A 1989 graduate of Brown, Cooke was named the head coach of the varsity team in 2002 after serving as the head coach of the freshmen team for six years.
A tremendously successful 2012 spring season cemented Cooke’s status among the coaching elite. He led his team to the Ivy League Championship title before claiming top honors at the Eastern Championship. From there, the Bears went on to row to a second place finish at the IRA National Championship, proving their dominance among the best teams in the country. Brown capped off the season with an appearance at the Henley Royal Regatta in July, qualifying for two finals at the prestigious competition and claiming runner-up honors in both the Grand and Temple Challenge Cups.
As a result of the team’s success, Cooke was named the 2012 Fan's Choice Collegiate Coach of the Year, an honor decided upon by the rowing community, as well as the 2012 EARC Coach of the Year. Additionally, the men’s crew was honored with the Callow Award, first presented in 1963 and given annually to the team or crew which best personifies the virtues of "spirit, courage and unity”.
Prior to last season’s success, the Brown varsity finished
fourth at the Eastern Sprints and fifth at the IRA National
Championship in 2011. In 2010, the varsity eight had an undefeated
dual race season, while also finishing third at the Eastern Sprints
and rowing to a fifth place finish at the IRA National
Championship. The second eight won the Eastern Sprints and
finished in second place at the IRA, just one-half of a second
behind the winning crew.
In 2008-2009, the Bears swept the heavyweight events at the EARC Sprints, taking home the Rowe Cup as the top overall team by a wide margin. That momentum continued through the IRA National Championships, as Brown finished third overall in the team standings, the highest finish by an East Coast school. The second varsity eight and freshman eight also paid a visit to the medal podium, finishing second and third respectively, while the varsity eight finished a close fourth, but was the first Ivy school in. The Bears wrapped up a terrific season by traveling across the Atlantic to race at the Henley Royal Regatta, where the varsity eight won the prestigious Ladies Plate Challenge Cup for the first time since 2000. The freshman eight also performed well, claiming a second-place finish in the Temple Cup.
In 2007-2008, the Bears continued to excel under Cooke's leadership. They finished third at the prestigious Head of the Charles during the fall season, losing only to the US National Team and Wisconsin. The team carried that momentum through a terrific spring season, going undefeated and capturing an Ivy Championship. Brown then tested itself against the best in the country at the IRA National Regatta in June, emerging as a top-ten squad.
In the spring of 2006, the Brown crew re-established itself as one of the top teams in the country, beginning the year with a thrilling victory over Harvard, the defending national champions, snapping the Crimson's three-year winning streak. At the 2006 Eastern Sprints, the men's varsity eight raced to a third place finish in the grand final, Brown's best finish since its title in 2000. The crew capped off an exciting season with a bronze medal in the varsity eight at the 2006 IRA National Championship where the Bears were also awarded the Chapman Trophy, given to the most improved team.
In 2005, Cooke's varsity eight earned a fifth place at the Eastern Sprints, finishing the season tenth in the country and third in the Ivy League. The squad placed three of four boats in the grand final, and the freshmen eights swept the regatta. In 2004, the squad also placed three of four boats in the Eastern Sprints final and the Bears' second varsity eight placed fourth in the East.
In 2003, Cooke led Brown to winning dual meet records in the varsity, second varsity and third varsity eights. The varsity eight placed fifth at the Eastern Sprints and third among Ivy League schools. At the IRA National Championship, the varsity eight came just short of making the grand final, but won the petite final in convincing fashion.
In 2002, his first year as head varsity coach, the Bears had strong showings at Syracuse, Boston University and Dartmouth. The second varsity boat earned an impressive sixth place finish at the IRA National Championship as well.
While under the direction of Cooke, the freshmen crew raced with consistent success and were perennial contenders for the championship at the Eastern Sprints and the IRA National Championship. The freshmen recorded a 28-5 record in dual races, including an undefeated dual season in the 2000 campaign. They won medals five medals at the Eastern Sprints in six seasons, including the Championship title in 1995. In 1999, Cooke's freshmen crew won the IRA title, setting the course record at 5 minutes 34 seconds.
Cooke began his coaching career upon graduation from Brown, moving to Seattle to coach the Green Lake boys' crew, part of a citywide rowing program for high school students. His success there led him to Cornell, where he coached the freshmen lightweight crew to a 21-4 record over three seasons. In 1992, his freshmen eight was undefeated with an 8-0 dual meet record, while also taking the championship title at the Eastern Sprints. In 1994, the freshmen, including seven novice oarsmen, won the Eastern Sprints again.
In addition to his collegiate responsibilities, Cooke has helped to generate outstanding performances for US teams in international races. He helped bring the US Under-23 team to the Nation's Cup in 1997 and 1999, and in Hamburg in 1999, Cooke teamed with Dan Roock to coach the US eight to an open water victory. As a junior team coach, Cooke had primary responsibility for the pair with coxswain that brought home a bronze medal in 1994 and he coached the four with coxswain to a silver medal in 1998.
A varsity oarsman at Brown, Cooke won IRA Nationals Championships with the freshmen and junior varsity eight, a silver medal at the IRA with the varsity eight and a bronze medal in the varsity eight at the National Collegiate Rowing Championship. A native of Ithaca, New York, Cooke currently resides in Barrington, Rhode Island with his wife, Laura, and their children, Noelle, Andrew and Declan.