For Erin Neppel — the newest UNC rowing head coach — returning to her alma mater is surreal. A Tar Heel through and through, the class of 2001 graduate is one of the most decorated rowers in the program’s history.
Twenty years after her departure from UNC, things have come full circle for Neppel.
“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to be able to come back to your collegiate program,” Neppel said. “I have wonderful memories here and to be back just feels really unreal.”
In her undergraduate career at UNC, Neppel was a Second Team All-American in 2001 and earned All-ACC and All-Region status in her final two seasons. She is one of only three athletes in the rowing program’s history to earn All-American status.
Neppel comes to the Tar Heels after four seasons as an assistant coach for the Virginia Cavaliers, who, with her guidance, earned ACC titles in 2018, 2019 and 2021. With no 2020 championship due to the pandemic, UVA has won 11-straight conference titles.
“We’re really excited to have her, especially because she’s seen a successful program at UVA, and hopefully she can replicate that here at UNC,” junior rower Amanda Perez said.
Neppel said returning to UNC Rowing was an easy choice, and she looks forward to this next challenge in her career.
“It was a no-brainer for me,” she said. “I felt like it was a great time and the timing couldn’t have been better.”
Neppel will be just the third head coach in the program’s history since it began in 1997, following behind Joel Furtek and Sarah Haney. UNC rowing had been led by interim co-head coaches Emilie Gross and Thomas Revelle for the last two seasons following Haney's resignation in 2019 amid a University Title IX office investigation which alleged emotional abuse, injury negligence and sexual harassment within the rowing program.