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Men’s hockey on notice as UBC sports teams await funding decision

Louise Cowin, UBC vice-president of students, stands for a photograph at Thunderbird Stadium as the UBC men's soccer team plays the University of Saskatchewan in the CIS Canada West championship game in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday November 3, 2013. Cowin is the university executive overseeing a review on the future of UBC's varsity sports teams.

DARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail

A cost-cutting exercise has left 13 varsity teams at the University of British Columbia – including men's hockey – awaiting word on whether they will see reductions to their funding announced by the end of February.

In Tuesday's announcement, women's hockey made the cut as one of 16 teams that will get long-term funding, but things were left uncertain for the UBC Thunderbirds men's hockey team because it is among the 13 that will go to a second round of review.

"We are surprised [at] the events today, but we will be ready for Stage 2 and we will have an excellent plan to put forward to make sure that hockey stays," men's hockey head coach Milan Dragicevic said in an e-mail. "I am surprised because we have been around for 100 years and have great support and tradition."

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Asked about the differing outcomes for men's and women's hockey, the university's managing director of athletics and recreation said women's hockey came out better in the review that led to Tuesday's announcement.

"On balance, across the criteria, women's hockey excelled more than the teams that were not confirmed as varsity today in Stage 1," Ashley Howard said.

"While the women's team's success is recent, it is significant and very exciting. Women's hockey also has a different pathway for progression and placed well in the criteria of … the university mission."

There is no fixed target for the number of teams that will see their support adjusted in the second round of assessments.

Teams selected for funding include women's hockey and field hockey, men's and women's basketball, men's football, men's and women's swimming and men's and women's track and field.

Teams facing the new round of assessment are men's baseball, volleyball, field hockey, and ice hockey as well as women's rugby, softball and soccer. In individual sports, men's and women's alpine skiing, Nordic skiing and golf are back under review.

UBC vice-president Louise Cowin acknowledged the review has been stressful.

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"Admittedly, this is a very, very difficult process. There was no assumption going into it that it would be anything other," Ms. Cowin said in an interview. "When all is said and done, there will be some student athletes who will be bitterly disappointed by the decisions to be taken – and coaches, too."

Ms. Cowin said the overall review is under way because the $6.2-million operating budget for UBC varsity sport isn't sustainable. "We have 29 teams to date and that number of teams has grown in somewhat of an ad-hoc fashion without any review having been undertaken," she said.

The teams that have been endorsed balance men and women's as well as individual and team sports, the university said in a statement.

A 10-member advisory group of students, faculty, a high-performance sports representative and officials from the university's department of athletics and recreation conducted a review of all 29 teams. It looked at such criteria as competitive success, community support and tradition and whether the team fit with the university mission.

Teams that don't make the cut will be able to compete for the university, but with fewer resources and coaches paid "an honoraria-type wage" rather than a full-time salary, said Ms. Cowin.

The cut teams will retain access to UBC facilities at no cost outside of prime time, but only their travel to championship matches will be supported by the university.

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Decisions on the fate of the 13 teams will hinge on their ability to demonstrate an ability to bring more "dollar support" to the table through sponsorship or alumni among other criteria, Ms. Cowin said.

The current structure of varsity squads will operate through the 2014-2015 academic years with a new structure enacted in September, 2015.

Follow me on Twitter: @ianabailey

Editors' Note: A previous version of this article, published in print and online, incorrectly stated the men's basketball program is among those facing a second round of assessment. This should have read men's baseball. This version has been corrected.

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About the Author
B.C. reporter

Ian Bailey is a Vancouver-based reporter for The Globe and Mail.  He covers politics and general news. Prior to arriving at The Globe and Mail, he reported from Toronto and St. John’s for The Canadian Press.  He has also covered British Columbia for CP, The National Post and The Province. More

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