Volume 93, Issue 41

Thursday, November 11, 1999


Athletics, academics or both?

Pondering the funding question

The Toronto farm team

Pondering the funding question

By Wes Brown and Chad Thompson
Gazette Staff

In today's athletic world, funding can make or break a team – so can varsity status.

Darwin Semotiuk, chair of Intercollegiate Athletics, said the Mustangs currently have 36 teams with varsity status – 18 men's and 18 women's. However, the budget is under some financial pressure when it comes to the possibility of adding new teams.

"Varsity status gives a huge financial advantage to the team. It allows fully funded coaching, travel, uniforms and other expenses associated with the team," Semotiuk said. "We've been relatively steady at 36 [teams] for a number of years. Whether or not we will be able to fund more is in question."

The key criteria which determines if a team will be funded is whether or not the sport is offered at the Ontario University Athletic level and what activities can be supported based on their costs, Semotiuk said.

"Women's rugby was the last sport awarded varsity status at this university. At that time, women's hockey was also being considered but it just didn't have enough support," he said.

Western women's rugby coach, Natascha Wesch, said rugby has had its varsity title since 1994, before which it held club status. Wesch cited the growing popularity of rugby as one of the reasons it became a varsity sport. "I think it was growing so much in Ontario and in Canada that they couldn't not [give it varsity status]," she said.

Western has recently dropped diving and gymnastics from varsity status and Semotiuk said sports such as men's and women's lacrosse, baseball and women's ice hockey will be reviewed by the sports assessment committee to see if they will be accepted next season.

Western baseball head coach Mike Lumley said baseball is in a difficult spot, as they do not fall under club or varsity status. "We're in a situation where we're playing other schools under a varsity structure," he said. "If our league becomes varsity through the OUA, then we will become varsity."

Lumley said he felt the emotions connected to a varsity status team was important for his players. "We're not concerned about the money, the guys pay a $200 fee and we're getting sponsors on our own," he said. "The biggest advantage for our players would be becoming a Mustang."

Although Wesch felt there were no disadvantages that came with varsity status, she said her team has to be extremely conscious of their actions. "You are more scrutinized due to the funding," she said. "You have to be on your best behaviour because it reflects upon the university."

As far as advantages, Wesch said there were many. "The athletes get the recognition. It also helps develop the sport and [makes it attractive to] the athletes."

With the uncertainty of varsity status looming in the air for some Western teams, Semotiuk said Western is already a leader in varsity sports. "Western is near the top in terms of both the amount of sports it funds and the diversity of those sports. If the current fiscal trends continue, however, it will be hard for Western to keep this status."

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Copyright The Gazette 1999