Mixed reaction to review

Recommendation threatens ‘Canada’s number-one sport’

Women’s basketball Coach Dave Wilson said returning senior players will fill the void left by Claire Meadows’ graduation.
Women’s basketball Coach Dave Wilson said returning senior players will fill the void left by Claire Meadows’ graduation.

The recently released athletics review has garnered mixed reactions from Queen’s coaches and players.

The 36-page review of Athletics and Recreation, co-authored by former Dean of Student Affairs Bob Crawford and Dean of Graduate Studies and Research Janice Deakin, was released June 27.

Although most coaches, many of whom were consulted as part of the review, say they recognize and appreciate the effort and initiative that went into the review, some are unhappy with its suggestions.

The source of the unhappiness lies in the review’s recommendation that, if implemented, would see only 10 to 16 fully-funded varsity teams at the University. A ranking of the 34 varsity sports and competitive clubs at Queen’s saw some coaches upset with their team’s spots on the list.

One of the teams on the chopping block is 23rd-ranked fencing. Fencer Joanna Chen was disappointed at the ranking, but wasn’t surprised.

“The saddest thing for me is that a lot of people get introduced to fencing at university because it’s not widely available. We can still introduce people to it in a club setting but not at the same competitive level,” she said.

Chen said without university funding, fencers would have to incur costs for facilities and tournaments.

“It’s a put-off to pay for a sport when you haven’t tried it before,” she said.

Men’s hockey, a sport with a long history at Queen’s, was ranked 14th on the list. The review cited the University’s lack of an ice rink due to Queen’s Centre construction, which would bring the team’s operating cost to $3.5 million over the five years before the new arena is built.

Men’s hockey coach Brett Gibson said he examined the review at great length.

“It did shock me in a way, but it didn’t in another. How do you get rid of Canada’s number one sport? I don’t think it’s possible.”

Gibson plans to use the review to help his team in a way its authors may not have anticipated.

“I’m going to use it in a positive way. I’m going to use it to motivate my guys. We have to go out and win, and that’s why we have the varsity label.”

The football team is about to play its 125th season and was ranked fifth in the review. Head coach Pat Sheahan would have liked to have seen a higher ranking.

“While it is important that we do well in every sport, the one sport that people want to see us back in the winner’s circle is football,” Sheahan said. “The number-one sport at Queen’s has always been and always will be football.”

Not surprisingly, coaches whose teams were ranked higher were pleased with the review.

Women’s soccer head coach Dave McDowell, whose team was ranked second behind men’s volleyball, likes the new direction the review suggests.

“I love what the review’s saying, and I love the direction that the Athletics Department seems to be going in. We’re looking forward to seeing how those changes kind of help us out, and maybe take that next step.”

McDowell, who is currently a part-time coach, also looks forward to the possibility of more funding.

“Maybe just freeing up the coaching staff from wearing so many hats would be nice too. Sometimes you feel like the coaching kind of gets lost.”

He also said more funds would allow his athletes to pay for year-round training. It would also allow the team to attract marquee athletes through scholarships.

Men’s soccer coach Al MacVicar, whose team was ranked sixth, said although teams should take heed of the review, it shouldn’t create a sudden atmosphere of accountability in Queen’s varsity sports.

“It’s not a situation where, all of a sudden, we have to think, ‘Okay, we have to be accountable because we’re being reviewed.’ That should already be in the mind of every head coach of every team at Queen’s, and I’m sure it is.”

The review recommends raising the student fee for Athletics and Recreation to place it among the top five universities in Ontario.

AMS President Kingsley Chak said the proposal to raise the fee should be carefully examined before decisions are made.

“Right now the facility that we have is not top-notch in Canada and that’s why I think the athletics fee is not as high as others,” he said. “When the Queen’s Centre is completed then all the facilities will be newer—at that point examining the fee will be logical.”

Chak also cautiously addressed the recommendation that the AMS and Athletics and Recreation work together to approve athletics clubs.

“I think the problem right now is there are too many branches in Athletics and people are not communicating with each other. We need to look into more detail in how that restructuring is going to occur. The system has to make sense for students.”

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