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By Mike Murphy
In 1969, Craig Boydell signed a one year contract to teach in Western's faculty of social sciences. "It sort of seemed like an exciting thing to do for one or two years," he said.
Thirty years later, Boydell can still be found at the front of Western classrooms, guiding students down the path of higher learning. And if he's not in the confines of the classroom, he's probably at Thames Hall gym, running basketball practice.
Now in his ninth season as the men's program's head coach, Boydell has led Western's basketball teams to two conference championships, an Ontario title and a national championship in 1990-91.
Boydell grew up in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, a town on the periphery of New York City. Early in life, Boydell said he was exposed to many forms of athletics. "My father was a good all-round athlete and we did all kinds of things together from when I was very young," he recalled.
Of his many athletic interests, Boydell said baseball was the sport which most engaged him. "Baseball was probably my first love. I was brought up on baseball."
By the time he graduated from high school, he was good enough on the diamond to attract contract offers from major league baseball teams. Boydell turned them down, choosing to attend Rutgers University and pursue collegiate baseball rather than join a big league team's farm system.
After graduating from Rutgers, where he participated in both baseball and basketball, Boydell decided to pursue graduate studies in sociology at the University of Massachusetts. "When I started off doing graduate work, I thought I'd be doing a master's degree and then moving on to something else, probably back in connection with sport but it kind of grew on me," he said.
Boydell joined Western's faculty in 1969, after the completion of his doctorate at Massachusetts and expected to be moving on after a couple of years. However, what was supposed to be a short teaching stint has now ballooned into a distinguished academic career at Western spanning three decades.
During his time at Western, Boydell helped found the administrative and commercial studies program, something he directed for eight years. He has taught out of both the social sciences faculty and the kinesiology department as well as serving on the men's basketball coaching staff in some capacity since 1984.
Asked what he enjoys most about coaching, Boydell said he found the interaction with his players especially rewarding. "Not only do I get to work long periods of time with these groups of people, but I also get to see them develop both in terms of their skills in basketball and also their social skills."
The opportunity coaching allows him to work with highly motivated people and also keeps Boydell involved in the game. "The motivational setting is quite different than many other kinds of teaching settings. There's not many classes I've ever taught at university where people are lined up to get into the class 20 minutes beforehand and I've got to throw them out of the class afterward because they're so eager to learn more stuff."
While he's not the active athlete he once was, Boydell said he still enjoys physical activity, usually with his family. "I'm getting smart enough now to realize the costs of my being active. I love to play all kinds of games and I still over-test my body's limits at times."
So the teaching stint for Boydell back in 1969 has not only turned into a 30 year surprise for the coach, but a pleasant surprise for Western as a whole.