The day after the initial indications have come forward as to which varsity sports are likely to be discontinued at UBC by the public relations wizards who run the athletic department, there was a lot of silence from a lot of people who were terrified to talk.
And you had to wonder what the likes of the late Bus Phillips, the longtime athletic director there when yours truly attended UBC in the late ’60s — along with his trusty sidekicks the late Buzz Moore and Father David Bauer — would be thinking today.
After all, nobody really had any problem with a review, had it been handled in a reasonable manner. But this one was absurd right from the beginning, particularly with the laughable surveys used to justify the process — which they ultimately claimed came down to money.
Former athletic director Bob Philip didn’t want to say anything, given he’s the senior adviser to vice-president of students Dr. Louise Cowin.
But you have to wonder how he felt, because two of the sports he brought into the program in his tenure as AD were given the initial gong.
Women’s rugby and softball were introduced under Philip, but were left off the guaranteed list, which kind of flew in the face of his legacy. That’s hardly anything new for this group, which seems oblivious to history if it can ignore men’s hockey.
The odd thing is that when Philip left in 2012 there was a surplus of $1.5 million in the athletic department’s coffers, that money largely raised and overseen by then financial guru Alnoor Aziz, who ran the business operations of the department.
But when Cowin came in, he was transferred to a different area of work and the department began dispersing that money in all manner of directions.
Some was used to help build the new hockey rink, some to reduce student fee contributions and some to lower the cost of memberships at the workout facility at the Bird Coop for all students.
The result of the latter is that now for three months of the year, the facility is so overcrowded it surely needs a blind eye from the fire department, and the environment is about as miserable as you can imagine. It is virtually impossible for anyone to enjoy a workout in such conditions, but the students endure it because their workout is cheap.
Part of the cost of the new swimming pool was downloaded on to the athletic budget, which helped create the financial crisis necessary to start gonging sports.
As one keen observer who begged to remain unidentified said: “You can make the numbers look any way you want.”
On the surface it looks simply like they are taking out all of the NAIA sports. It’s probably not going to work out that way in the end, but there’s no doubt the track and field teams which enjoy the new facility on campus were saved in part because they have the option to go CIS, and the new initiative that might save baseball has nothing to do with the NAIA, where they presently play.
The gonging of golf was a bit of a surprise, given the strong 47-page submission from coach Chris MacDonald noting its strengths, endowment, sponsors and history. The fact it’s set to become an Olympic sport in 2016 would also help, given the big plans the department is said to have, but you wonder whether anyone even bothered to read it or any of the other submissions before the decisions were announced.
Whether or not that was the case, it came off like minds had been made up from the very outset of this process.
How else would rugby and rowing be elevated other than through favouritism, money and support?
The rugby team has no league in which to play, and while rowing is an international sport, it’s expensive and must hunt high and low for competition. But it does have deep-pocket backers and a brand new facility in Richmond.
Whatever the real reason for all this might be, money wasn’t a factor.
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