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Coach’s Corner

I began this semester with a column describing the goals of The Cascade’s sports coverage under my editorship, and I’d like to think that those goals have been met.

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By Paul Esau (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: November 27, 2013

Illustration by Anthony Biondi

I began this semester with a column describing the goals of The Cascade’s sports coverage under my editorship, and I’d like to think that those goals have been met. We’ve focused on varsity sports coverage, delving into developments like the creation of varsity wrestling, and the great 2014-2015 basketball scheduling debacle. We’ve brought you beautiful photos, extravagant quotes, relentless Abbotsford Heat coverage, and even the occasional sprinkling of humour to provide your abs with some exercise. Consequently, I’m pretty happy with our coverage this semester; if you aren’t, you should let me know before I get too snobby and egotistical about our success.
This is my last issue as a member of The Cascade. After having worked for this paper as a staff writer, sports editor, editor-in-chief, news editor, managing editor (for a single issue), office clown, office dad, office punching bag, and token religious lunatic, the gods of irony have colluded to find me a place in the UFV Athletics department. I’m a little broken up about this, both because it’s hard to envision myself not being involved with The Cascade, and also because it means I’m giving up editorial autonomy (in other words, the ability to run my mouth).
So before I depart to submit myself to the greater authorities, to shake hands with the great plutocracy, to sell myself to “the man”… I thought I’d try, one last time, to explain a little about the state of athletics at UFV.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of sport at the institution that was Fraser Valley College, then the University College of the Fraser Valley, and finally UFV. What started simply as men’s and women’s basketball has grown to include soccer, volleyball, golf, rowing, cheerleading, and wrestling (as of next year). Four teams, men’s and women’s basketball and men’s and women’s soccer, transitioned to the CIS in 2006, and each team has medalled in the Canada West since that transition.
Still, the growth of UFV as a school and a presence in the Fraser Valley have also increased expectations for the scope and professionalism of its athletics programs — often without corresponding increases in the Athletics department’s budget. The volleyball and golf programs still operate in the CCAA (Canadian college league) because of financial constraints, and the Athletics department itself is about a fifth of the size of the equivalent department at UBC. There are huge opportunities for growth at UFV, yet sometimes growth itself can have painful repercussions.
The budget for this current season provides only UFV’s CIS teams with guaranteed funding, whereas volleyball, golf, and rowing were supported partially by one-time transfers from university discretionary funding, and partially by team fundraisers and money from the athletes themselves. Several of the teams have been relying on discretionary funding year-to-year, which means they are in annual danger of being cut entirely (although it is unlikely such a radical decision will be made). The truth is that for UFV Athletics to complete the transition from college to university sports, there will need to be a significant expenditure on facilities, as well as a  great investment in administration and personnel.
The most glaring current shortcoming is in the complete lack of soccer facilities on the UFV Abbotsford campus. This season both soccer teams played 30 kilometres from the Athletics “department” (a portable next to the gym) at a field in Chilliwack. In the competition for recruits with other CIS schools offering multi-million dollar fields, storied programs, full support staff, and juicy scholarships, UFV’s lack of the most basic necessity (a field to play on) is a big handicap.
The Cascades have achieved remarkable athletic success in the past few years, despite the difficulties of a funding crunch and growing pains. We have great athletes, committed coaches, competent administration, and a beautiful gym. What we don’t seem to have (at the moment), is the institutional commitment to free our varsity programs from their college heritage and place them on equal footing with other universities.
I hope to be a part of that process once I make the jump to Athletics later this week, and I hope that UFV will also wake up to a renewed desire to do right by our athletes and give them every advantage in competing at the highest level of Canadian university sport.

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