Bannerless year for Laurier

(Photos by Nick Lachance, Jody Waardenburg and Rosalie Eid)

(Photos by Nick Lachance, Jody Waardenburg and Rosalie Eid)

The 1999-00 season was the last time the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks didn’t win a single Ontario University Athletics (OUA) banner.

That year, the program had a combined 83 wins, 95 losses and a 49.9 per cent win percentage. Since then, Laurier has been able to win at least one provincial championship, including multiple national championships along the way.

Until this year.

WLU’s 2012-13 varsity season came to a halt last week after the women’s hockey team lost a stunning semifinal series 2-1 to the Western Mustangs.

This was the conclusion to a week-long span that also featured the women’s and men’s curling teams being eliminated from the OUA championships, the men’s and women’s basketball teams bounced in the first round of the playoffs and the men’s hockey team defeated in game three of the OUA West quarterfinal.

“We play the game. And when you play the game, there’s a winner and a loser and it didn’t go our way,” said Peter Baxter, director of athletics and recreation at WLU.

“But I don’t think that’s from the effort of our teams.”

Since the beginning of the season, Laurier has experienced one of their most unsuccessful years in recent history. In 225 total games, the Golden Hawks varsity squads only accumulated 122 wins, the fewest since 2003-04.

“I think this is an anomaly year, and I think that’s going to be there,” Baxter said. “To the credit of our competitors now, we’ve set a standard. And we’ve had a target on our backs for a long time. And now they’re doing the same.”

At the beginning of the season, the men’s football team had a 3-5 record before backing into the playoffs, only to be embarrassed by the Queen’s Gaels 34-0.

“The other thing I think is important is that since it starts off in the fall, football has to be strong,” Baxter said. “I think when football is strong, it affects the whole campus, in attitude, in commitment to training and a lot of other sites.

“Unfortunately, we probably had one of the worst seasons in 40 years. When Wilfrid Laurier has a strong football program, that breeds success.”

As the fall sports went on, some of Laurier’s perennial contenders like women’s soccer and women’s lacrosse also fell short of where they usually finish.

“Once you set that excellence standard, the expectations become higher,” Baxter said. “Which is fine. Bring it on. But at the same time, it’s tougher when you’ve been that successful because the tendency is to become complacent.”

The winter term didn’t bring any further hope of a championship, as the closest any Laurier team came was the women’s hockey team’s OUA semifinal loss.

Only two teams qualified for nationals over the entire year. Women’s soccer qualified, however, they finished 0-2 at the championship. Swimming had four swimmers qualify, with Renee Dijk scoring all 26 points accumulated for WLU.

In 2010, the athletics department introduced a new funding model, which became controversial, largely because it brought on the elimination of Laurier’s volleyball program. The model proposed a tier hierarchy, where more money is directed to the football, basketball, soccer and hockey programs and since then, Baxter said there has been “benchmarking” done.

However, since the model’s implementation, there has been little visible improvement on the field, the court or the ice.

“There’s less than a $17,000 gap between us and the team that won the Yates Cup this year. So it’s not money,” Baxter said. “Everything comes down to people, not money. Even in the days when we didn’t have money, we still competed.”

Baxter explained that much of the new funding model has helped the intramural program, where more students are able to participate and more teams have been implemented. **

Within the years following the last time Laurier did not win any championships, Baxter contested that many programs began to blossom.

“I told [past women’s basketball head coach] Stu Julius, ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day,’” Baxter said.

Baxter was only a year into his tenure at WLU in 1999-00. Since then, the program has seen inconsistent progress, peaking in 2005 with a Vanier Cup in football and a national championship in women’s hockey.

Baxter insists that this year was irregular and that Laurier continues to be competitive. He said that next season, the school will see a lot of progress.

“This year you’ll see we’ve invested in a great coach in [football head coach] Michael Faulds,” he said.

“[Men’s hockey head coach] Greg Puhalski is only in his second recruiting cycle. There are going to be some years where we’re going to win 10 championships. Any of those games could have gone either way.

“We’ll be competitive. And mind you, we have been competitive.”

**Editor’s note: this article has been updated from its original version.

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7 Comments

  1. First off, I don’t see the need to print an article like this Shelby, all it serves to do is belittle the sacrifices we make for the school. That’s a pretty big cheap shot to take, especially as a bystander. It just drives the wedge deeper between athletes, the administration and other students.

