Volume 92, Issue 2

Friday, May 22, 1998

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Champions breed champions

Gazette file photo

Gazette Staff

The Mustang sports program has been among the most successful athletic programs in the country for decades. Its tradition of winning and excellence are matched by few in the Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union which has given Western the opportunity to attract some of Canada's top athletes.

But how do coaches of the various sport teams here at Western continue to be able to contact and convince these athletes to come to London? "Enormous amounts of time," said Larry Haylor, head coach of the Western football team. "In my time with Western I've probably spent the majority recruiting."

There are various techniques used to evaluate top athletes but watching them play is one of the most preferred strategies. "Every year we host the Purple and White tournament," said Bob Delaney, head coach of the women's basketball team. "It gives us a chance to look at the players in game situations."

There is also the factor of competition between Canadian universities and those in the United States, who not only offer scholarships but also provide easier means of going professional.

With aggressive recruiting taking place at universities throughout Canada and the U.S., the question of how Western will be able to continue to attract the athletes that make the programs successful is raised.

Men's soccer head coach Rock Basacco believes it is the complete package that attracts new recruits. "Our past successes will keep our program strong," Basacco said. "But we are able to combine a strong sports program, which has an excellent coaching staff, with excellent academics."

Haylor said he also believes in Western's overall atmosphere and that's what he tries to sell to new recruits. "I tell them about the total package," he said. "They are guaranteed an outstanding university and will get a high quality education. As well, the community of London and the Western campus is great, with tremendous identity and spirit for sports and particularly for football."

However, all the successes Western has had in the past can be, as Haylor described, "a double-edged sword." Some athletes, eager to remain the stars they were in high school will pass up Western to go to another school and play immediately.

Both Delaney and Basacco agree and believe they have lost top recruits because of their talent-laden rosters. "I try to be open and honest with them," Delaney said. "I want them to know where they stand and that sometimes means losing a good player."

Basacco, who has lost some players, still feels it's working out for the best. "Sure we've lost some quality players, but at the same time we've landed some very excellent players because of our program and the knowledge that if they come to Western they will have a chance to win."

To Contact The Sports Department: gazette.sports@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998