The Danger Zone: Value of post-secondary sports
As King’s College cuts successful program, the importance of university athletics is called into question
Bobby Danger Jones
What do university and college athletics mean to their respective institutions and the student body? That is a complicated question and may not be as black-and-white as it seems.
In the U.S., there is obviously a massive culture surrounding collegiate athletics. Divisions such as the Big East, the Big Ten and the Big 12 all exemplify the crowds, popularity and profitability they are known for. So what’s up with Canadian schools?
Some could argue it is the geographical distance between major cities, the climate, or various other justifications. But the truth is that schools in Canada are more academically-based. As a Sport and Recreation major, I have challenged this anomaly in-depth on several occasions and platforms but have never come to a concrete conclusion.
The basis of this story surrounds an unfortunate set of circumstances surrounding a university in Halifax. The University of King’s College has cut its men’s volleyball program.
Students at Mount Royal can relate to the term “cut” in light of the budget issues that befell the institution this year. However, the case at King’s College is not financial: it is due to the lack of returning athletes and incoming talent.
If this team was at the bottom of Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Association (ACAA) and had not had success in the past few years, this could be somewhat understandable. But they were not just successful; they were the champs last season. It started to fall apart when head coach Justin Lynch decided he was on his way out to pursue his engineering degree, leaving the team in limbo and seeking leadership.
The athletic department also had to deal with departing students and others that simply would not commit. The university was debating having open tryouts and filling the roster with walk-ons, but in the end the team disbanded to preserve “integrity”.
So to forgo nightly embarrassment, the men will not play this year. King’s University has not fielded a women’s volleyball team since 2008 due to budgetary reasons. Now the ACAA falls to four teams in both men and women’s volleyball and the men’s squad cannot be reinstated for two years due to league policy.
Ironically, the women’s team will be returning to competition next season for reasons unrelated to the circumstances surrounding the men’s team.
There are many factors that led to the dissolution of the volleyball program. But the question has to be asked: why wouldn’t players commit? If players felt more appreciated or driven to play, perhaps there would have been a different outcome.
So why do sports take a back seat to academics so often up north? Students and athletes alike should be excited about Mount Royal joining the CIS and the Cougars having a rich past and bright future. The newly-established Crowchild Classic is a rivalry that will help define Mount Royal as an athletic and academic institute. Bridging the gap between fan and student is a difficult task and Mount Royal’s athletic department is doing a good job of promoting the Cougars sports teams. Students should embrace the experience of being part of Mount Royal and the Cougars are an extension of that. Go Cougars Go.