Date Posted: October 13, 2011
Print Edition: October 12, 2011
UFV athletics director Rick Nickelchok has stepped down after four years behind the helm according to an email release issued by the University last Monday. The announcement comes after calls for a funding overhaul by men’s volleyball coach Greg Russell.
“The students don’t know that our program is in jeopardy of being cut,” says Russell. “We’re basically on a year-to-year funding basis.”
UFV’s volleyball, golf and rowing squads have faced yearly sink-or-swim funding decisions for the past three years. Russell said that an uncertain future for these varsity teams is crippling recruitment and growth.
“It’s difficult to recruit and encourage guys to come to the program if I’m not sure that it’s an ongoing program,” he said. “That’s what I’d like to see change.”
Russell suggested a small allocation of student fees for varsity athletics as a potential remedy, noting that he had also been developing a strategy to address this problem alongside Nickelchok prior to the former athletic director’s resignation.
According to Russell, the success of the athletics program in recent years has been a boon to UFV’s marketing and community-building.
“I think all of the accomplishments of our various programs provide a huge benefit to the University,” he said. “I think that we should be going towards [joining] the CIS rather than being cut, but apparently that’s the reality right now.”
The week prior to his departure from the athletics department, Rick Nickelchok spoke candidly with The Cascade about the challenges faced by varsity coaches under this sort of funding model.
“It’s hard to get somebody motivated and excited about building a program when they don’t even know if it’s going to exist the following year,” he said.
Nickelchok said that he was a strong advocate for the expansion of all the athletics programs at UFV, but it had been made clear by the board of directors that the only way this could happen would be through a community-funded initiative.
He was troubled by the effect the potential cuts would have on students.
“My biggest concern is the impact on the students themselves,” said Nickelchok. “They make a conscious decision to go to the University of the Fraser Valley for a number of reasons in my mind, and one is clearly for the sport experience… so when they make that decision, we’re now talking about people’s lives and it’s not just theirs, it’s their families’.”
Nickelchok could not be reached for comment following his resignation.
The root of the problem is underfunding across the board, according to VP External Karola Stinson, a representative of the board responsible for large-scale budget decisions for the University.
“With UFV’s funding at an all-time low—and number of students at an all-time high—our resources are stretched to the limit, and we have many competing demands,” said Stinson in a written statement emailed to The Cascade. “It is an ongoing challenge to try to find ways to maximize our resources to best serve our students.”
The athletics department annual budget does not cover the cost of the volleyball, golf and rowing programs. Instead, the board has relied on unspent funds to supplement the teams on a yearly basis. According to Stinson, the budget process for the next school year will take place over the next few months. The Board of Governors will make their final funding decisions in April 2012.
When asked if the resignation of athletics director Rick Nickelchok was related to the funding crunch, Stinson simply stated “No.”
Chris Bertram, Kinesiology and Physical Education department head and varsity golf team coach, will be filling in as interim director of Athletics.