Field hockey, men’s soccer get the axe

By Chris ‘Doc’ Pedersen

University of Calgary athletes will have to worry about more than just scoring goals next season.

The U of C athletics department announced last Wednesday that funding to the men’s soccer and field hockey teams will be terminated, effective immediately. The university is currently suffering from the recession and has been forced to make cutbacks.

“We can’t afford to fund them anymore and the position we’re in is that we’ve done a review of all our programs,” said University of Calgary athletics director Kevin Boyles. “We have a well established resource problem. We’re looking at trying to set priorities in terms of moving forward at a level that will be competitive in our league in what our core sports are.”

The university has had trouble raising funds through sponsors and donors in recent years.

“It’s been difficult as a department to grow our resources through corporate partnerships,” said Boyles. “We’re having the issue of sponsorships cut back — donors we have been talking to recently being unable to go down the path that they can make contributions to the department.”

The athletic department has identified eight core sports — along with the individual sports — that will remain the staple of Dinos athletics. The eight sports are men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s volleyball, men’s and women’s hockey, women’s soccer and football, with the individual sports comprising of swimming, wrestling, track and field and cross-country. These teams will benefit from the funding cuts, receiving extra funding. Boyles was realistic when he explained the future of the Dinos program.

“These [men’s soccer and field hockey] are two of our least successful teams,” said Boyles. “We’re just not in a position to invest more dollars in them. What we do we are going to try to do right. We’re choosing to take this funding and focus it in priority areas to make other teams stronger.”

The cuts will allow the Dinos to focus on teams that are on the rise, allowing them to compete at a higher level.

“This is a reinvestment that will impact immediately what we have identified as our core sports,” said Boyles. “There will be a priority put on men’s and women’s hockey. There will also be an emphasis on women’s soccer. It will be elevated to a fully-funded level in the next couple of years.”

The field hockey and men’s soccer teams will only be allowed to compete in the Canadian Interuniversity Sports league if they can raise the funds needed to support the programs themselves. The teams have options available to them for pursuing funding.

“We really want to go after our alumni,” said men’s soccer midfielder Brian Delaney. “Possibly hold a golf tournament with them or really try to use [the] Adopt-a-Dino Program. Get players funded individually. Hopefully that should make a difference.”

Dinos sports are supported by club teams that hold fundraisers and events to raise money for varsity sports.

“These teams, as well as all of our other sports, have club systems that operate alongside them,” said Boyles. “There are fundraising arms for every team. They could look within their club structures to change priorities to put more resources behind their varsity programs.”

The players will have the opportunity to depart the U of C and transfer to another school if the teams are cut from CIS league play. Usually players must sit out a year when transferring schools, but when teams are cut, the rules change.

“Athletes — if we end up withdrawing from the league — would have the opportunity to go anywhere in the league without having to sit out anywhere,” said Boyles.

The players were told the news on Wednesday in a meeting with Boyles.

“I would say we were less than thrilled,” said men’s soccer forward David Bird. “It was hard to mask our feelings. We already felt we were underfunded. I felt we were under appreciated.”

“The guys were disappointed,” added Delaney. “We thought we had turned a corner.”

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