    Secondly, attitude starts from the top down. Its tough for athletes to make sacrifices for a school when they have doubts about the support they will receive from the administration. I could write an essay on how poor the system is designed but 90% of you wouldn’t get it. You need to be an athlete to understand. Its pretty brutal crutching to class because you broke your ankle at practice or frustrating when your group destroys you on peer evaluations because they didn’t want to meet later at night when you were done practice. The system here is designed for athletes to fail.

  2. I did not find that this article was overly negative but it certainly did not leave me inspired. I would hope that in future articles, The Cord will publish something noticeably more optimistic with a clear indication of support for WLU Athletics.

  3. Successful teams comes in cycles; as older and more experienced players graduate, younger one’s take the reigns and it takes TIME (sometimes years) to build and condition a championship team. Many of Laurier’s teams are in rebuilding phases, perhaps this article could have analyzed the demographics of these teams and focused on the predictive-positive future, rather than W-L record of this past year. Such a negative article hurts school and athletic morale and isn’t going to help these teams gain supporters. Unfortunately Jeremy Brecevic the athletes are busy putting every ounce of energy they have into a demanding school and athletic schedule, not in the editors office at The Cord. Forgive their ignorance, It is impossible for these individuals to relate to the pressure and expectations of performing, therefore making it easy for them to simply observe some stats and write subsequent articles.

  4. Successful teams comes in cycles; as older and more experienced players graduate, younger one’s take the reigns and it takes TIME (sometimes years) to build and condition a championship team. Many of Laurier’s teams are in rebuilding phases, perhaps this article could have analyzed the demographics of these teams and focused on the predictive-positive future, rather than W-L record of this past year. Such a negative article hurts school and athletic morale and isn’t going to help these teams gain supporters. Unfortunately Jeremy Brecevic the athletes are busy putting every ounce of energy they have into a demanding school and athletic schedule, not in the editors office at The Cord. Forgive their ignorance, It is impossible for these individuals to relate to the pressure and expectations of performing, therefore making it easy for them to simply observe some stats and write subsequent articles.

  5. I guess we know who the mvp was..

  6. Any article that uses a quote from Mr. Peter Baxter to solidify its point loses all credibility not only with me but within the circles I run in.

    Laurier athletics is like anything else, you want it to do better the root of the issue is money…you need to spend money to make money in athletics and that is the issue that is not understood at Laurier. Don’t get me wrong, I love the purple and gold and I personally put a lot on the line for the purple and gold. But there is no support from the administration for athletes at Laurier and you’re forced to fend for yourself. How do you expect to have top notch athletes when your facilities are sub par? How can you expect your coaches to land big name recruits when the funding for national recruiting isn’t there? How can you expect Laurier football specifically to perform well at home when the stands are bare? But how can you expect laurier students or fans in general to want to pay the money they pay for a ticket to watch a team that hasn’t done well in recent history? If the quality of play isn’t there then the fans don’t want to watch you play and the players don’t feel that connection with their school so why play hard for it? I never felt a great connection with Laurier while I was there, that’s the straight truth. I loved my boys in the locker room but the school as a whole was nothing but one hassle after another. Money is the root of all issues within Laurier athletics and the reason money isn’t being spent either at all or correctly is because of the administration. Unfortunately, the greater issues don’t revolve around coaches and players at Laurier. Because if those were the issues then they would be easy to fix. It goes higher up than that. The attitude by Mr. Baxter towards athletics is one that doesn’t promote a winning environment and while some great things are happening with Laurier football specifically as we speak (ie.new staff, etc.) until the head of the dragon is cut off you’ll still have issues.

    Let me be clear, I have no issues with anyone coaching level down. I love all those guys and girls for the hard work they do on a daily basis. But I have a huge issue with anyone behind a desk in the athletics building. When you’re cheap with your varsity sports and make your main priority inter murals then you don’t get to point fingers or make excuses. In my book Peter Baxter is the main reason Laurier Athletics is doing so poorly. He can point out “his” national championships and “his” oua banners that have been won since he was there but those aren’t his. They belong to the all the men and women that worked their asses off to make a dollar out of fifteen cents. It’s unfortunate that it’s the athletes that have to pay the price for the incompetence of an old man. Say what you will about me, but I’ll tell you there’s not one athlete in his/her good mind at laurier that has ANY respect for the athletic director. So what does that tell you? How can you expect an athlete to lay his life and limb on the line for colours that wouldn’t do the same for him?

    Fire baxter and make laurier a better place. That’s the article that needs to be written. That’s one I’ll read shelby blackley. Even better, write an article about how it is that teams that pour money into their athletics do so well and how their models differ from the one at laurier. Think it over.

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