Richard Rokos and Colorado Ski. Now entering his 31st season as the University of Colorado head coach and 35th overall at school, you can’t think of one without the other, not to mention that the combination has been synonymous with success.
When he was promoted to head coach on July 3, 1990, the process of returning a program that had been taken eight years from an NCAA title to national prominence took its first step. Twenty-five seasons, eight national championships, 42 individual champions and 225 All-Americans later, it’s once again the premier ski program in the country.
Rokos, 70, is the 11th and longest-serving head coach in UC ski history, guided Colorado to eight NCAA titles, winning crowns in 1991, 1995, 1998, 1999, 2006, 2011, 2013 and 2015. Additionally, his Buffaloes have won individual titles (43 in total) in 19 different years. This first tag team title came in his first season as a head coach, a unique achievement in any sport, and served as a bookends for the school as it came on the heels of the CU’s first in football.
Only two coaches in UC history have coached their teams longer than Rokos was at the helm of the ski team: Frank Potts (41 seasons, cross country and track) and Charles Vavra (32 seasons). , men’s gymnastics). In 2019-2020, Rokos outscored Les Fowler and Mark Simpson, who both coached the men’s golf team for 29 seasons. Rokos’ teams have qualified for the NCAA Championships 29 times, the second most coaching in school history.
He also coached the Buffs to 14 Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association (RMISA) titles, events that also serve as NCAA West Regional, as well as 11 finalists.
Its skiers, alpine and nordic, achieved 345 top 10 at the NCAA championships; that total includes 146 first-team All-Americans, 42 of which have earned All-American honors twice in a single year, and 93 second-team All-Americans. Academically, skiers boast of having averages that are consistently at or near the top of all of UC’s 17 varsity athletic programs, often above 3.5. Its teams placed 311 student-athletes on the NCAA Academic Ski Team, the equivalent of the All-America Academy.
Under Rokos, the Buffaloes have won 73 of the 183 competitions they have skied in, including all eight NCAA Crowns and 14 RMISA / NCAA West Regionals Championships (1991, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1998, 1999, 2002, 2006, 2008 , 2010, 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017). On 61 other occasions, CU was second. That’s an incredible 75% of the time CU finished in the top two because (the Buffs only have four finishes outside of the top four).
Although he has been told nine times that he is selected for RMISA Coach of the Year, the last time in 2015, Rokos is declining the honor for personal reasons, mainly because he does not believe in philosophy and that the student-athletes deserve the credit. He has been named the United States Collegiate Ski Coaches Association National Coach of the Year five times, most recently in 2015.
One of Rokos’ biggest accomplishments since taking over the program has been to transform what was once essentially an individual sport, attracting divergent skiers – men and women, Nordic and Alpine, into a team event at CU. Before his arrival, the two units rarely saw each other before the national championships, as they trained and raced separately. But it was his philosophy, to be an educator as well as a coach, to understand the physical and psychological significance of a student-athlete and to introduce harmony and mutual support that made it a more unified program. Credit Rokos himself for the strong camaraderie as he asks very little of his skiers that he does not do it himself. This includes ice hockey games at 6 a.m., off-season training in the arid lands, mountain bike rides from Boulder to Winter Park and back, hiking to Pikes Peak, football and rollerblading in Boulder. .
Rokos, who also coordinates all alpine aspects of the program, was already very familiar with UC’s ski program when he was hired, as he was promoted to alpine coordinator at the post. He served one season (1989-90) in this role under his predecessor as head coach, Tim LaVallee, and was the head coach of Colorado’s Alpine “B” team for the two years before. to join the university staff (1987-89). With Rokos mentoring the alpine skiers, the 1990 team finished third at the Western Regional and NCAA Championships, with an individual national champion in the latter.
Rokos brought a lot of racing and coaching experience to CU. He competed in his native Czechoslovakia and internationally for 19 years before starting his coaching career with the Czechoslovakian junior national team in 1977. The year before joining the junior national team, Rokos graduated from Masaryk University with a master’s degree in physical education, he focused in his diploma work on the use of ski slopes with artificial surfaces for the practice of slalom and giant slalom. In 1969, he received his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the College of Machiner. He has additional courses in Prague (International Coaching License Level II), Colorado State (athletic training) and the University of Colorado (special education).
Leaving the Czech national team in 1980, Rokos coached at several ski schools in Austria before eventually coming to the United States to coach at Grampian Mountain Ski School in Michigan the following year. He then spent four years (1984-87) working with the US Pro Ski Tour before moving to Boulder.
Dating back to 1995, Rokos has served as head of the US Alpine Delegation to the World University Games (WUG) nine times. He performed most of the duties of head coach of the Alpine team in 1995 (Jaca, Spain), 1997 (Mugu, South Korea), 2001 (Zakopane, Poland), 2003 (Tarvisio, Italy), 2005 (Innsbruck, Austria), 2007 (Turin, Italy), 2011 (Erzurum, Turkey), 2013 (Trentino, Italy) and 2015 (Granada, Spain). American athletes have won several medals (gold, silver and bronze) under his leadership, including four by UC skiers: gold medals by Thea Grosvold (slalom, 2015), Erika Ghent (combined ranking, 2011) and Katie Hartman (Super-G, 2011) and a bronze medal from Erika Hogan (slalom, 2003). He was also the head coach of the entire United States team at the 1997 event in South Korea.
In 2013, he was inducted into the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame for his accomplishments during his more than twenty years as UC Head Coach. He joined several former buffs in the room, in which he was the 200th person registered.
In 2006, he won a “Top of the Rocky Award” as the best college coach in the region, selected by the writers and critics of the Rocky Mountain News. The honor made mention of CU being the first shorthanded team to win an NCAA title, registering the biggest comeback on day two of the competition, and Rokos was specifically mentioned by President George W. Bush when the Buffs were in. one of the 12 invited teams. to the White House. Rokos was greeted by the president, who called him a “proud American” in reference to his defection to the United States for freedom, which he had also mentioned in private when meeting him: “There is nothing such as freedom ”.
He was also selected as the 2006 Colorado Coach of the Year by the Sportswomen of Colorado Hall of Fame.
Rokos was born on May 25, 1950 in Brno, Czechoslovakia. He and his wife, the former Helena Konecny, and his daughter Linda, then 18 months old, left a homeland of Communist origin in 1980 for Austria where they spent a year preparing their visas and defected. from Czechoslovakia to the United States (Detroit) a year later before calling Colorado their permanent home from 1982. He and Helena are the parents of two adult children Linda, now an alpine instructor in Eldora and Thomas, and d ‘a grandchild, Stella, who is also an avid skier.