OUA schools make major funding changes

Queen’s athletic review still under wraps

A report on athletics and recreation at Queen’s remains unreleased­­—and is two months behind schedule.

The athletics review, led by Bob Crawford, former dean of student affairs and current computing professor, and Janice Deakin, dean of the School of Graduate Studies and Research, was originally to be submitted to Dean of Student Affairs Jason Laker by March 30.

Laker described the review as a report on what the Queen’s community expects of athletics and recreation.

Crawford said the review’s mandate was delayed in getting started, adding that there was a large amount of input, including 160 written submissions from students, student-athletes, and coaches.

The review has been passed to Principal Karen Hitchcock, who is planning the University’s response, Crawford said.

“We want a report that’s implementable. You can make all kinds of recommendations but if the University doesn’t want to do them, it’s not useful,” he told the Journal last Wednesday.

“This way, a few people get a little bit of time to think about it.”

As Queen’s completes its own review, which could be released as early as this week, several other Ontario schools are also taking another look at their sports programs.

On April 18, Brock University Athletics Director Lorne Adams announced the suspension of five varsity programs for the 2007-2008 season, following the completion of a varsity sports review.

The affected programs are figure skating, men’s golf, women’s golf, women’s lacrosse and men’s tennis.

“We had a budget meeting, and we were told that we had to look at our budgets in a belt-tightening kind of thing,” Adams told the Journal.

“We were given that information in January, and we had to have that done by the middle of March, so, what we did was we went through and we established criteria for all the sports, and we applied the criteria, and then took a look at how much money we had and what we had to do,” he said.

Adams said the criteria used included each sport’s potential for revenue generation, community impact, visibility, and competitiveness.

“It certainly wasn’t an easy process, and certainly not something that I ever wanted to be the author of,” he said. “The analogy I used for somebody is when you have enough water to keep 30 plants going, and then you reduce the amount of water, not all 30 plants are going to survive, so something had to give.”

The cuts leave the Badgers competing in 24 varsity programs over the next season. Of the remaining programs, 20 are concentrated in 10 sports where Brock has both a men’s and a women’s team, in addition to men’s lacrosse, baseball, and squash, and women’s volleyball.

Adams said the cuts aren’t designed to move Brock from a broad-based athletics program to one focused on specific sports.

“To the best of my ability, I’ll keep as broad a base as we can. I think the opportunity to compete is important, and it’s a good part of the university experience for those who have that kind of talent, but that also has to be put in the fiscal reality, in terms of what we can provide and what we can sustain.”

On April 3, Carleton University’s Recreation and Athletics Director Drew Love announced that the Ravens would slash eight of their 20 varsity programs, as recommended by the university’s 2007 Competitive Sport Review. The programs initially slated to go included the men’s and women’s teams in rowing, swimming and golf, as well as the women’s field hockey team and the men’s rugby team. On the same day, Love also announced his resignation from Carleton, effective June 1.

A few weeks later, Carleton announced an abrupt about-face. The university executive upheld the appeal of seven of the eight cut programs, restoring them to full varsity status. The sole exception was the men’s rugby team.

In her press release announcing the reversal, Associate Director of Recreation and Athletics Jennifer Brenning said the executive looked at the costs of the programs compared to their visibility in the community, their part in the student experience and the other opportunities available for athletes in those sports. Neither Brenning nor Love was available for comment by press time.

The University of Western Ontario announced that it plans to deliver $1.7 million in new athletics funding to its department of sports and recreation over the next four years. $680,000 of the new money will go to restore the base funding of 18 varsity OUA teams that aren’t currently funded.

Starting in 2008-09, another $105,000 will be annually added to the base funding pool. The remaining $700,000 will be used as seed money for athletics scholarships.

Michael Lysko, Western’s director of sports and recreation, said the decision restored funding that was cut five years ago.

“I tried to find a way to make a case to restore those teams that had been cut. We weren’t looking to add more sports. All we were doing was funding the teams that currently compete for us and were not receiving any support at all from the university. ”

Lysko said the scholarship seed money is meant to broaden the school’s sports program.

“In our model, we’re a national university, a nationally ranked university. We think of ourselves as that, and we believe in the broad-based programming, which is demonstrated by the re-establishment of funding for the OUA sports, but we established that CIS sports would be the focus of our funding.” University of Windsor Athletics Director Gord Grace said Windsor is also looking at the possibility of cutting some programs, and will complete its own athletic review in June.

Grace said it’s challenging for a school to excel in a wide range of sports.

“I know that different universities are undergoing reviews. We completed a review, and we’re going to review our review in June with senior management and determine where we’re going in the future,” he said. “Certain schools, Queen’s being one of them, who have football, who have basketball, who have them all: that’s challenging. Whereas schools like Laval, who specialize in a few sports, i.e. football and volleyball, and Lakehead with hockey, Brock in wrestling, [find success]. We feel as if we’re a mid-size school that’s in all the expensive sports, so we’re facing challenges. We have to make some tough decisions down the road,” he said.

“I think in today’s world, you can’t be all things to all people. Depending on your tradition and your history, some places it’s easier to do it than others. At one time, it used to be about broad-based sports participation, and now it’s about excellence. I feel, in order to be excellent, you need to focus on a few things, and do them right.”

­—With files from Mike Woods

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