowing.”

The UW women’s program had slipped from its elite status among rowing schools. Several top local rowing prospects were choosing other schools.

Under McElvaine, the Huskies varsity eight never made the final heat at the NCAA championships and never won a Pac-10 varsity or junior-varsity title.

In 2006, the Huskies lost the varsity race in their dual regatta against Washington State for the first time, then got beat again this year. McElvaine’s varsity boats were 0-4 against California in the dual series.

Callahan has been the UW men’s freshman coach the past three years. The UW freshman eight were national champions in 2006.

“My challenge of living up to the standard of excellence Bob has set for this position is enormous,” Callahan said.

Callahan is a 1996 UW graduate. He was captain of the Huskies’ 1996 team and rowed on four Pac-10 champion crews.