Four years ago, the Dinos were the bottom feeders of the CanWest Conference. Today, they are the Canadian Interuniversity Sport national champions. So what happened? How did this team make such a drastic turnaround in such a short period of time? It all starts with the head coaching position. Rod Durrant took over from Greg Ryan in 2006, the latter of whom had coached the Dinos for the past 21 years. With the team's last national title coming in 1993, it was time for a change. Durrant was ecstatic to get the opportunity to coach the Dinos.
"I was very excited," he said. "There was a lot of emotion there. It was a great honour, and I was looking forward to the challenge to get [the program] back to where it was in '93 and '89."
In Durrant, the Dinos gained instant credibility. His resume speaks for itself. From 1995-1999, Durrant served as head coach of the Mount Royal College men's volleyball program, capturing three consecutive Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference titles from 1997-1999. He was named ACAC coach of the year in 1998, and Canadian Colleges Athletic Association coach of the year in 1999. He also coached the Canadian Men's Standing Disabled team to three consecutive World Championship titles in 2002, 2004 and 2006. In 2002, Durrant was inducted into the Canadian Volleyball Hall of Fame.
Durrant was thrown into the fire his first year in charge, as he didn't have the time to pursue top recruits throughout the province. The team struggled in his first season, posting a 4-14 record and missing out on the playoffs.
Current Dinos captain David Egan is the only player who was a part of the 2006 team, and he admits at times he wasn't sure if he made the right decision to come play for the Dinos.
Being a top-level prospect, Egan easily could have committed to a high profile program such as University of Alberta, but said he wanted to be a part of something special at the U of C.
"I didn't want to go to a team that has won for the last five years and just join in. I wanted to start something, and be able to play in a starting role."
Luckily for Egan, a full off-season of recruitment was just what Durrant and the Dinos program needed to reverse their fortune.
Among those recruits were Omar Langford, Ciaran McGovern, Don MacNeill, Pierre Rocque, A.J. Halverson and Graham Vigrass (who was MVP of this year's CIS tournament).
"To see us all grow to where we are today is amazing," said Durrant. "That's what all the time committed and the extra hours are for. To get to that pinnacle and to finish it off by winning a national championship is the ultimate goal. For us to do it in that three year span is very remarkable and very satisfying for everyone involved."
Over the past four years, this Dinos team has been taken on an emotional roller coaster ride. They have experienced the ultimate low in finishing at the very bottom of the standings four years ago, and the ultimate high this year in winning the CIS national championship.
"We struggled our first year," said Egan. "It was a bit of a learning curve and it hadn't come together yet. To be the second worst team in the league, the moment at the end of the year was very tough. To stick with it and turn it around to become successful means everything to me. It is the best feeling in the world."