After the receipt of the results of an external review last Thursday day, the Trent athletics department wasted little time implementing some of its recommendations. In little more than 24 hours after receiving the findings of the assessment the athletic department announced the removal of the fencing and swimming teams from the varsity stable and the addition of women’s lacrosse and golf as self-funded programs.
The press release published on the Trent varsity website stated that the reduction of the number of varsity programs from 19 to 17 is to meet the demand for “gender equality, increase competitiveness in sports for which Trent is known to have had success and help build a more sustainable funding model.”
In the release Athletic Director Bill Byrick explained the reasoning for targeting these two programs specifically.
“We reviewed a number of criteria for all varsity sports, including cost, number of athletes, past success, impact on facility use, potential for future success, and more. Based on these criteria we made our decision,” said Byrick
The Trent Excalibur swimming and fencing teams were the only coed programs, with the rest of the varsity roster consisted of 10 men’s and 9 women’s teams.
In an interview in April Byrick stated he was looking forward to the results of the review, viewing them more as recommendations of best practices for department with the ability to add to its future success as a facility and a competitive athletic department.
“If we want to win championships, we need to change,” stated Byrick.
The review, which was conducted in January, targets a number of areas in the 35 page document, touching on everything from hiring practices for coaching staff and athletic scholarships to the operational structure and financials of the athletic facility itself.
The review team, which consisted of Wilfred Laurier University Athletic Director Peter Baxter and Karen McAllister-Kenny, Director of Recreation Services, Brock University, conducted an in-depth assessment of all aspects of the athletic department and its operations. McAllister-Kenny reported primarily on the facility itself and its operations and budget, while Baxter’s focus was the athletic department itself, its programming, staffing and student servicing.
McAllister-Kenny’s report on the athletic centre was surprising short considering the rumors of the facility’s budgetary shortfalls were verified in the assessment. The facility itself, although an eye catching addition to the picturesque campus, has had the misfortune to have its financials become somewhat of a white elephant.
Review and adjustment of the facility’s projections for membership and program offerings as well as staffing responsibilities were pinpointed in the report to overcome budgetary issues.
Although no areas of the athletic department escaped the scrutiny of the reviewers, what is interesting to note is that the university its self was identified in the report for its lack of funding of the athletic department and the minimal support of senior management of the university’s varsity programs.
Trent athletics is oddity in the university athletics world, having the designation of an ancillary department. It is solely responsible for the complete funding of all operating costs including staff, programs, building operation and maintenance. No other university athletic department in the country has the same designation or challenges.
“We’re pretty unique, “stated Byrick in April citing that the lack of academic programs associated with the facility or athletics, like Phys Ed or Kinesiology keep the department off of the university’s books.
As for the students, it’s not clear what options they have for their future university athletic careers. Any movement of athletes to other schools will have to be addressed by the Ontario University Athletics association. It is league rules that students transferring schools must sit out one full season before being eligible to play for that new institution.
Ironically, external review examiner Peter Baxter was at the helm of Laurier athletics when it axed its long standing volleyball programs without notice for the sake of budgetary savings. Those athletes were granted a reprieve on the one year sit out to finish off their athletic careers at a school of their choice.
For the rest of the recommendations only time will tell what changes will be implemented in the coming months.
The full report can be found on the university’s news web page as well as the athletic department main website.