Chris O'Brien has been the head coach of the Rams' women’s rowing team since its inception in 2006. O’Brien also holds the role of Assistant Athletic Director of Athletic Advancement in the department.
Under O’Brien’s guidance, the Rams have earned two medals at the Dad Vail Regatta, participated in five NCAA Championships and six Head of the Charles and produced six Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association All-Americans.
The Rams have made the NCAA Championships five times: 2008 (at-large V8), 2009 (team), 2010 (team), 2015 (at-large V8) and 2019 (team). In 2008—the team’s third year of existence—the Rams made their first appearance in the NCAA Rowing Championship.
At the Dad Vail Regatta, the Women’s Novice Eight boat claimed the Sara Vaughn Trophy in 2007 and the Varsity Four boat earned a bronze medal in the 2012 DII/III grand final.
The Rams’ Varsity Four boat was the 2012 city championship with a first-place finish in the Kelly Cup.
From 2010 until 2014, O'Brien was the national chair of the NCAA Division II Women's Rowing Committee.
O'Brien's coaching career began in 2002 at Monsignor Bonner High School in Drexel Hill, Pa., which has had a strong rowing tradition for more than 40 years. During his five-year tenure as head freshman coach at Bonner, O'Brien led his crews to more than 15 championship medals. In 2004, his Freshman Heavyweight Eight made Bonner history, winning the Catholic League Championship, the Stotesbury Cup Regatta and the High School National Championships. This was the first time that a freshman crew at Bonner claimed three championships in one season.
O'Brien began his rowing career in 1994 at Monsignor Bonner High School as a coxswain. He spent three years as a coxswain for the Varsity Heavyweight Eight. During his career at Bonner he won every major regatta, including the Stotesbury Cup Regatta and the High School National Championships. For his efforts, O'Brien was invited to the Junior Worlds rowing camp in 1998.
O'Brien's rowing career continued at Villanova University, where he was the coxswain of the Men's Varsity Lightweight Eight, serving as captain of the Men's team his junior and senior years. During his junior year, he took home the CRASH-B title, the individual world indoor rowing championships. In 2001, Villanova won the Dad Vail Regatta and competed in the IRA (Intercollegiate Rowing Association) Championships, the oldest collegiate championship in the United States. This continues to be the only Men's Lightweight Eight that Villanova University has sent to the IRA Regatta. O'Brien continues to travel the world as a coxswain, steering crews in countries such as Ireland, England and Netherlands.
O'Brien coaches during the offseason for Penn AC, an elite rowing club on Boathouse Row in Philadelphia, Pa. At Penn AC, his lightweight crews have brought home gold medals from the Canadian Henley in 2004 and 2005. In 2007, O'Brien's lightweight crew won the US Club National Championships in the Men's Lightweight Eight.