-Six NCAA Championships
-11 NCAA West Regional Championships
-32 Individual National Champions
Richard Rokos and Colorado Skiing. In 22 seasons, the combination has been synonymous with success. When he was promoted to head coach on July 3, 1990, the process to return a program that was eight years removed from an NCAA title back to national prominence took its first step. Twenty-two seasons, six national team titles, 32 individual champions and 175 All-Americans later, it is a program that has turned steps into strides.
Rokos, 62, is the 11th and longest tenured head coach in CU ski history, has guided Colorado to six national championships, winning NCAA crowns in 1991, 1995, 1998, 1999, 2006 and 2011. In addition, his Buffaloes have won individual titles (32 total) in 14 different years. That first team title came in his first season as head coach, a unique accomplishment in any sport, and served as a bookend for the school as it came on the heels of CU’s first in football.
Only eight coaches in CU history have coached their teams longer than Rokos has been at the reins of the ski team; all eight coached at least 22 seasons and Rokos is the ninth to coach a team for two decades. With all of his teams qualifying for the NCAA Championships, his 22 trips to nationals are the second most by any coach in school history.
He has also coached the Buffs to 11 Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association (RMISA) titles, the last coming in 2011, events that also serve as the NCAA West Regional, as well as seven runner-up finishes.
His skiers, alpine and Nordic, have posted 258 top 10 finishes at the NCAA Championships; that total includes 111 first team All-Americans, with 34 earning two-time single-year All-American mention, and 63 second-team All-Americans.
Under Rokos, the Buffaloes have won 55 of 135 meets they have skied in, including the six NCAA crowns and the 11 RMISA Championships/NCAA West Regionals (1991, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1998, 1999, 2002, 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2011). On 45 other occasions, CU has finished as the runner-up.
Though he has been notified on seven different occasions that he was the selection for the RMISA coach of the year, the last time for 2011, Rokos declines the honor for personal reasons, mainly that he doesn’t believe in the philosophy and that the student-athletes deserve the credit.
One of Rokos’ greatest accomplishments since taking over the program has been turning what was once essentially an individual sport, pulling divergent skiers—men and women, Nordic and Alpine, into a team event at CU. Prior to his arrival, the two units rarely saw each other prior to 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 has made it a more unified program. Credit Rokos himself for the strong camaraderie because there is very little that he asks of his skiers that he doesn’t do himself. That includes 6 a.m. ice hockey games, off-season dryland training, mountain bike rides from Boulder to Winter Park and back, hiking Pikes Peak, playing soccer and rollerblading through Boulder.
Rokos, who also coordinates all alpine aspects of the program, was already very familiar with the CU ski program upon his hiring, as he was promoted from alpine coordinator to the post. He served one season (1989-90) in that role under his predecessor as head coach, Tim LaVallee, and was the head coach of Colorado’s Alpine “B” Team for the two years prior to joining the varsity staff (1987-89). With Rokos tutoring the alpine skiers, the 1990 team finished third in both the West Regional and the NCAA championships, with one individual national champion in the latter.
Rokos brought to CU a great amount of racing and coaching experience. He competed in his native home of Czechoslovakia and internationally for 19 years before beginning his coaching career with the Czechoslovakian Junior National Team in 1977. The year prior to joining the junior national team, Rokos graduated from the University of Masaryk with a masters’ degree in physical education, his emphasis in his diploma work was the use of ski slopes with artificial surfaces for slalom and giant slalom practice. In 1969 he earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the College of Machiner. He has additional course work in Prague (Level II International Coaching License), Colorado State (athletic training) and the University of Colorado (special education).
Leaving the Czech national team in 1980, Rokos went on to coach at several ski schools in Austria before finally coming to the United States to coach at the Grampian Mountain Ski School in Michigan the following year. He then spent four years (1984-87) working with the U.S. Pro Ski Tour before settling down in Boulder.
Rokos was the head alpine coach of the 2011 United States team that participated in the World University Games teams in Erzurum, Turkey. It was the seventh time he coached the team, having previously done so in 1995 (Jaca, Spain), 1997 (Mugu, Korea), 1999 (Zakopane, Poland), 2003 and 2007 (Tarvisio, Italy) and 2005 (Innsbruck, Austria). Combined, his athletes have brought home four gold medals, one by CU skier Katie Hartman in the Super-G in 2011, along with four silver and several bronze including one by a former Buffalo, Erika Hogan, in 2003. He was also the head coach of the entire U.S. Team in the 1997 event in Korea.
In 2006, he earned a Top of the Rocky Award as the region’s top college coach as selected by the writers and critics of the Rocky Mountain News. The honor made mention of CU being the first-ever shorthanded team to win an NCAA title, recording the biggest second-day comeback in the meet, and Rokos specifically being mentioned by President George W. Bush when the Buffs were one of 12 teams invited to the White House. Rokos was saluted by the president, who called him a “proud American” in reference to his defecting to the States for freedom, which he also privately had mentioned upon meeting him, “There’s nothing like freedom.”
He was also selected as the 2006 Coach of the Year in the state of Colorado by the Sportswomen of Colorado Hall of Fame.
Rokos was born May 25, 1950 in Brno, Czechoslovakia. He and his wife, the former Helena Konecny, and then-18-month-old daughter Linda, left a communist-bound native homeland 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 beginning in 1982. He and Helena are the parents of two grown children Linda, now an alpine instructor at Eldora and Thomas, and one grandchild, Stella (13), who is also an avid skier.